Lexington Legal received a number of complaints from Filipino workers about the excessive fees they had been charged both in the Philippines, and in New Zealand by BIL.

Lexington Legal put a huge amount of time and resources into representing a group of complainants, and this matter went to the Immigration Advisers Authority. This is what the IAA said about Lindsey Sparks, who was the owner of BIL (now run by his daughter).

The complaint was:

[4] The Registrar alleged that Mr Sparks potentially breached his professional obligations in that:
[4.1] he negligently failed to prevent unlicensed persons providing immigration services;
[4.2] alternatively, he was not negligent as to the conduct of the people he worked with. He chose not to personally establish the client relationship and deliver delivered services, and failed to act with professionalism.
[4.3] he engaged in dishonest and misleading behaviour. He knowingly misled his client regarding the work he would perform, and Immigration New Zealand as to who performed the work.

The findings were:

[83] The evidence establishes Mr Sparks exploited the complainant. Mr Sparks chose to use his status as a licensed immigration adviser to solicit fees paid to both SIL and BIL for immigration and other services. He failed to set out the totality of those fees and disbursements, and provide a full description of the services to which the respective invoices relate.
[91] Accordingly, I find Mr Sparks breached clauses 2.1(b) and 3 of the 2010 Code….He arranged for persons who he knew were not licensed immigration advisers or exempt to provide “immigration advice” as defined in the Act, in particular:
[103] I am satisfied Mr Sparks failed to engage with his client. He also failed to provide the assistance and advice regarding the accuracy of the information supporting his client’s application for a work visa. Mr Sparks did so knowing that his conduct breached his professional obligations. He provided a false declaration….
[105] Accordingly, I find Mr Sparks…failed to uphold the integrity of New Zealand’s immigration system through his failure to comply with his professional obligations to protect against the risk of inaccurate information being provided to Immigration New Zealand.
[114] Mr Sparks declared:
I certify that the applicant asked me to help [him] to complete this form and any additional forms. I certify that the applicant agreed that the information provided was correct before signing…
I have assisted the applicant with recording information on the form.
[115] Both statements were false, and Mr Sparks made them dishonestly….The seriousness of the declarations is obvious. Mr Sparks dishonestly attempted to mislead Immigration New Zealand.
[119] The representations…were dishonest misrepresentation to the complainant, they were calculated to induce him to pay substantial fees for professional assistance, which Mr Sparks neither provided nor intended to provide. What he did do was to check the forms for internal consistency; however, that does him no credit. Internal inconsistency would likely have alerted Immigration New Zealand to Mr Sparks’ dishonest declaration that he had personally engaged in completing the documentation.
[120] Accordingly, I am satisfied that Mr Sparks engaged in dishonest and misleading behaviour. He knowingly made false representations to Immigration New Zealand, and mislead the complainant by representing that he would comply with the 2010 Code, and perform the immigration services required. Instead, he intended that unlicensed persons would provide the services.

The decision was:

[124] The adviser engaged in dishonest and misleading behaviour. The adviser also breached the Code of Conduct in the respects identified. These are grounds for complaint pursuant to section 44(2) of the Act.

Sanctions: these have been under negotiation for some time, and the IAA has not made a decision on sanctions. As Lexington Legal is now closed, it has not been a part of these negotiations. This means Lexington Legal will not recover any costs. Recorded time spent working on this case is $12,000 plus GST, and the true amount of unrecorded time will be far in excess of that amount. Be that as it may be, Paul is rightly proud of winning a hard fought fight.

Note – Nicky Jones is the daughter of Lindsay Sparks. BIL has closed, and Nicky Jones has carried on doing immigration work as a director of Business Immigration (NZ) Ltd. The owner, director & 100 % shareholder is one Lindsay Charles Sparks.

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2017 Update: Paul has received a complaints that excessive fees are still being charged by BIL, which is now being run by the daughter of Lindsey Sparks, Nicola Lynley Clare Jones - "Nikki" Jones. The complaint is that fees of over $3,500 USD have been charged to a Flippino man, not counting fees charged in the Philippines.  NZ is meant to be a "no fee placement country" , as agreed by the governments of NZ and the Philippines.  This is an ongoing issue - and you can help by putting this article on social media.

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