Police allege Chinese men with false licences were used as tourist drivers by a Christchurch company.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Grant Neal named the company as Alps Travel, which has offices in Ilam, Christchurch, and also in Queenstown and Auckland.
The police say the men are producing valid licences belonging to other Chinese men.
Allegations on charge sheets before the Christchurch District Court today are that the offending occurred on the Milford Road to Te Anau, in Fiordland, in January and February.
Sergeant Neal told Judge Jane McMeeken that one case that came before the court was “the tip of the iceberg”, because five driver prosecutions involving Alps Travel were before the court today.
He said: “These residents of China have come over without driver’s licences and have used or produced other associates’ drivers licences while conducting tour operations.”
The court was told that one driver, Jiasheng Wu, 24, of Upper Riccarton, had now returned to China after he unable to get a different type of work visa. His lawyer, Shirllay Sun, said he had been assured by his employer that the licence he was using was appropriate.
He appeared on charges of driving on State Highway 94 without an appropriate licence and dishonestly using a document – a driver’s licence. The dishonesty charge is laid under the Crimes Act.
His lawyer said he admitted the charge of driving without a licence and Judge McMeeken fined him $400, but because he was not present at court an arrest warrant was issued on the Crimes Act charge.
“It is a serious matter and needs some resolution,” said the judge.
Sergeant Neal said: “This is a situation where they are operating as tour operators, driving without New Zealand driver’s licences, and producing other residents’ driver’s licences. There are several prosecutions in relation to the one company.”
Two other people facing related prosecutions in Christchurch were given registrar’s remands, without plea to get legal advice, and did not appear before the judge.
Jiayuan Chen, 24, of Lincoln, is charged with aiding Wu to drive on State Highway 94 without an appropriate driver’s licence and a fraud charge relating to a driver’s licence.
Suyan Qi, 21, of Avonhead, is charged with dishonestly using a licence and driving without an appropriate licence on the Milford Road.
Both were remanded for further appearances on September 29.
It was expected that warrants may be issued later for two other men who did not appear at court.