Attorney General's evidence 'not true' says former cleaner

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The Independent Online

An illegal immigrant who duped the Attorney General Baroness Scotland into hiring her as a cleaner today repeatedly branded the chief law officer's evidence "not true".

Loloahi Tapui said Lady Scotland "never" asked her about her immigration status in the UK and did not see any proof that she was even allowed to be in England.

The 27-year-old Tongan, who had overstayed her visa by four years, admitted she knew she should not have been in the UK and was not entitled to work, but said she was just "so desperate" to get a job.

Tapui should have left the UK in February 2005 but stayed and started work as a cleaner for the Attorney General in January 2009, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.

Yesterday Lady Scotland told the jury she had seen Tapui's passport and a letter from the Home Office showing she was entitled to live and work in the UK.

But today Tapui told the jury of eight men and four women that Lady Scotland's account was "not true".

Asked if Lady Scotland, who used her married name of Patricia Mawhinney, ever asked her about her immigration status in the UK, Tapui said: "Never at any stage did she ask me."

And asked about Lady Scotland's assertion that she told her she was allowed to work in the UK, Tapui said: "That's not true."

But yesterday the minister said Tapui had assured her she was allowed to work in the UK and knew how important honesty and abiding by the law was to her because of her position as Attorney General.

Tapui was sacked by text by Lady Scotland on September 16, 2009, as soon as the chief law officer discovered there was a question over Tapui's immigration status.

Asked by her defence counsel Christopher Hehir about Lady Scotland's claim that she had a "lengthy interview" for the job, Tapui said it lasted "not more than 10 minutes".

Tapui insisted she took documents, including her P45 and driver's licence, to the first interview, and not the following day as Lady Scotland said, and also disputed that she told the minister that she had been working for her sister-in-law for six months.

"I have never worked for my sister-in-law," she said.

And asked about Lady Scotland's statement that Tapui told her that she had lost or misplaced her passport when the allegations came to light, Tapui said: "That's not correct."

Tapui added: "She asked me, 'How could you do this to me?"'

Tapui said she replied: "Sorry, but I was desperate for a job."

Earlier Tapui told the jury she overstayed her visa and remained in the UK because she had "a good life here".

In an interview with officials from the UK Border Agency on September 23 last year, Tapui said she did not leave the UK when her permission to stay ran out because she liked living in England.

"I met my husband and I hadn't married him yet," she said.

"I liked working here. I think I had a good life here."

In the same interview Tapui said she paid a former Russian housemate £180 in cash for a fake visa stamp in her passport - but insisted she did not know it was counterfeit.

"I didn't think it was a forgery. I was just so desperate to get my employment."