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 New Zealand Herald - - News - Derek Cheng pol­i­tics

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.”

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