Sroubek texts to Ardern released under OIA

Texts to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the decision to grant Kaerl Sroubek residency were requested under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Texts to prime minister about Sroubek released

A text message from social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore to the prime minister thanked her for granting Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek residency.

Jacinda Ardern’s office released the text message following pressure from the Opposition last year.

The text message was in response to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granting Sroubek residency.

The minister subsequently issued him a deportation notice after new information came to light.

Mr Hardcore’s text said he and his friends wanted to pass on their respects and praise for the residency decision and, while Sroubek had made a “bunch of really bad choices”, deep down he was a good guy.

Ms Ardern didn’t respond to the text, which was sent at the end of October, not long after Sroubek’s case hit the headlines and it was revealed Mr Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to approve his residency.

A second text message was also received by Ms Ardern on 9 November from convicted fraudster Alex Swney.

It said: “U r too polite to say it but I will – Bridges & the Nats r being bastards about this Sroubek saga. I want to assist with information I hve included in an email I hve copied u in on. If I can please advise [redacted] … Best – Alex.”

Swney spent time in prison with Sroubek.

A spokesperson for Ms Ardern…

…said the government was deporting Sroubek and “Ministers did not have all the critical information when making the first decision, but now that we have all the info he is being deported”.

“This correspondence proves the PM had no involvement in this case or any of the decisions made about it. Text messages to her were sent after the first decision. They were unsolicited and not replied to.

“People write to the prime minister and offer their opinions about government decisions every day. She can’t control their opinions but has taken the step of changing the phone number she’s had for years, to limit unsolicited contact on her phone.”

Surprising it has taken over a year to switch to a more private phone number.

National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse:

“Why was Sroubek’s main supporter texting her directly to pass on his ‘respect and praise’ over the decision to allow Sroubek to stay in New Zealand in spite of Sroubek’s criminal history and the fact he came here on a false passport?”

“Why was one of Sroubek’s fellow inmates – Alex Swney – texting and emailing the prime minister information on the case, which has only now been revealed in spite of months of questioning? And what was that information and what is her relationship with Mr Swney?

“The whole thing stinks. Karel Sroubek should never have been granted residency, the government should never have tried to keep it secret, and the prime minister should not be involved in any way in such a decision, especially ones which allowed a convicted criminal to remain in New Zealand.”

Ardern’s office:

There had never been an issue with releasing the messages, “but [we] wanted to get guidance from the ombudsman to make sure we don’t infringe on others’ rights to privacy, the spokesperson said.

“Given that advice we are happy to release them now.”

On Friday afternoon, a time favoured for releasing unfavourable information, texts have been released.  Ardern is heading to Europe, which will increase the impression that she is avoiding fronting up on this issue.

Matthew Hooton was one of those who requested that the texts be released.

 

 

Ardern finally fronts up on Hardcore re Sroubek

Jacinda Ardern made things difficult for herself for nearly two months by evading questions over her connection to Richie hardcore, who is connected to Karel Sroubek and his attempt to avoid deportation.

Ardern finally saw fit to provide what sounds like a reasonable explanation in Parliament today:

This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Most of the exchange in Question Time in Parliament today.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and season’s greetings to the member.

Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. Will she release the precise content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already indicated in public interviews, I am concerned around precedent setting. Obviously, I receive hundreds of messages from members of the public on issues where I have no clear involvement or decision-making role. I have, however, given an indication of the content of that text. I’ve acknowledged that Mr Hardcore acknowledged to me that he knew Mr Sroubek and, of course, that he agreed and commended the decision because he knew Mr Sroubek. I’ve also acknowledged that I did not respond and that I received the message after the decision was made and after it was in the public domain.

