NZ Herald leaning heavily towards ‘political pressure’

NZ Herald initiated the latest discussion on Kim Dotcom’s residency, releasing documents they obtained yesterday. They led this with Why our spy agency let Dotcom into New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key must explain the “political pressure” government officials were under to process Kim Dotcom’s residency application, Labour says.

Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act show the Security Intelligence Service tried to block Kim Dotcom’s residency application but dropped their objection 90 minutes after being told there was “political pressure” to let the tycoon into New Zealand.

There is a strong implication that ‘our spy agency’ let Dotcom get residency (he was already living here off and on) due to ‘political pressure’.

The article then quotes Labour’s Grant Robertson:

Labour’s Associate Security and Intelligence Spokesperson Grant Robertson said said Mr Key needed to explain the political involvement in the application.
“John Key has two important questions to answer, who was exerting political pressure on officials and why were they doing it.

“The Dotcom affair has always had the fingerprints of National Ministers on it, John Key must finally front up to New Zealanders and explain what he and his Ministers knew and what pressure they were applying.

The article then gives details of their investigation (by David Fisher, author of a book on Dotcom) and includes a number of official documents. It goes on to reiterate ‘political pressure:

The “political pressure” claim was made in October 2010 after the SIS blocked Dotcom’s residency application when it learned of the FBI’s criminal investigation into his Megaupload empire.

Well down the article a contradiction is included:

An earlier statement from Immigration NZ – provided by the SIS – said “it appears the government interest in the success of the [business migration] policy may have been misconstrued as political pressure”.

The statement appeared to be contradictory, saying so much time had passed “it is impossible to know whether this is an accurate reflection of comments that were made” while adding “INZ can state unequivocally that there was no political pressure”.

This pattern was repeated in Dotcom: Why wasn’t I blocked? While the article leads with…

Mogul claims residency checks set aside to lure him within FBI’s reach but government denies interference.

…it quotes Dotcom and then goes on to repeat:

“…political pressure to process this case”.

Well through the article it gives another side to the story:

Immigration NZ, which denies any “political pressure”, confirmed the six-month hold for those under investigation. But an Immigration spokesman said the agency “was not aware of any active investigation under way by the FBI” – only that he was a “person of interest”.

“It was decided that the information received did not meet the threshold to trigger a deferral of the residence application because of character concerns.”

Mr Coleman yesterday denied any political pressure, saying the decision was made by Immigration officials alone.

The decision document, obtained through the Official Information Act by the Herald, contains no mention of the FBI interest in Dotcom. It was signed off by an official and approved by his branch manager.

So both the Minister and Immigration NZ deny any political pressure was involved.

But the article closes promoting ‘political pressure’ again:

Labour MP Grant Robertson said he was sceptical about Immigration NZ’s denial of political pressure.

“I’m very concerned about the idea that the SIS magically decided the hold on the case no longer mattered 90 minutes after they heard about political pressure on Immigration NZ. And the fact INZ were told to talk to police and didn’t do it really defies belief.

The Herald has a separate article Dotcom case: Minister denies pressure on Immigration NZ.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has denied putting pressure on Immigration New Zealand to accept Kim Dotcom’s residency application, but will not take questions on the subject.

He sent a short statement saying Immigration NZ had already issued a statement that “unequivocally that there was no political pressure regarding Mr Dotcom’s residence application”.

“The residency decision was made by Immigration New Zealand, not by me as Minister of Immigration.”

The head of Immigration was on Radio NZ late yesterday strongly denying political pressure was involved in the decision.

Stuff also cover this with Immigration boss rejects Dotcom residency claims.

The head of Immigration has rejected suggestions Kim Dotcom’s residency was approved as part of a United States move to make it easier to extradite him to face charges there.

Dotcom believes US authorities wanted to keep him here to make it easier to extradite him on internet piracy and copyright infringement charges. He has long claimed the Government was acting at the behest of the American film industry but has never offered proof.

But in an exclusive interview, Immigration chief executive Nigel Bickle said that from Immigration’s point of view he had seen no evidence of that and it was Dotcom’s advisers who had called for a fast decision in his case.

Bickle said then-immigration minister Jonathan Coleman had not been involved in the decision to grant Dotcom permanent residency, and the call was made by an official.

In 2010 the investor category Dotcom was applying under, requiring at least a $10m investment here, was a new policy. Ministers were interested in how it was going and were briefed weekly.

But in terms of Dotcom as an individual, Coleman had no involvement in the decision.

Bickle had told Coleman, under the ‘‘no surprises’’ policy, on October 28, 2010 after he had been informed Dotcom would be granted residency.

But it was not a decision that needed to go to the minister.

In an editorial today NZ Herald all the emphasis is on ‘political pressure’.

Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act show the Security Intelligence Service tried to block Mr Dotcom’s residency application. It described him as a “bad but wealthy man” who was being investigated by the FBI for alleged copyright crimes. However, the SIS dropped its objection 90 minutes after being told there was “political pressure” to let the Megaupload mogul into New Zealand.

It does refer to Coleman.

Jonathan Coleman, the minister in 2010, denies there was political pressure. His signature was absent when residency was granted. Approval for Mr Dotcom was delegated by “special direction” to two Immigration NZ officials. But pressure comes in many forms.

There is no mention of Immigration NZ’s claim they didn’t think there was any pressure and they made the decision without the Minister being involved in the decision.

The editorial goes on:

Those damaged by the Dotcom wrecking ball can at least take comfort in the latest revelations hardly being to his advantage. More importantly, they argue persuasively that ministers should not be in a position where they can make decisions on residency or citizenship against the advice of officials. There is too great a danger of them bowing to popular opinion or acting in a manner that is not in the country’s best long-term interests.

Officials, in turn, should not be left to make such decisions. People and their circumstances vary, a feature that would be disregarded if rules had to be enforced rigidly. Additionally, officials are apt to read the political winds and anticipate their minister’s preference.

The editorial is headed Dotcom saga shows why independent judges best and closes with “An independent panel would be much more sensible” so it is obvious they have a clear preference but that doesn’t excuse slanting their coverage so much towards the claims of ‘political pressure’ while downplaying or omitting claims to the contrary.

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Goldie

     /  16th July 2014

    “Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act”
    Those official documents were directly relating to Kim Dotcom. They can only have been released under the OIA with Kim Dotcom’s express permission.
    So Kim Dotcom was involved in the writing of this story by the Herald, yet there is no indication in the Herald/David Fisher article that KDC was the primary source of the information. The Herald is acting as the mouthpiece for KDC.

    Reply

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