Is Lees-Galloway really at risk as a minister?

The Karel Sroubek issue continues to cause discomfort for Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway, and this is creating a problem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

National have been calling for Lees-Galloway’s resignation, and repeated that yesterday after Lees-Galloway admitted to spending just an hour considering the deportation of Sroubek, and to not reading the whole file he was given.

Ardern has now changed her stance from expressing confidence in Lees-Galloway to not expressing confidence, which may be an ominous sign.

I’m reluctant to jump on the sack-the-Minister bandwagon. And Lees-Galloway had seemed to be doing an ok job as a Minister.

But being a Minister of Government is a very responsible job. Minister’s make decisions that have major impacts on the lives of individuals (and of many people).

It appears that Lees-Galloway has not been up to scratch on this. I don’t know whether that justifies a resignation or a sacking, but either is looking an increasingly likely outcome. That would be sad as a result of a bit of a slack stuff-up, but that’s the nature of politics, and if Lees-Galloway isn’t up to the job he shouldn’t be given that responsibility.

Ardern has confidence in Minister of Immigration

It will be annoying for Jacinda Ardern and Labour to have the immigration and deportation thing hanging over their conference weekend, but it is an unresolved issue that deserves more answers.

She should be disappointed.

Duncan Garner (Stuff):  Dear Iain, your shocker continues to seep

Bet this wasn’t how your Labour mates saw this weekend’s party conference playing out.

Can’t imagine, Iain, you’ll be dragged up on the stage as ministerial eye-candy either.

Standing ovation anyone? Iain Lees-Galloway for services to a foreign crook and an unsafer New Zealand.

They’re hard places to hide those party conferences too.  Unlike parliament, the pillars to hide behind are few and far between, so just keep expanding the designer beard, it’ll soon envelop you.

John Roughan (NZH): Czech ‘refugee’ shows Government needs better judgment

Putting aside all we know about Karel Sroubek now, it is easy to say the crimes Lees-Galloway knew about ought to have outweighed the risk to the life of a drug importer with gang associations. But did they really? Often it is not until you sit in a decision making chair that the right course of action becomes clear.

To my mind the significance of the crimes for this decision was the question they raised about Sroubek’s honesty and therefore the credibility of his claim to be in mortal danger in the Czech Republic. Lees-Galloway ought to have asked his officials to check that claim more closely. Had he done so, they would easily have discovered the court records showing he’d been back to his homeland on business at least once, albeit under the false name he was using when he entered New Zealand.

It is easy to blame Immigration officials for not doing these checks of their own accord but again, it’s the person in the hot seat who can see these needs clearest. It worries me that Lees-Galloway did not ask enough questions of this supposed refugee and surprises me that Jacinda Ardern was so quick to endorse his decision on Monday. A Prime Minister occupies the ultimate hot seat and is usually hyper-alert to political danger.

This issue will be ongoing pending the up to 3 week inquiry ordered by Lees-Galloway.

Laura Walters:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

Dotcom deportation decision on hold

An Immigration NZ report on possible deportation of Kim Dotcom is on hold until after his extradition has been fully dealt with.

NZH Exclusive: Inquiry into deporting Kim Dotcom is complete but Immigration NZ is keeping its findings secret – even from its minister

Immigration NZ has completed an investigation into whether Kim Dotcom can be deported from New Zealand for failing to declare a dangerous driving conviction – but it’s refusing to say what the outcome is.

The department has not even told its new minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, the inquiry is complete although legal experts say it almost certainly would recommend Dotcom be deported.

But that won’t happen without the report going to Lees-Galloway – it’s his job to make the decision.

Immigration NZ won’t say what the outcome is and instead aims to wait for the end of the legal fight to extradite Dotcom to the United States to stand trial for alleged copyright breaches.

Immigration NZ’s resolutions manager Margaret Cantlon said “any question” of Dotcom’s deportation would not go to Lees-Galloway until the extradition proceedings, including appeals and any judicial review, were finished.