Hon Simon Bridges: What exactly did the text message say?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve said, I wish to seek some advice from the Ombudsman on the handling of information that I receive from members of the public, because I receive hundreds of messages. Indeed, on this case, I have received over a hundred messages—obviously, some not so favourable. I am seeking some guidance from the Ombudsman as to how I handle each of those individual pieces of correspondence.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was it a thank-you text?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we went down and advised ourselves that I had received that message—openly—I acknowledged that it commended the Government on its decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many text messages has she received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just simply cannot answer that. I have said from the outset that I’ve known Mr Hardcore for a number of years. My recollection is primarily that it was through his role with Community Alcohol & Drug Services as an anti – drug and alcohol campaigner based in Auckland, and subsequently his involvement as an anti – violence and sexual violence campaigner. My understanding is that he’ll know a number of members on that side of the House, as he does in Parliament generally.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is this the only text message she’s received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister: one solitary text message about Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve already acknowledged that I know Mr Hardcore through a range of his work and functions and roles. I’ve already acknowledged that publicly. This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t she directly answer Susie Ferguson’s question today on Richie Hardcore on Morning Report: “How would you characterise him? Is he a friend or a family friend?”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would not characterise him as a family friend. He’s someone I’ve known for a number of years, and I’ve been very open about that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know why he has repeatedly, in the recent past, described her as someone he’s lucky enough to call a friend?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no qualms about him doing so. What is at question and in play here is whether or not I had any engagement with Mr Hardcore over this case, and as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the answer is no. In fact, when his name was first raised in Parliament, it was myself and my office that proactively acknowledged that I had received a message from him.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Iain Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to decide the Sroubek matter?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, and this raises the contradiction in the member’s line of questioning, he has consistently criticised the Minister for making the decision the same day he was informed of the case but, at the same time, has tried to imply there was inappropriate involvement from other members and Ministers. The fact is the Minister has always acknowledged he made the decision on the day it was given to him, the first time he was told of the case, when he was in a closed room with officials.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept that the Minister of Immigration has now made a decision that would lead to the deportation of that individual.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Richie Hardcore made representations for Sroubek that are on the deportation file the Minister considered?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can only rely on what the Minister of Immigration has said in this House because I am not aware and do not know who made representations, but my understanding is that last week in the House, the Minister of Immigration ruled out him being involved or making representations on this deportation order.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she knows that same Richie Hardcore well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that in the House; I’ve made no secret of that. I have known Mr Hardcore for a number of years in a number of guises.

If Ardern had been as explicit as this weeks ago she would have avoided a lot of hassle and speculation.

Sroubek -> Hardcore -> Ardern – pressure builds for full disclosure

The Opposition have been pressuring Iain Lees-Galloway and Jacinda Ardern on the Karel Sroubek deportation issue for over a month. National have obviously been trying to connect Ardern to the original decision by Lees-Galloway not to deport Sroubek after he completed his current prison sentence.

Today in Parliament, and immediately afterwards,  some dots were joined.

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek’s lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister’s decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I can confirm that amongst the information I considered on 19 September were letters of support from family, friends, business associates, and fellow sportspeople. Alongside the letters of support were sworn statements by a private investigator and a lawyer in the Czech Republic regarding the Czech justice system in Mr Sroubek’s circumstance. I do not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support or information regarding Mr Sroubek. Some have requested anonymity, and I consider it likely that naming people would expose them to unwarranted attention. None of those who made representations were known to me; none were MPs or former MPs, or MPs’ partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

That sounds carefully worded. Later:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Prime Minister confirming that there were no “direct” representations to him; and, if so, what indirect or informal representations were made, including from MPs’ staff or supporters?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: None.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did Richie Hardcore, a former martial arts champion, make representations in support of his application not to be deported?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals, and I’m not going to do it by a process of elimination either.

 

Afterwards from NZ Herald: Karel Sroubek supporter texted PM after residency initially granted

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text from a Karel Sroubek supporter after the Czech drug-smuggler was initially granted New Zealand residency, but she did not respond.

During Question Time today, National’s immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse asked Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway if Richie Hardcore, believed to be a friend and supporter who met Sroubek through kick-boxing circles, had supported Sroubek.

Lees-Galloway would not answer, citing a lack of public interest, but after Question Time a spokesman for Ardern confirmed that Hardcore had texted the Prime Minister after news broke of Sroubek being granted residency.

“The Prime Minister received a text message from Richie Hardcore following media coverage of the first decision about Karel Sroubek that acknowledged the decision. She did not respond to the text.”

The spokesman said that Ardern and Hardcore were acquaintances and she had known him for years through his public advocacy work.

She did not know whether Hardcore had advocated for Sroubek, the spokesman said.

So that is a new development, but Ardern appears to be being not entirely open and transparent with her disclosure.

Muay Thai. Boxing.Drug & Alcohol Harm Reduction.Public Speaking. Occasional Media Comment Maker. Politics.Punk. Hardcore. Hip Hop. Day Dreamer.Idealist

Early last year, the Greens had political connections with Hardcore.

