Renewed calls to sack minister
Lees-Galloway says he didn't read the whole Sroubek file and made a decision ‘within about an hour or so’
The ministerial decision on Karel Sroubek’s case was made in about an hour and without reading the whole case file, prompting renewed calls for the axe to fall on Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
But Lees-Galloway maintains that he was thorough in making his decision, and has since gone back, read the entire case file, and stands by the decision based on the information he had at the time.
Sroubek, who is in prison for drugsmuggling, yesterday broke his silence, saying he is not as he has been portrayed in the media. In another development, details emerged about police stripping him of $190,000 under a law that allows the state to target profits made unlawfully.
Immigration NZ is investigating the case following new claims that contradict the reasons Lees-Galloway cancelled Sroubek’s deportation liability in the first place.
The National Party has been hounding the Government over the decision, revealing new information each day this week during Question Time in a sustained attack.
Under questioning from National, Lees-Galloway conceded yesterday that he made the decision about Sroubek on the same day he received the case file.
He later admitted he did not read the whole file, and made his decision “within about an hour or so”.
“I read various aspects of the full file. I didn’t rely solely on the summary. This is the usual process for these decisions. I took much, much longer on this decision than I have on other decisions, and I’m following exactly the process that I inherited from the previous minister.”
But National leader Simon Bridges said Lees-Galloway should be sacked. “After two weeks, Lees-Galloway has now admitted he didn’t read the full file . . . That’s not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision, and it is not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister.
“The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Sroubek’s residency.”
Immigration NZ general manager Stephen Dunstan said the process for absolute discretion by a minister has been in place since 2003, and it was not unusual for decisions to be made on the same day that the files arrived.
He said a case file could be up to 100 pages long, depending on how complex it was.
“The timeframe is really up to the minister. Some decisions are made on the same day. Sometimes ministers might ask questions or request further information,” Dunstan said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Lees-Galloway have said they are open to reviewing the process, following the investigation into Sroubek’s case.
National’s deputy leader, Paula Bennett, used parliamentary privilege yesterday to reveal an allegation that Sroubek threatened his estranged wife in a phone call from prison in May this year.
On Wednesday, she used Question Time to expose an alleged burglary of a $2.3m house just days after Sroubek placed a caveat on it, and on Tuesday she referred to court documents to reveal that a family was placed in a witness protection programme because of Sroubek’s alleged actions.
Sroubek released a statement through his lawyer, saying he had nothing to do with the alleged burglary and was acquitted in the trial that involved the witness protection programme.
“Comments made about that case in the media are not balanced, and in particular do not reflect that the key prosecution witness’ evidence was discredited,” Sroubek said.
“Much of what has been said about me and my circumstances does not present the true picture.”