Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 14:25 UK

Baroness Scotland's housekeeper found guilty of fraud

Loloahi Tapui
Loloahi Tapui is a former cleaner to Baroness Scotland

The former housekeeper of Attorney General Baroness Scotland has been found guilty of fraud.

Illegal immigrant Loloahi Tapui, from Tonga, knew she had overstayed her student visa by four years but duped the chief law officer into hiring her.

Tapui, who lives in Chiswick, London, admitted having a passport with a counterfeit visa stamp.

But she denied using it to establish facts about herself and to earn money, and was cleared of that allegation.

The 27-year-old said she handed Lady Scotland documents that included her pay slips and a CV, and said that the minister never asked her about her immigration status.

But the baroness said Tapui had lied to her about her right to work in the UK, and she had believed her.

Cleaner sold story

The jury of eight men and four women took less than 90 minutes to find Tapui guilty.

They agreed she knew she had overstayed her student visa, and tricked the chief law officer into hiring her as her housekeeper for £6 an hour.

Tapui, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were returned, will be sentenced on 7 May for fraud, possessing a false identity document, and for overstaying her student visa. She was cleared of possessing false identity documents with intent.

She was bailed and will be electronically tagged.

The judge warned Tapui the offences for which she faced sentence were "very serious".

Tapui also confirmed she was paid £95,000 for her story by the Mail on Sunday, with a £19,000 commission payment going to PR expert Max Clifford.

During the trial Christopher Hehir, defending Tapui, said his client was not "in it for the money" as she had turned down Lady Scotland's offer to pay her £8 per hour and had accepted just £6 per hour instead.

But Tapui agreed that she and her solicitor husband Alex Zivancevic were having problems repaying their mortgage at the time she was offered payment for the national newspaper deal.

Baroness fined

The attorney general was fined £5,000 in September last year for illegally employing Tapui, because she was unable to prove she had done so unwittingly.

Employers can defend themselves against such penalties if they keep copies of the documents provided, which can help to prove they did not realise the employee was illegal.

When asked in court why she had failed to keep copies of documents purporting to show Ms Tapui's right to work in the UK, Baroness Scotland said she "bitterly regretted" not having done so.

Lady Scotland said she was confident Tapui had the right to remain and work in the UK partly because her husband, Alex Zivancevic, was a lawyer and spoke with an English accent.

"I thought this woman was married to a member of the legal profession," she said.

"It never crossed my mind that a lawyer in this country would be married to an illegal immigrant and then pass her off as a cleaner to the Attorney General.

"You would need to be brain-dead to do something like that."

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