From 4 April 2017: Greens unite celebs and Kiwis in ‘fresh’ campaign video

Continuing its push to engage the younger voter, the Green Party’s new campaign video features plenty of fresh, recognisable faces amongst its regular roster.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople‘s Taika Waititi pops up via an iPad, as well as social commentator Richie Hardcore and comedians including Chris Parker and Alice Brine.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said the campaign signals a “fresh, new look” for the party.

The video features a surprising array of Kiwis for a political campaign. As well as actors and celebrities, the party says it went on the road to include regular New Zealanders in the video.

“The people who were keen to be involved and the resulting campaign is testimony to the incredible range and depth of Green supporters in this country. This campaign demonstrates who we are and what we stand for,” co-leader Metiria Turei said.

20 August 2017:

 and 

Phil Twyford’s Facebook page from 16 August 2017:

Join Jacinda Ardern​, Richie Hardcore, Carmel Sepuloni and Phil Twyford at ZEAL in Henderson this Saturday 2pm at Let’s Talk with Jacinda​ – an event organised for West Auckland youth by West Auckland youth. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the future. It’s time to talk! #LetsDoThis
(Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160 Willis St, Wellington.)

Hardcore’s Facebook page 26 August 2017:

Richie Hardcore
Oh my god I love the way Jacinda conducted this interview; she’s so intelligent and articulate, I can’t wait for her to be our Prime Minister leading a Labour Green Government. ❤️💚

@RichieHardcore 23 April 2018: @NZClarke Welcome home bro, rise above and all that! NZ’s a terrible place to have more than 4 people know your name! Stay positive! 💛

Remember that lees-Galloway said in Parliament today:

I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

This may just be a bunch of coincidental connections, but I think that Ardern needs to provide a full disclosure (open and transparent) about what sort of association she and Gayford have had with Hardcore, and whether there has been any link via Hardcore to the Sroubek deportation decision.

NZ Herald:

National leader Simon Bridges said tonight that Ardern had not been upfront and it was time she told the whole story.

“She’s only told us this much because of our relentless questioning. It beggars belief to say that this would be the first contact that she has had with Richie Hardcore about this case.”

Bridges said Ardern should release the full text message, and asked why Hardcore would have sent a text if she didn’t know who Sroubek was.

“For total clarity, the Prime Minister should appear in the House tomorrow and make a Ministerial Statement about her associations with Richie Hardcore, Sroubek and any of their other associates.”

Ardern has avoided addressing this openly, which has increased speculation and suspicions. Last week in Parliament when Bridges accused her of ducking and diving the Speaker Trevor Mallard stepped in and kicked Bridges out of the House.

But National are likely to keep coming back to this until Ardern fronts up openly and provides credible disclosure. Otherwise, it will look increasingly like she has something she wants to hide.

 

Bridges continues inquisition of Government over Sroubek

Simon Bridges and National have continued to niggle away at the Government, in particular Jacinda Ardern, trying to uncover a connection between the Prime Minister and the decision to not deport Karel Sroubek (now reversed).

Bridges wasn’t in Parliament yesterday (as is the custom on Thursdays for National and Labour leaders), but tweaked by tweet:

This followed Question Time (transcript edited)

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her answers to oral questions in the last two weeks in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still say, “There’s no way that I can answer that question.” regarding who made representations on Karel Sroubek’s behalf; and, if so, has she asked who made those representations?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the answer is we don’t know, other than of the ones that did go public, such as Mr Sweeney—and there may be others, but we’re not aware of them.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned that there might be Cabinet Ministers who have links to people who have made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We’re not in the business of engaging in the permission of this House to allow someone to enter a fishing competition in the hope that somehow they might catch something. Here is the reality: I made a very clear statement, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that there are hundreds of people who would have been associated for a number of reasons with Mr Sroubek. To incriminate them all on the basis of their innocent association is just so wrong.

Hon Paula Bennett: Has she asked whether her Ministers have links to any of the people who made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that question is, on behalf of the Prime Minister, there will be a number of members of Parliament, who, if they go through their recent decade-old associations, would quite possibility, because of their sporting engagement and interest, have been associated. But that in no way means that they are responsible for the criminality for which Mr Sroubek’s in prison at the moment.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still believe the Deputy Prime Minister and Iain Lees-Galloway are the victims in all of this, as she said last week?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when one is seeking to arbitrate or decide on a process and critical information is denied to that referee, arbitrator, or in this case judge, or in this case Minister, then, yes, they do become a victim, because the system that we would have expected and had a right to expect was in place when we became the Government was a system that would work, not one that was shot full of holes and inadequacy.

