A witness says corrupt testing officers would charge bad drivers extra but still issue them with a full driver’s licence.
Lovepreet Brar has admitted one representative charge of obtaining by deception in relation to the Auckland case and is now a Crown witness.
He gave evidence on Tuesday at the Manukau District Court where Mohammed Feroz has denied 73 charges of obtaining by deception and Daryl Pregasen Govender has denied 17 charges.
Brar said bad drivers would pay an extra $50 to $150 on top of their bribe payment if they were a particularly bad driver or if there was a fault with their car, for example a faulty brake light.
Other extra charges would be demanded if the applicant didn’t turn up to their test and corrupt testing officers had to complete the paperwork themselves.
Brar said he was recruited into the scheme in late 2014 while he worked in customer service at the AA Meadowlands branch.
He would send text messages out to friends and associates, alerting them to when the corrupt testing officers would be available.
Brar would act as the intermediary – taking money from the applicants in cash and deposits into his bank account.
The typical cost for a full drivers licence was around $300 but a heavy truck licence could cost as much as $2500.
Brar said Feroz would sometimes ask him to tell the bribe-paying truck licence applicants to turn up to the AA office in a vest to make it look like they were legitimate truck drivers.
“Because it’s a truck licence, they said it’s a big risk for them and they’re passing the person without the person even coming to the test … and they just charge more.”
There were also extra charges if the applicant didn’t turn up for the test.
Brar said testing officers would sometimes complete the paperwork, including applicant signatures in the staff toilets.
Crown prosecutor David Stevens took Brar through various transactions that showed money going into Brar’s bank account shortly before they sat a test and sometimes extra payments were made afterwards.
In some cases the transactions weren’t even disguised on bank records and merely referenced as “car money”.
One of the transactions related to a person who lived with a cousin of Brar’s in Wellington. The applicant didn’t have to leave their home in the capital but were given a driver’s licence.
Brar said Feroz was flexible in his pricing, charging Brar’s friends as little as $200 but Govender was different.
“Govender never do it for free or less money. Feroz sometimes did it for less but Govender is quite strict he is like: ‘Rule is rule, you have to pay this much’.”
He also gave evidence of the cut he would take.
“Daryl [Govender] always want me to keep $50 or $100. With Feroz it was alright. Sometimes he give me more or less. Govender was quite strict, he was like: ‘Bro, I pass the client, you keep your $50’.”
Earlier Brar told the court how he had been recruited into the scheme.
He said he was working at the AA Meadowlands branch as a customer services representative in 2014 when a friend told him what was going on.
“He said: ‘Bro, you know you can get a licence here for $80’?”
His friend identified Feroz as the man behind the scheme, Brar said. Feroz was working out of the same AA branch office as a driving testing officer.
Brar said he told his friend “bro, this is wrong”.
He approached Feroz a short time later and the pair met at a mall food court close-by to talk.
“He explained he’s been doing it for quite a while.”
Brar said Feroz told him he had been caught once and NZTA had investigated but nothing had happened.
“He said if you bring your [Punjabi] community people, we’ll pass them.”
Brar said Feroz offered him a third of the bribe payment for every applicant he introduced to the scheme and gave an example where the bribe would cost $300 and he would receive $100.
Brar also recalled Feroz approaching him, telling him he had “good news” and that Govender had joined the scheme.
Soon after there was a meeting between the three in Feroz’s van, parked at the back of the AA branch. Govender convinced them to raise their prices.
The group would communicate by phone apps – Viber and Whatsapp – to avoid being caught, he said.
Brar said he would often leave money for Feroz under a cup in the staff room but Govender was a lot more cautions.
He said he sometimes gave Govender his cut in the staff toilets but also often drove to his home in south Auckland in the evenings to hand the money over in person.
The Crown’s case is that the bribes for car licences were typically $350 but more money was demanded if the applicant didn’t want to turn up to the test or they wanted a heavy vehicle licence.
Most applicants had failed at least once but in some cases the applicants had failed five times.
Often the applicants lived a long way from the AA Meadowlands branch and would sit their tests early, to increase their chances of getting a corrupt testing officer.
The trial, before Judge Mina Wharepouri, is in its second week.