Former head of New Zealand immigration charged with fraud

The former head of New Zealand's immigration service, Mary Anne Thompson, 53, has been charged with fraud, Radio New Zealand reported on Monday.

Thompson appeared in the Wellington District Court on Friday facing three counts of using a document for pecuniary advantage and was remanded to appear again next month, dpa reported.

Thompson headed the immigration service within the Department of Labour from 2004 until resigning in May after a State Services Commission report found that she had helped members of her family from the Pacific island nation Kiribati obtain residence permits  in New Zealand.

The department's chief executive, Christopher Blake, said then that the behaviour described in the report was "completely unacceptable," adding, "In the interests of the department and the wider public service, Ms Thompson has decided to resign from her position."

At the same time, police confirmed they were investigating a statement by the London School of Economics that Thompson had not graduated with the doctorate she claimed when she first applied to join the public service in 1990.

Thompson worked in the prime minister's department before moving to head the immigration service and former prime minister Helen Clark told a news conference in May that she appeared to have been "sailing through a career in the public service" on a basis of false qualifications.

"I always assumed she had a PhD, because of the title she had given herself," Clark said.         

Thompson was regarded as one of the country's most trusted civil servants, having risen to be the highest-ranking female official in the Treasury before working for the prime minister and heading the immigration service.

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