The key quote from that is “The answer to that question is, on behalf of the Prime Minister, there will be a number of members of Parliament, who, if they go through their recent decade-old associations, would quite possibility (sic), because of their sporting engagement and interest, have been associated.”

That’s a fairly vague ‘confirmation’, as Bridges put it:

Winston Peters just confirmed in Parliament that Govt members “quite possibly” will know Sroubek. More to come I would say.

But this suggests that this inquisition is not over yet. This continues to have legs because of the evasiveness of Ardern in response to questions aiming at an admission she may have been more closely associated to the deportation decision (made by Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway) than she has been willing to admit so far.

The media seem to be largely leaving the inquisition to Bridges and his National colleagues.

Lees-Galloway changes decision, Sroubek to be deported

After a lot of attention given to his decision not to deport Karel Sroubek, plus political pressure, and getting new information, Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has reversed his decision not to deport Sroubek after he ends the prison term he is serving.

This has all looked quite sloppy from Lees-Galloway, and he has apologised to the Prime Minister – he said he was “acutely aware that trust and confidence has been damaged by this episode” and he’d apologised to the prime minister, and that apology had been accepted – but as Sroubek has remained in prison while this has been in the spotlight no real damage has been done except to Lees-Galloway’s reputation.

RNZ: Sroubek liable for deportation – Immigration Minister

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek is liable for deportation when he is released from prison.

Mr Lees-Galloway said some information was not available to him when he made the original decision.

This included new information from Interpol confirming details of his convictions, including that he was present in court when found guilty and that he appealed the verdict to the highest court in the Czech Republic.

“He doesn’t have residency now because he’s not produced a valid travel document. But this decision of deportation overrides that.

“At the point where he was released on parole or at the end of sentence, INZ would step in and he would be removed from the country.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said Sroubek was being removed because he never had the right to hold the visa in the first place.

He had the right to appeal that.

“This was an unusual case,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Sroubek’s release is scheduled for around 2022.

RNZ: Immigration Minister knew of Sroubek’s crimes in Czech Republic

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was informed of Karel Sroubek’s violent crimes in the Czech Republic and allowed him to stay in New Zealand anyway.

Sroubek was “liable for deportation” because his Czech convictions meant he should not have been allowed in New Zealand in the first place, he said.

However, the case file – revealed under the Official Information Act – showed the Minister was informed of those crimes before he made his original call.

“Mr Sroubek is also wanted by Czech authorities for service of 54 months’ imprisonment in connection with an incident on 28 June 1999, in which he attacked and greviously injured two Police officers and another incident on 4 October 1999, when he attacked a taxi driver,” the case summary said.

“It is understood that Mr Sroubek was convicted on 12 February 2002 of disorderly conduct, damaging of another’s property and attacking a law enforcement officer.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he was only asked to consider Sroubek’s New Zealand convictions and didn’t think to consider the rest.

“I didn’t think of that,” he told reporters. “It would be quite extraordinary to expect someone to think of all the other possible questions that might be asked.

“I don’t know every single detail of the Immigration Act… I didn’t look at that and say ‘aha, he should be an excluded person.’

“That wasn’t something I was considering at the time.”

He has been criticised for not knowing every detail of the Immigration Act, but a lawyer has defended him on this.

This was sloppy from Lees-Galloway and his inexperience showed. He should have learned to take a lot more time and care when considering deportations of known criminals. He should be on notice not to stuff up again like this.

However I think that calls for his resignation may go too far. It would be ridiculous for resignations to follow every ministerial stuff-up.

Simon Bridges looked and sounded like a dork demanding a resignation. It is a demand made far too often by Opposition MPs and leaders.

National MP Michael Woodhouse sounded more credible criticising the original decision.

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.

Sroubek affair continues to dog Lees-Galloway

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has made a mess of deferring the deportation of Karel Sroubek, and has made more of a mess of the handling of it when it was pushed by National.

He now admits he didn’t read the whole report given to him before making a very important decision about someone’s future, and he made the decision within about an hour. This seems to contradict assurances he gave to Jacinda Ardern that he had given the matter “careful consideration”, which could put her in a difficult position.

In Parliament today:

Question No. 2—Immigration

2. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Did he meet with officials on 19 September 2018 to discuss the deportation liability of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik; if so, at what time?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, at 4.30 p.m.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he first considered Karel Sroubek’s case on 19 September 2018, as indicated in his answer to written question 27289?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he wrote to Karel Sroubek’s lawyer confirming his decision to grant residency that same day?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I understand that the letter was post-dated to that day, but I am advised that it was sent on the 21st.

