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Dotcom residency revelations put Harre in a tricky spot

LATEST: Nats in crisis over Dotcom SIS file

UPDATE:  Jonathan Coleman, the Minister of Immigration at the time of Kim Dotcom's residency application, has denied applying political pressure.

Mr Dotcom has long maintained his residency was fast-tracked, over an initial SIS objection, as the US leaned on NZ cabinet ministers, who in turn applied pressure to Immigration NZ.

The accused pirate was born in Germany, which a more limited extradition treaty with the US. His theory is that authorities wanted his NZ permanent residency application fast-tracked to smooth to way for his arrest and extradition.

"The residency decision was made by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), not by me as Minister of Immigration," Mr Coleman said in a statement. He was informed after the decision was made under the "no surprises" policy.

Mr Dotcom was granted citizenship in November 2010, shortly after the SIS dropped its objection.

Documents released under the Official Information Act include an email exchange between the SIS and Immigration NZ. One message in the thread, from October 22, draws attention to a query from Immigration NZ deputy chief executive Nigel Bickle over the holdup of Dotcom's application. "Apparently there is some 'political pressure' to process this case," the email says.

The statement from Mr Coleman says the email conversation between SIS and Immigration NZ staff has been misinterpreted.

"The reference to 'political pressure' was an interpretation of a conversation that took place between NZSIS and INZ staff almost four years ago," he says.

"After the amount of time that has elapsed it is impossible to know whether this is an accurate reflection of comments that were made."

Mr Coleman adds that the business migration scheme was launched in 2009 after the government identified attracting the right business migrants a a high priority initiative.  

"The government was very interested in updates on the policy and INZ provided progress reports on the amount of money invested regularly," he says. There was a focus on processing applications quickly under the scheme, which fast-tracked permanent residence to people willing to invest $10 million or more in NZ.

"It appears that the government interest in the success of the policy may have been misconstrued as political pressure," Mr Coleman says.


EARLIER: The SIS dropped its objections to Kim Dotcom obtaining residency in October 2010 following political pressure, the NZ Herald reveals today.

The paper draws on documents it obtained under the Official Information Act with the help of a privacy waiver from Mr Dotcom.

The revelation backs Mr Dotcom's long-held conspiracy theory that the FBI and US Department of Justice wanted him to be granted NZ residency — the idea being that it would then be easy to arrest him and extradite him to the US, given he was a German national and Germany a more limited extradition treaty with the US (of course, the extradition part has proved more fraught than they anticipated, none the least because the GCSB broke the law by surveilling Mr Dotcom after he was made an NZ resident). 

The situation is complicated by correspondence that indicates a second or alternative motivation for pressuring the SIS to change its mind: according to emails relaying his views second-hand, then Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman acknowledged Mr Dotcom was under suspicion but wanted him let into the country as a "high roller", or someone who could invest $10 million or more to gain entry under the Residency Plus scheme (as Mr Dotcom subsequently did). 

As an SIS email casually sums things up in an email to Immigration NZ requesting a hold on his application, "It seems Dotcom is quite a bad but wealthy man. However the FBI have come back to us and are looking to do a joint op with New Zealand Police."

Harre would not have let Dotcom in
Allegations that Mr Coleman politically interfered with Dotcom's application deserve examination scrutiny (Mr Coleman has yet to speak on the issue). And the revelations are another boost to Mr Dotcom's legal team and his forever-delayed extradition case.

But for the political party he founded, the situation is muddier, and it's lead to some convoluted logic from its leader Laila Harre.

Ms Harre told the Herald she "wouldn't have been comfortable" granting Mr Dotcom residency if she'd known what Mr Coleman knew at the time the party founder was granted residency. 

But, given he was granted residency, and is now at the centre of new controversy, Ms Harre and the Internet Party are calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the apparent political interference over Mr Dotcom's application.

