Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek should have been deported as soon as it was discovered he had a fake passport, a former immigration minister says.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is under fire for not deporting Sroubek, though he was jailed for five years and nine months in 2016 for importing the drug MDMA, or ecstasy, and entered New Zealand under a false passport.
- [https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/370004/czech-drug-smuggler-karel-sroubek-s-past-comes-to-light Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek's past comes to light]
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On Wednesday, Mr Lees-Galloway said he had been made aware of new information that could contradict the information he had when he decided to allow Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand.
Immigration consultant Tuariki Delamere acted for Sroubek to help him gain residency in 2008 under the sports talent category as the current world kick-boxing champion.
Mr Delamere, former National immigration minister in the 1990s, said there was no indication Sroubek was not Jan Antolik, the name he was using at the time.
He said Sroubek should have been deported as soon as it was discovered in 2009 that he was using a fake passport, or when he was charged. National was in government at that time.
Mr Delamere said the minister at the time could still have deported him even though he was discharged without conviction.
"It should never have been on [Iain Lees-Galloway's] desk in the first place."
"The passport looked genuine, Immigration [NZ] thought it was genuine, but a year later the the Czech police contacted New Zealand authorities and it all started to unravel for him."
Yesterday, RNZ revealed the existence of a 2009 court judgment which showed Sroubek, under the name Jan Antolik, was given permission to travel to the Czech Republic while on bail, and that he'd already been back to Europe earlier that year. That has raised questions on his reported claim that he feared for his safety if he returned home.
Mr Lees-Galloway said he had not seen that 2009 judgement and has instructed officials to look at the matter urgently.
"It is contradictory information, allegedly there is information that exists that is contradictory to the information that I relied upon in making that decision."
Mr Lees-Galloway was tight-lipped and cautious under questioning because he would not want to get sued.
"I'm not divulging what information I have asked for Immigration New Zealand to investigate for very strong legal reasons, I have received advice that that would be inappropriate at this time."
National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said he was sceptical about the investigation.
"It's a way for him to deflect what has been very, very intense scrutiny on his decision-making, very poor decision-making in my view and he's trying to buy time to get himself out of a deep, deep hole."
Mr Woodhouse said the minister was trying to find the information he needed to undertake the U-turn on his decision, that he must make.
He also said he should own up to his mistake and not blame officials.
"I have worked closely with them for five years and I have found the work that they do and the responsiveness to my requests for more information to be absolutely first-class.
"The fact that the minister is now throwing them under a bus, and implicating them in his terrible decision I think is an indictment on the minister."
Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont told Morning Report the minister or his officials should have found where Sroubek had travelled in Europe and whether he returned to the Czech Republic and whether he had the ability to live anywhere in the EU.
"Clearly they didn't ask those questions, and it just seemed to be a robotic box-ticking exercise.
"This is why people are outraged."
Mr McClymont said Sroubek was already a resident but he was liable to deportation because of his criminal convictions and use of a false passport.
In those circumstances the minister would normally assess whether to deport someone. Mr Lees-Galloway decided not to deport him and to grant the residence visa in the correct name, rather than the false name, which Mr McClymont said was a matter of "administrative tidying up".
Mr Lees-Galloway yesterday accepted the whole situation was potentially quite confusing for the public.
"It is and that's why I've asked for an investigation, that's why I need to get the information in front of me, and I have no doubt that we will be discussing this again when I have that information in front of me."
Mr Lees-Galloway said the three-week timeframe for the investigation was not a target, and he expected officials to move quickly.