SPEAKER: Backdated, I think the member means.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he therefore confirm it took him less than an hour to make his decision to grant residency?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the decision maker, it’s important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Immigration New Zealand prepared a comprehensive file, detailed information, which I used to make that decision, following exactly the same process that that member used when I made that decision. I made that decision on that day.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A helpful elucidation of the process which did not address the question, which was “Can he confirm he took less than an hour to make that decision?”

SPEAKER: Well, I’ll ask the Minister to have another go at it. I mean, days don’t finish at half past five., but carry on.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I made the decision on that day using the information that I had available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why was this decision, one which the Prime Minister has said he gave “careful consideration to” and was “a very difficult decision”, decided just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because I used the comprehensive file that was prepared by Immigration New Zealand and presented to me. As a decision maker, it is important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Publicly available information may be wrong or unfairly prejudicial. That’s why it is important to have a robust process to prepare the information for my consideration.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it common practice for him to consider cases to, in his words, “weigh matters of public safety and the criminal behaviour of the individual involved” just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I used the same process that the member used when he was Minister.

RNZ: Immigration Minister made Sroubek decision in just one hour

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has admitted he took only an hour to decide to let Karel Sroubek stay in New Zealand and did not read the entire case file.

In response to questions in Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway confirmed he made his decision on the same day he received the file.

He later told reporters he took “an hour or so” to make up his mind and said that was “much, much longer” than he’d taken on other cases.

“I took the time that I felt was necessary. I certainly asked questions. I certainly looked closely at different aspects of the file,” he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he went through the summary with his officials, but admitted he did not read the file in its entirety before making his decision.

“I read the aspects of the file that I felt were necessary to make the decision that I made.”

The minister defended his decision-making, saying he followed the exact same process as the previous government.

“This is the usual process for these decisions.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he’d since read the full file “several times” and stood by the decision he made on the basis of the information provided.

Asked whether in hindsight he would have taken more care and time, he insisted he was “thorough” and had given the case “due consideration”.

“That’s the job.”

It appears that Lee’s-Galloway did not do a thorough enough jonb in making his decision, and has done an awful job of dealing with the flak.

Also today Sroubek put out a media statement:

Following the Minister of Immigration recently cancelling my liability for deportation there have been numerous reports and statements about me made to and reported in the media.

Much of what has been said about me and my circumstances does not present the true picture.

In 2010 I faced charges. I was properly acquitted at trial, as were all of the other people charged. Comments made about that case in the media are not balanced, and in particular do not reflect that the key prosecution witness’ evidence was discredited.

The National Deputy leader by her questions in Parliament has implied I may have had something to with an alleged burglary of a property I have an interest in. The allegation I was involved in that burglary is completely without foundation. I was not involved in the burglary.

Until New Zealand Immigration reports backs to the Minister and I have had the opportunity to respond to him on any issue he may wish to raise I will be making no further comment or statement.

And National are not backing off.

Ardern wants Sroubek residency review fast tracked

KiwiFirewalker: Oh so now NZ wants to talk about about immigration!

There was a lot of talk about immigration in last year’s election campaign, but until the Sroubek issue came up the Government has kept fairly quiet – probably because their election promises (Labour’s and NZ First’s) seemed to have been put aside.

Its funny isn’t it that the immigration debate in New Zealand can limp along with barely any discussion on exactly how problematic the situation is for years until a Czech drug smuggler gets permanent residence then people loose their minds.

There has been some good coverage over time, such as Steve Kilgallon and Dileepa Fonseka’s excellent series of articles on Stuff about exactly how widespread migrant exploitation in NZ is and how badly our immigration system is being rorted, but I have not herd the words “migrant exploitation” or “immigration rort” in the last six months as much as I have herd the words “Czech drug-smuggler” in the last week.

Ian Lees-Galloway, as Minister of Immigration, made his decision about Karel Sroubek in one of the three following contexts:

1. Lees-Galloway (or one of his minions*) did not actually read past the cover sheet and just made their decision on the easy (but incorrect) emotion angle of the case,

2. Lees-Galloway read the file but the file the file did not have all the info so the decision was made with incomplete information, or

3. Sroubek was given residency as part of some deal with the Police, or some other agency, as part of his connection to the Hell’s Angels and drugs smuggling in NZ.