Ms Harre says the situation transcends Mr Dotcom's case and a constitutional case for all of New Zealand. Still, as an ongoing issue it will be closely tied to Kim Dotcom's case, and the Internet Party has always said it's not a vehicle to promote the internet tycoon's defence. It's a messy one.

Another factor: Mr Dotcom has long maintained that Prime Minister John Key knew about the January 2011 raid on his rented mansion long before it occurred. I suspect he's going to drop some new evidence on that one shortly before the election. If so, once again his case will intertwine inextricably with politics once again, and Ms Harre will find herself on the frontline of campaigning not just for his party, but Mr Dotcom's legal defence.

Today's revelations lend credence to the theories that PM and SIS Minister did know about Mr Dotcom before the raid. If proven, I don't think that'll be a political bombshell. Much of middle NZ probably already assumes the PM is telling a white lie, and it won't move them to support Mr Dotcom. But it should help the party he founded nudge toward the 5% mark.

Two questions for Key — Labour 
It's also worth noting the Internet Party doesn't have a monopoly on objection to the government's behaviour over Mr Dotcom's residency application.

Labour associate security and intelligence spokesman Grant Robertson stops short of calling for an inquiry, but says, "The documents released by the Security Intelligence Service include reference to Immigration New Zealand being under 'political pressure' to process Kim Dotcom's residency application in late October 2010.

John Key has two important questions to answer, who was exerting political pressure on officials and why were they doing it, Mr Robertson says.

"The Dotcom affair has always had the fingerprints of National Ministers on it, John Key must finally front up to New Zealanders and explain what he and his Ministers knew and what pressure they were applying. On the surface it looks like more of the same from National - interfering and playing politics with what are meant to be independent decisions.

"Only a couple of hours after being informed of the 'political pressure' being placed on Immigration New Zealand, the SIS lifted their hold on the  residency application. A week later Mr Dotcom was granted residency."

The government has never been up front with New Zealanders about the Kim Dotcom affair, Mr Robertson says.

"We have seen evasion, half- truths and misleading statements from John Key and others.

“The documents also indicate that the decision about what to do with Mr Dotcom's residency was heavily influenced by the 'likely' joint operation against Mr Dotcom between the FBI and the  New Zealand Police. This raises serious concerns as to whether this decision was being made independently in the best interests of New Zealand."

But rather than crusading for Mr Dotcom, the Labour front-bencher tries to paint it more as part of a pattern of bad behaviour by the government.

"It seems the National government's modus operandi is to inappropriately intervene in the supposedly independent decisions of officials. New Zealanders are owed an explanation once and for all about what John Key and his Ministers knew and why they have acted so evasively on this issue," he says.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

RAW DATA: Read the documents and emails released under the OIA (PDF)


POSTCRIPT: This SIS email signature revealed revealed in the OIA docs. Oh dear. Apply the black marker a bit more heavily next time, spooks.

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Comments and questions
31

Great news, lets revoke residency (which his own political party says he should never have had) then any surveillance was legal and we can extradite him straight away. Problem solved.

You have no belief in the rule of Law do you? Might I suggest fascist Russia or Communist China might be more to your liking as a place to reside?

True, like everything about KDC's case, it puts an awkward slant on his political, umm, work (read: PR campaign).

But at least Harre's being upfront and honest. She and the IMP are totally in the clear. It's no fault of the IMP that its leader's citizenship was a botch up by rank amateurs from beginning to end.

No fault of Harre's perhaps, but she should shut-up. Her stance is akin to saying 'I'm pleased to be here but they should have aborted my mother'.

Good analogy.

You could also state it this way:

"I'm against allowing immigrants into the country who have a criminal record / dodgy dealings or on a wanted list, but in this case it's OK because I'm receiving proceeds of those dodgy dealings."

An honest person with principles would step down and resign.

Harre has no principles. Corrupt as they come.
Standing for election on principles that are based on a lie.

What is worse, she is so corrupt she is below recognising it. While it is plainly obvious to others, she is unaware of her own contradictory thinking.

Your Logic is as bad as Harre. If she says she would not have given him residency then surely by accepting his money she is a hypocrite. However by saying they are two different points she is just being a bigger hypocrite.

Only a former, Labour, Alliance, Green & now Internet Party member would change her spots to keep her $148kpa job. Really just how can you trust the party and Harre?
This guy has cost too much money taken to much air and stuffed around too many times with our political system, anyone backing him and his party do not have NZ best interest at heart.

Before we ask questions of the PM about the perception of political interference in immigration matters shouldn't we ask what the SIS was doing getting involved in the first place. The SIS is designed to counteract terrorism, espionage, sabotage and subversion and protect the economic wellbeing of NZ against activities within NZ or relating to NZ. It's hard to see how that mandate provides the SIS with the right to interfere in immigation matters and to object to residency status for someone who's interests appear to lie completely outside NZ.

"and protect the economic wellbeing of NZ against activities within NZ or relating to NZ."

I think you answer your own question there, don't you? Dotcom is accused of aiding, abetting and even encouraging the serious theft of other people's property, and profiting from doing so. If he was allowed to continue doing that while living in New Zealand, and without restraint, then that most certainly would effect the economic wellbeing of New Zealand as our trading partners would have something to say about it as they moved to protect their citizens from Dotcom's activities. That could involve any number of economic restrictions and penalties being placed on the country that would effect all our industries. And let's not even get on to the reputational damage that Dotcom would do to New Zealand.

If the SIS wasn't involved in this case, I would be very concerned. Who would be keeping us safe?

Really -safe from video piracy? Wouldn't that just be a matter for INZ to police and/or a matter of commercial litigation. The Herald docs seem to talk about a threat to national security and an FBI joint operation with NZ Police targeting Dotcom. I guess that after the Urewera raids resulting in some gun charges, Dotcom's residency application must have given the SIS hope of some real counter espionage action. Don't get me wrong I want the protection of the likes of the SIS and the NZ Police as long as their activites are properly focused. Petty crooks should be able to be weeded out by INZ surely.

Agreed. The "economic wellbeing" clause is so broad that the SIS could claim that counter-terrorism operations against workplace tiredness fulfill that mandate. While that is obviously farcical, I'm not sure why we need two secret security bureaus as well as the Police investigating a claimed internet pirate.

I think to characterise Dotcom as an internet pirate trivialises what he was doing. This was not a victimless crime here. And neither you Dave, nor Mark, speak for those victims.

The hypocrisy of Harre but some New Zealanders are lapping it up - like drunken sailors to their vomit.

Please just give the public the name of the turkey who over rode the proper authorities advice and let his fellow turkey in. The public can then judge.

A shrewd political move by Laila, which actually supports Dotcom by adding further credence to his original claims that the government was actively working behind the scenes with the FBI, to deliver their head's quarry on a plate.

This strengthens Dotcom's case for his lawyers to argue against being extradited when such machinations were used to achieve a predetermined outcome.

The government should be requesting that the Attorney-General drop all charges; make a fulsome public apology for the jack-booted raid (when a court summons would have sufficed) and negotiate a handsome settlement to compensate for the wholesale seizure of his assets and the freezing of the bank accounts. That way, the public's faith in the government - and its agencies - can be restored. Sort of.

If the government did that it would destroy the public's faith in it, not restore it. You shouldn't allow yourself to suffer under the illusion that your extreme views on this case are held by everyone.

If he wasn't a resident (as he should never have been) then the GCSB would have been allowed to spy on him and he would currently be in the US facing trial.

Why did the SIS release this now?
I'm guessing that they don't mind getting involved in good old fashioned spying but they don't appreciate being used by Hollywood moguls as a private spy agency.
Someone in the SIS has a sense of honour.