“INZ has not briefed the new minister on the deportation case.”

Deportation would interfere with the long running extradition process that is back in court (Court of Appeal) at the moment.

If deported, Dotcom would likely be sent back to Germany, which would pose a problem for the United States because it has different extradition rules. Germany has already refused to extradite one of the Megaupload accused within its borders.

Deportation “looked a slam dunk”:

Lane Neave law firm partner Mark Williams said the final decision was down to Lees-Galloway and “the minister is going to hope extradition does the job for him”.

It would save carrying out unnecessary work, potentially fighting through the court and save the minister from a political hot potato.

“My view is if it got to the position where the minister was looking at this under a National government, it would be a practical certainty he would be deported.”

Under the new government, he said it still looked a “slam dunk” because it was the second time a new conviction had emerged. “That would not be viewed favourably at all.”

Williams, who is considered an international expert on immigration law, holds roles at leading universities and sits on the NZ Law Society immigration committee, said the international perception of New Zealand’s immigration system was important.

“You’d almost have to deport someone like that to send a message.”

If Dotcom survives extradition and faces deportation he is unlikely to go without another legal fight.

Dotcom has called deportation the government’s “plan B” if efforts to extradite him to the United States fail. But he has said that effort to remove him would result in another fight through the courts.

Williams said appeals were heard by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal and could be subject to judicial review at the High Court. Successful appeals beyond the High Court were rare.

Dotcom’s situation, his amount of financial resources and his determination to fight through the courts are also rare.

Smith in custody in Brazil

It’s reported that Fugitive Phillip Smith taken into custody in Brazil…

Fugitive Phillip Smith has been taken into custody in Brazil.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement just after 4.30am, saying Brazil Federal Police had Smith in their custody.

The New Zealand police liaison officer in Brazil visited Mr Smith and confirmed his identity.

In one way this is good news. He shouldn’t get away with breeching his temporary release and sentence.

In another way it’s not so good, there were many feelings of “good riddance”.

What now? How easy will it be to get Smith back to NZ?

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand did not have a formal extradition treaty with Brazil, which prompted concerns that returning Smith to this country could be a lengthy, complex process.

But he said Smith could be liable for deportation, which would be a simpler process than extradition.

Smith was not travelling on a valid travel document and he had failed to disclose his convictions when entering Chile and Brazil, meaning he was in the latter country illegally and could possibly be deported.

University of Auckland international law expert Bill Hodge believed if Smith was caught, he could be deported from Brazil based on problems with his visa.

“Then [they would] simply send him to the airport to deport to a place where an airline will carry him, and that will be in the first instance, Santiago, Chile – where they will deport him further out of transit back to New Zealand.”

So he could end up back in custody in New Zealand soon.

And then the issue of parole and release will come up again sometime.

Smith had committed many offences. Murder was the worst, and it was particularly nasty, as described on Campbell Live last night:

The victim was molested by Smith between the ages of 10 and 13 and was forced to watch as Smith stabbed his father to death, while out on parole in a violent home invasion in 1995.

When Smith was finally locked up, he continued to stalk and taunt the victim and his family from behind bars.

“He had a hit list to kill the whole family,” he says.

The victim described Smith’s predatory behaviour toward him and his family while on bail, saying Smith would stalk the family house for weeks before violently entering, despite conditions expressly prohibiting him from contact with the family. It was on bail that Smith stabbed the victim’s father to death in front of his eyes.

He says he has had trouble coping with the situation. Ever since Smith fled to South America, he has been sleeping with a knife under his bed, afraid the man who killed his father will come after him too.

“I’ve got mixed emotions – anger, fear. It’s not the first time they have let me down, and my family down.”

He is worried for the future and wants to see Smith put “back to where he belongs”.

While fleeing has brought this all up again Smith may have done some good, inadvertently, by fleeing.

He is obviously still high risk. Surely this justifies keeping him locked up, with no temporary release. This may not be indefinite but it should be for a long time at least.