Any of the above could be true but since we are listing facts about this case then lets list a few more.

4. Immigration NZ is run like a fast food franchise with lowly paid employees, quantity over quality decision making, outsourced  and offshore functions** and a risk adverse senior management which knows the problems exist but will not face them,

5. Appeals to the Minister of Immigration only make it to their desk when ALL other avenues are closed and things are looking BAD (as in nobody wanted to approve your application), and

6. Its a total crap shoot when your case is gone to the minister for appeal, anything could happen.

In my five years at Immigration NZ I watched all sorts of cases get declined at every single other level and then go to the minister for final judgement and in some cases people that should definitely not be allowed into the country got to stay while those who had cases with the most compassionate grounds ever get rejected outright with no reason or explanation, because at that level the Ministers power is effectively absolute and there is no appeal if you loose (or in the case of those highly questionable individuals who got in: won).

That said the Minister can also make the right decision and one of the most heart wrenching cases of my career, that I was unable to approve despite it being a obvious “yes”, finally got approved later by the Minister; to my utter happiness, and relief.

A bouquet for a National Minister of Immigration:

And for the record the Minister that I, and most of my fellow Immigration officers, felt made the best decisions was Michael Woodhouse.

And a brickbat for another:

For whatever reason when it usually needed to be declined he did and when it needed an approved he approved while, in my time at least, the worst  Minister was Jonathan Coleman who we could only believe was deliberately doing the opposite of what should be done, every single time, as there seemed to be no other rational explanation for the atrocious range of appalling decisions he made…

It’s not the party that matters, it’s the personality of the Minister.

So the real questions in these circumstances is not “why did the minister approve Sroubek” but how can Peter Thiel get the red carpet treatment but Karel Sroubek cannot?

Two of the most controversial residents.

Yet the likely outcome is Sroubek will go while Theil and Yang get to stay because apparently Kiwis can only get outraged about immigration issues when its drugs and not abuses by the wealthy,  obvious cases of espionage, migrant exploitation or marriage-for-residency scams which makes this less a genuine issue and more the most recent round of “wont someone think of the children!”.

So lets not turn the issue into another round of political point scoring or as an obvious distraction from a genuine high crime, like National selling slots in their party to the highest foreign bidder, but instead say “yes” to kicking Sroubek out but lets also get rid of that billionaire guy who got citizenship only because he’s filthy rich and that lying intelligence operative for a hostile power who is also, mysteriously, a sitting MP.

If Sroubek goes so should Thiel, Yang and all those other “economic citizens” who will have the dollars to buy a seat in Parliament because its just not right.

Good discussion points, but apart from Sroubek I doubt there will be any change for Thiel and Yang.

 

The heat still on Minister of Immigration

Pressure is still being applied to Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway over his decision to allow Czech Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand after he leaves prison (drug importation offences). Galloway has ordered an urgent review, but that may take weeks. The heat is still being applied.

Newsroom:  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.

Understandably the Opposition and the wider public have been critical of Lees-Galloway’s decision – Sroubek is a man who came to New Zealand under a fake name, using fake documents, who was convicted for smuggling MDMA into the country, then granted residency as he feared for his life should he be deported to the Czech Republic.

The criticism of Lees-Galloway’s decision to cancel Sroubek’s deportation liability, coupled with the Minister saying as good as nothing about the particulars of the case, has left an information vacuum.

National will keep trying to fill the vacuum.

More ‘new information’ that prompted reconsideration of Sroubek residency

A report that there was more new information that prompted a reconsideration of the Sroubrek residency decision than that he had returned voluntarily to the Czech republic.

Newstalk ZB: Details surrounding Karel Sroubek’s residency revealed

Yesterday, Newstalk ZB revealed Sroubek had allegedly returned to the Czech Republic since arriving to New Zealand, which went against the suggestion the residency was for his protection.

Newstalk ZB can exclusively reveal the change in circumstance that could see controversial criminal Karel Sroubek lose his residency.

Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper understands the new information, which has sparked the change of heart, centres on Sroubek’s now ex-wife.

Initially, she supported Sroubek’s case for residency and said she was happy for him to stay in the country once he was released from jail, where he is currently serving a sentence for importing drugs.

This is believed to be the information Lees-Galloway used to make his decision.

However, the wife is now in the process of taking out a restraining order against Sroubek.

The decision came as news to Lees-Galloway, and he is now reviewing his decision.

See Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision