9 Mar 2012

Dotcom's share trading convictions detailed

12:05 pm on 9 March 2012

A month after businessman Kim Dotcom was granted New Zealand residency, officials were advised he was facing share trading charges in Hong Kong.

Official papers about Mr Dotcom's application for residency also reveal that Immigration New Zealand was worried about how the public would react to its decision to grant him residency.

The Auckland-based co-founder of the Megaupload file sharing site is accused of internet piracy and is on bail while the US authorities seek extradition.

Kim Dotcom was granted residency in November 2010 under the investor-plus category, which is for people who invest $10 million in Government bonds.

A month later, New Zealand was advised Mr Dotcom was facing eight charges in relation to shares he bought on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Immigration New Zealand was informed in late January 2011 that he had been convicted of those charges and fined $HK8000.

At that point, Jonathan Coleman, who was Immigration Minister at the time, asked for more information about Mr Dotcom's residential status.

Mr Dotcom had received residency despite earlier convictions in Germany.

The official papers make clear the default position is that, because of those convictions, he would not have been eligible for residency under Section 7 of the Immigration Act which refers to a person's character.

However that default position can be overridden by a special direction from a senior official of the department, and this is what occurred.

The papers, received under the Official Information Act, show communications staff for Immigration New Zealand held a special meeting to devise a strategy to handle any adverse publicity about the decision.

Officials and former minister stand by decisions

Immigration New Zealand stood by its decision to grant residency saying Kim Dotcom's character issues were outweighed by the benefit of his financial investments in the country.

And the papers show that the service agreed with Mr Dotcom's advisers that the Hong Kong the charges were relativey minor and were unlikely to adversely impact on his residence status.

The former minister, Jonathan Coleman, has defended the way Immigration staff handled the residency application.

"It was a perfectly appropriate process and I think things have all been done above board."

Mr Coleman said officials have demonstrated real probity.

Minor offences

Former Immigration Minister Aussie Malcolm, whose firm Malcolm Pacific handled Kim Dotcom's residency case, says he had every right to slip quietly into New Zealand and get on with his life.

Mr Malcolm said Mr Dotcom was upfront about his history, and his convictions were of a type that would normally be considered minor.

"The reason for the waiver was the nature of the offences and the time since they had been committed rather than just the fact that he was an investor.

"In other words, if he had lodged an application as a skilled migrant or as a sibling being reunited with his family the outcome would have been the same."

Mr Dotcom, who is a German national, was arrested at his home near Auckland on 20 January 2012 and faces a number of charges, including internet piracy, copyright infringement and wire fraud.