Saturday, December 01, 2007

Deportee forced to pay maternity debt before exit

5:00AM Friday November 30, 2007
By Simon O'Rourke

Jing Wu paid her bill after family and friends in China sent money. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A judge refused to allow a Chinese illegal immigrant to be deported until she had paid $9000 for maternity care she fraudulently obtained from Waikato Hospital.

And when told the woman was living on little money with no savings, the Hamilton District Court judge scoffed at the claim, saying the "Chinese as a race are exceptional savers".

The debt has since been settled and health officials are delighted because they now feel more confident of recovering money from 20 other overstayers.

Jing Wu, 26, racked up the health care bill when she had a baby at Waikato Hospital. She then falsified her passport to avoid having to pay.

Jing appeared in court with a deportation order hanging over her head and was due to fly out of the country before Monday.

Judge Andre Wiltens refused to pass sentence on the fraud charge until he could be reassured that the health bill would be settled.

She had given birth to a son in September.

When she was asked to submit her passport to confirm her entitlement to free health care she falsified her travel document to make it appear that she had residency.

In court yesterday, the matter was adjourned by Judge Wiltens for more than five hours. During the break the woman's friends and family in China wired $8998.09 to New Zealand.

Earlier Jing's lawyer, Len Caley, had told the court that her husband - who was deported on Wednesday - would arrange reparation within the next month, but there could be "no guarantees".

He said Jing had no conceivable money source in New Zealand but the judge questioned the lawyer: "So what you're saying is the reparation order will be worthless?".

Judge Wiltens said he would put the matter back a week so money could be arranged to be paid back.

Mr Caley said his client was due to be deported by immigration authorities "if not tomorrow, maybe Monday".

Jing and her husband had both worked in New Zealand during their seven and five years respectively in the country, had paid taxes and "contributed just as much as anyone else".

She was now living in "subsistence" and didn't have any savings.

The judge was still not satisfied.

"Chinese as a race are exceptional savers. Are you telling me there are no savings whatsoever?"

Later yesterday, Mr Caley told the judge his confidence in seeking reparation had borne fruit, and the money had been wired through from China.

"That's a surprise, isn't it?" the judge said.

Outside court, Jing said she was looking forward to returning to China with her 10-week-old son to be with her husband, whom she had married in New Zealand in June.

She never realised she had owed the money, she said.

"I'm sorry about that. I know that something that goes around comes around. Something little got bigger and bigger and I didn't know where to turn."

The judge dismissed an application for suppression of the circumstances of the fraud.

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