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Page last updated at 04:59 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 05:59 UK

Jail for corrupt NZ politician

Taito Phillip Field in Auckland High Court, NZ, 6 Oct 09
Taito Phillip Field had offered immigration favours to Thai workers

The former Labour member of parliament and cabinet minister in New Zealand, Taito Phillip Field, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

He was found guilty in August of 26 charges of bribery, corruption and obstructing the course of justice.

A high court judge said Field had granted immigration favours to eight Thai people in return for free labour on five properties he owned.

Field wept in court clutching a Bible and protested his innocence.

He is New Zealand's first lawmaker to be locked up for serious breaches of the law.

Corruption scandals are rare in New Zealand but some of Field's actions, Justice Rodney Hansen said, had threatened the foundations of democracy.

The judge at Auckland's High Court said Field had betrayed the trust of the people he represented, cynically using Thai workers for his own financial gain while promising them a new life.

The charges related to Field's use of Thai nationals to carry out mainly unpaid work on seven of his properties in return for immigration assistance between November 2002 to October 2005.

Emotion

When taken from the court Field's supporters called out to him to be strong, and told him they loved him.

Last Friday, he publicly apologised for the circumstances leading to the trial, but denied any wrongdoing, saying that the truth was still to be exposed.

The Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, has expressed sadness that Field, 57, has been sent to prison but said it showed that no one was above the law.

While Opposition spokesperson on immigration, Dr Smith had pursued in parliament Field's handling of the immigration cases at the heart of the corruption convictions.

Elected as a centre-left Labour Party lawmaker in 1993, and the first of Pacific Islands descent, Field was appointed to the Cabinet in 2002. He was not reappointed after the 2005 election as allegations against him surfaced.

He was expelled from the party in 2007 and lost his seat at the 2008 election.



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