11 Nov 2016

Letele's brother says she suffered 'because of her surname'

9:51 am on 11 November 2016

The brother of a terminally ill woman who has been allowed out of prison says his sister was denied release for so long because of institutional racism.

Terminally ill prisoner Vicki Letele.

Terminally ill Vicki Letele. Photo: Supplied

The Parole Board declined Vicki Letele's initial request to be freed from her sentence for fraud because of her stomach cancer, but reversed that decision yesterday after a vocal campaign by her family and supporters.

Vicki Letele, who was serving a three-year jail term, was last night allowed to return home after the Parole Board agreed to release her on compassionate grounds.

Her brother Dave Letele met his sister at the prison yesterday and said she was doing well.

He said she spent time reading messages from supporters and the first few hours of her release had been precious.

"It's just been amazing, sitting down and eating dinner together last night, it's just a true blessing and it's her birthday on Monday so we get to spend this birthday with her, it's most probably going to be her last one here, so we're really blessed."

He said it was a shame her case had to go to the media and get political in order for her to be released.

"We went through the proper route ... but when that didn't work, we used every contact we had to go to media. We didn't think it should have come to that, it was quite clear that they [prison medical staff] were unable to care for her."

He said the initial decision from the Parole Board was stupid.

"It took public pressure for them to see that, it became political and it would have been a political nightmare for them if they kept her in there. Last Friday the medical staff were still adamant they could look after her, saying that it wouldn't be until she fell into coma, that they wouldn't be able to look after her, that's just heartless."

He said political intervention only happened when it became clear a damaging political situation was brewing.

"And especially when you had Labour making noise about it ... it worked in our favour."

He believed Vicki was initially turned down by the Parole Board because of institutional racism.

"You only have to look at her sentence as well ... you look at that finance company Lombard Finance, about $127 million [was owed to investors when it went into receivership] yet they didn't go to jail.

All four Lombard directors avoided jail time in 2012 after being found guilty of making untrue statements about Lombard's position.

"You put the two photos up, my sister and you put the photo of them and there's a big difference.

"I think that my sister suffered because of her surname."

Vicki Letele hopes others will be spared same ordeal

The Auckland woman, who has months to live, hopes no other dying prisoners will need to go through an ordeal like hers.

Ms Letele had her first round of chemotherapy yesterday before she was released.

An emotional Ms Letele was reunited with her children and family in her home last night.

She said she had been blessed to have had such great support.

"I'm glad that this is not just going to benefit me and my family but it's going to benefit the families of those that are still yet to come, in my shoes, no one should have to go through that."

Ms Letele said her supporters got her through and she hoped her case would make it easier for prisoners in a similar position in the future.

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