20 Dec 2018

Sroubek: 'Our marriage break up has become a political football'

5:41 pm on 20 December 2018

Karel Sroubek has hit back at claims he threatened his estranged wife to make a submission to Immigration New Zealand in support of him, after the release of a prison phone call recording.

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Photo: Carmen Bird Photography

Sroubek is a convicted Czech drug smuggler who was initially granted residency to stay in New Zealand despite facing deportation. But the Immigration Minister then over-rode his decision, ruling instead Sroubek could be kicked out once released from prison. His release is scheduled for around 2022.

Earlier this week, National MP Mark Mitchell said National released parts of a recording Sroubek made to his estranged wife from prison, to counter claims from Sroubek that she had not been under any threat.

However, Sroubek in a statement has hit back at claims he threatened her and said he requested a copy of the recording a month ago, knowing it would vindicate those claims.

"If Mr Mitchell has any interest in the truth he will release the full recording of my final communication in May with my now ex-wife. It needs some context," the statement read.

"It is disappointing and hardly fair that it has been released to only one party and that party has provided less than 3% of the recording."

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

In the recording Sroubek can be heard saying: "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."

Sroubek in the statement acknowledged the comment but said he sent over friends to talk to her but they did not pose a "threat".

"In the recording, I say "I will send someone over to talk to you because you are acting crazy" … which is exactly what I did do and she did see them but she rejected them. They were pleading with her to talk to me but she was now rejecting them.

"We were a married couple and these friends were the friends of us in that capacity - some had known her for longer than I had. Most were her girlfriends.

"I know some of them are distressed that it has been suggested that their contact has been construed as being threatening by Mr Mitchell. I had even tried to contact her parents to make some sense of what was going on with their daughter."

In addition, Sroubek said this was all part of their martial dispute and the call was mainly to finalise the text of his ex-wife's submission to Immigration NZ.

"She had committed less than a week prior to send the script through to me but she had not. In May of this year she shared a concern for my chances if I was to be deported. I was contacting her as per her request.

"However, within our conversation I learnt that things had changed. I had been pleading with her to read it to me but she was now refusing to do so."

He also questioned why it took five months to describe the situation as a submission made under duress.

"She had the opportunity to contact her lawyer then but felt no need to," the statement read.

"There is an inescapable link between her change in attitude and the fact that I had to resort to placing a caveat to protect my interest in our house and business."

Mr Mitchell has previously said the ex-wife's character had been attacked in both Parliament and in the media, and she was responding to that.

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

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.

However, Sroubek in the statement was now asking Mr Micthell to leave his break-up away from the spotlight.

"My wife and I were once in love but this has changed so I simply want to settle my marital position and move on and be happy. I wish the same for my ex-wife."

Earlier this week, it was revealed the recording of Sroubek was the "new information" that prompted Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway to reassess his decision not to deport him.

Sroubek said his marriage split had become "a political football" and would jeopardise his appeal case regarding deportation.

"It is also doubly distressing for me that this suggestion of a threat could have been construed by the Minister of Immigration as a factor in reconsidering my immigration status when it was anything but a threat - at worst it was a cry for help.

"This was not part of his submission so until now I have not had an opportunity to comment on this aspect of his decision."

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.

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

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

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