18 Dec 2018

Sroubek's prison call to ex-wife behind minister's u-turn on decision

8:40 pm on 18 December 2018

It's been revealed a recording of Karel Sroubek calling his wife from prison was the "new information" that prompted Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway to reassess his decision not to deport him.

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Karel Sroubek. Photo: Carmen Bird Photography

RNZ has heard the recording, in which Mr Sroubek angrily berates his ex-wife about sending a letter of support to his immigration lawyer without letting him see it first.

"Do you want me to send somebody to talk to you because you are doing crazy stuff? Like you promised me two days ago you were fine, you were fine with it, and I keep my word, okay."

It has also been revealed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took steps to make sure the woman was safe, after being made aware she felt under threat.

Immigration officials and the police were sent to check on her, and National MP Mark Mitchell followed up the matter himself with the minister of police.

Mr Lees-Galloway said it was that information that convinced him to reassess his decision.

"That evidence is what inspired me to set about a new course of action to look into those matters and to make sure, one, that we had correct information for making decisions, and two, that her safety was being taken care of," he said.

Ms Ardern said she took action on 31 October, when she was advised by a journalist that Sroubek's ex-wife's safety might be at risk.

She said she was not aware that there had been a phone call from prison, but was aware there had been communication between Sroubek and his wife, and the nature of it.

"I raised it directly with those who had the most direct contact and the ability to offer that support and investigation - that was with the minister of immigration," she said.

She said the investigation into Mr Lees-Galloway's original decision was launched within 24 hours of that information coming to light.

Ms Ardern has defended the actions of herself and relevant ministers throughout the controversy.

National Party's continued attacks

The National Party is continuing to pursue the prime minister over the Karel Sroubek controversy, saying the government is not being fully upfront about what happened.

Leader Simon Bridges has been highly critical of how the government and the prime minister have handled the Sroubek case, and the situation of the ex-wife.

National MP Mark Mitchell said National released parts of the recording today to counter claims from Sroubek that his estranged wife had not been under any threat.

"She has never wanted to bring information into the public forum right from the start."

He said her character had been attacked in both Parliament and in the media, and she was responding to that.

Mr Mitchell said her letter of support for Sroubek was submitted under duress, a letter that played a part in the "poor" decision of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

He said the estranged wife was happy for a piece of the recording of the phone call to be reported by the media, to give context to the situation.

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