21 Dec 2018

Sroubek case: Immigration NZ told of Czech visit years ago

9:10 pm on 21 December 2018

The Immigration Minister is waiting for an explanation on how crucial information was left out of a file on convicted drug dealer Karel Sroubek.

 Iain Lees-Galloway and Karel Sroubek

Iain Lees-Galloway and Karel Sroubek Photo: RNZ / Carmen Bird Photography

Customs tipped off Immigration NZ six years ago that Sroubek returned to the Czech Republic in 2009, but that never made it into the file Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway considered when deciding whether he would be deported.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he had "expressed his concerns" to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's chief executive.

"I haven't had an explanation that I think fully explains how this occurred," he said.

A review will look at how the file was prepared and decide on the appropriate course of action.

When asked if he had received an apology from officials, Mr Lees-Galloway said he had not.

He would take "serious action" once he received the report and its recommendations, he said.

He has asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to look at its policy on matters involving ministerial discretion.

The missing piece of information was only uncovered as immigration officials prepared a 1000-page Official Information Act release for journalists, put out in a document dump on the Friday before Christmas.

Part of the original argument against Sroubek's deportation from New Zealand was he would be in physical danger if he returned to the Czech Republic.

Sroubek has been at the centre of a huge political storm, after the minister made the decision to allow him to stay in New Zealand, despite his criminal convictions and gang connections.

He arrived here in 2003 under a false passport and gained residency in the name of Jan Antolik in 2008. This was granted under the sports talent category, because he was the world kick-boxing champion at the time.

Sroubek was jailed for five years and nine months in 2016 for importing 4.9kg of the drug MDMA, with a street value of $375,000.

The minister ordered an investigation into the information he received from immigration officials, on which he based his decision.

As a result, he reversed that decision and Sroubek will now be deported once he is released from prison.

In March, a Customs intelligence analyst emailed a compliance manager at Immigration, saying Sroubek was a person of interest to Customs, and there were a "number of reports" that could be of "mutual benefit... particularly with his claim that he would be in danger if he was deported to the Czech Republic".

There appeared to have been a subsequent phone conversation between them, then another email in which the Immigration NZ manager said the person managing resident deportation cases would get back to Customs.

Two weeks later after not hearing back, the Customs analyst sent another email, containing information that in September 2009, Sroubek - travelling under the name of Jan Antolik - hired a car in Germany then drove to the Czech Republic.

Details of character references for Sroubek revealed

The documents also included heavily redacted versions of the character references which contributed to the minister's original decision to allow Sroubek to stay in the country.

One of those was from his parents which suggested if he returned to the Czech Republic his safety would be immediately at risk.

"[Redacted] the offender and two police officers threatened to shoot him," the letter read.

"The idea that our son had to return to the Czech Republic is absolutely scary for us and for him of course as well."

All the names have been redacted, but there were several more letters of support from a friend of Sroubek's, as well a number of his business contacts, and several sportspeople. All referred to him as Jan Antolik.

They all spoke of his good character and use words like "gentle" "kind" "helpful" "respectful" and "considerate" to describe him.

They also included an email from Interpol, seeking to clarify what charges Sroubek was wanted for back in the Czech Republic.

He was not wanted on murder charges, but on three charges in relation to an attack in which he grievously injured two police officers, and attacked a taxi driver in 1999.

He was convicted in 2002 for the offences of disorderly conduct, damaging property, and attacking a law enforcement officer.

Czech authorities wanted him to return in order to serve 54 months in prison.

Immigration New Zealand general manager Stephen Dunstan said the tip-off that Sroubek had visited the Czech Republic was discovered during a review of the case following the minister's original decision.

But the information was not passed onto Mr Lees-Galloway, because it could not be verified.

Mr Dunstan said the email from Customs in 2012 detailed discussions between a border official and the travelling companion of a person called Jan Antolik, the false name under which Sroubek gained residency.

More than one Jan Antolik entered New Zealand at various times, Mr Dunstan said.

The review requested by Mr Lees-Galloway of the case file tried to verify the trip, but could not.

Therefore the trip did not show up in Sroubek's official travel movement history.

This information will be considered in the current independent review.

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