Ex-Attorney General's illegal immigrant cleaner jailed
Thursday 27 May 2010
An illegal immigrant who conned the former Attorney General into hiring her as a cleaner was jailed for a total of eight months at the Old Bailey today.
Loloahi Tapui, who had overstayed her student visa by four years, duped former chief law officer Baroness Scotland into hiring her as her housekeeper for just £6 per hour.
The 27-year-old Tongan was found guilty of fraud last month at Southwark Crown Court in London. She was bailed to today.
She was cleared by the jury of possessing false identity documents with intent after a four-day trial.
Tapui was sentenced to four months for fraud, four months for possessing a false identity stamp, and concurrently one month for overstaying her student visa.
She was also ordered to pay £1,600 prosecution costs and defence costs which are still to be calculated.
Tapui, who knew she should have left the UK in February 2005, told a series of "barefaced lies" and convinced the Attorney General to welcome her into her Chiswick home in west London as part of her family in January last year.
Lady Scotland, who was fined £5,000 for failing to take copies of the documents Tapui claimed showed she was entitled to work in the UK, told the court she "bitterly regrets" her mistake.
The row catapulted the 54-year-old minister, who helped form the law under which she was censured, into the centre of a political controversy which saw one of her key aides resign and her reputation as a reliable and safe pair of hands in the Government tarnished.
Lady Scotland said Tapui had breached her trust and told the jury that the defendant knew how important honesty and abiding by the law was to her and her family, but had lied to her nonetheless.
Lady Scotland denied she had been so busy with her work that she simply assumed Tapui had the right to remain and work in the UK 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."
She hired Tapui on January 23 last year at a "difficult time" in her personal life, just one week after the funeral of her brother and a little over a month after her mother died.
As the full details of the saga emerged, Tapui sold her story to the Mail on Sunday for £95,000, with PR guru Max Clifford taking £19,000 commission.
Tapui told the jury she first came to the UK in 2003 to visit her aunt but met her husband-to-be later that year and decided to stay as she was enjoying "a good life".
She admitted taking her CV and pay slips to the interview with Lady Scotland, who she knew by her married name of Patricia Mawhinney, in an attempt to convince her that she was legally entitled to work in the UK because she was "so desperate" for work.
On the day the truth emerged about Tapui's immigration status - September 16 last year - Lady Scotland sacked her by text, sending Tapui's husband the message: "Alex, this is really shocking. I have to terminate Lolo's employment with immediate effect. I do need to speak to Lolo. Patricia."
Tapui said she paid £180 cash to a Russian called Alex for a fake visa stamp, but denied knowing it was fake.
Tapui, of Sutton Court Road, Chiswick, west London, pleaded guilty to possessing a passport with a counterfeit visa stamp between June 7 2006 and September 19 2009.
But she was cleared of using it to establish facts about herself and earn money.
Lady Scotland lost her Attorney General post following the election of a new Government.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith told Tapui that the jury had found she had deceived Lady Scotland into believing she was allowed to work in this country.
He added: "You were a good and trusted employee. There is no doubt that she felt terribly let down by your deception.
"Then you went on to make some money from the predicament you placed her in."
The judge had allowed Tapui to sit down during the sentencing. She reconciled to her fate as she was taken to the cells.
He said he would make no recommendation on deportation because the Home Office was already considering her fate.
Tapui's husband was in the public gallery above but they were not able to say goodbye.
He left court refusing to comment.
The couple had arrived together with a letter from their vicar in Turnham Green, which was handed to the judge.
Christopher Hehir, defending, told the court: "She falsely misrepresented her position simply because she wanted to work. She was not motivated by greed.
"She did ultimately cause distress and embarrassment to Mrs Mawhinney. This was not intended by her."
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