No... I suspect it is more Machiavellian than that. By releasing this information the government is now forced to do something. Panic mostly, but it serves their original purpose, which was trying to keep Dotcom out.

The charges against Dotcom, are just charges. Arent you suppose to be innocent, until proven guilty.

The big picture is Dotcom was a (big) challenge to the establishment, and their profits. Big business plays by its own rules, and they just want to shut him down. Politicians are mere puppets in the game, and not particularly smart. Thats why Dotcom is running rings around them, and exposing them for what they really are.

Talk to Richard Branson about the issues he had competing with British Airways, which cost him Virgin Records.

There's unlikely to be any wealthy businessman who hasnt bent the rules, but you do have to remember who you are playing with.

Hollywood have been slow in adapting to the new (online) business environment, and should have to accept that. Just like the Banks shouldn't have been rescued by the politicians. Iceland, who didnt save their banks, is doing quite nicely now.

Its all about the Establishment!!

Good one. Somebody with some common sense. About time.

The mere fact that the SIS was forced to dance to the tune of Hollywood speaks volumes.

Volumes about how Hollywood lobbyists were able to per$uade congress and US enforcement agencies to make an example someone they thought would be an unlovable easy target (among the myriad content hosting services through which pirated content can be downloaded - including Google, easily).

Volumes about how this per$uasion can reach even into New Zealand, with agencies such as Customs somehow being influenced into digging dirt on Dotcom for "brownie points" with the FBI - something that has been allowed to die away...

Volumes about how alleged secondary copyright infringement can be a basis for helicopters and militarised raid techniques being deployed into rural Coatesville.

Many NZers have never been more proud of our judiciary than when they stood up against all this and didn't give NZ's bullied agencies a free pass for lapses made during these shenanigans.

It's been embarrassing to see how NZ's politicians and authorities have kowtowed to the US, in comparison...and now we find out even more about what might have been going on...

And to think I voted for National (the last three times). I won't be doing that again...

It's not always about the establishment!

When the original news stories about Dotcom surfaced, I had no viewpoint. After a time I ended up with the same viewpoint as you, and would proudly say so.

That is, up until an interview on Campbell Live some time back. Everything Dotcom said in that interview made sense and supported your comments and my thinking. However in response to the very last question, he said he believed that copying copyrighted material was not theft and specifically "It is not theft because nothing has actually been taken, the owner still has the original". or words to that effect.

If you follow the same line of reasoning behind his thinking, one could easily justify an art gallery making illegal copies or prints of artwork on loan, or for that matter could easily justify rape. After all, following that same thinking, nothing has been physically taken.

Dotcom has revealed that he does not respect private property rights, intellectual property or boundaries.

It is the non tangible that has been taken, boundaries that have been crossed without permission, and things of value violated.

Dotcom's statement on that show revealed to me his two sided nature and his ability to tell people what they want to hear to get their support. He loves to play the "I'm being beat up by Hollywood" phrase, and gain the sympathy of free minded people who know all too well how "the establishment" wields its power. Yet he has no respect for private property rights or rights of the individual.

He is playing the political game to suit his own agenda, telling people what they want to hear to get what he wants. His two sided nature, is revealed in his political association with Harre, and the ideals of those he is bringing on board. He has no principles and his political leanings have more to do with protecting himself and his empire than standing up for principles he believes in. Harre and Dotcom have a lot in common.

Recent comments from his wife about how she left him, if true, tend to verify what has been emerging - an overbearing tendency towards to obsessional control. Vindictiveness is clearly evident in that he wants to get back at, or destroy John Key.

Dotcom is someone you do not want in politics. He is a quintessential "loose canon". And a dangerous one.

Comparing him to Richard Branson is an insult to Richard Branson. The situations are completely different. Richard was being beat up by British Airways who had the market and played dirty to keep it. Richard was the underdog, playing by the rules. He played the inside of the rules to the maximum, but never stooped to breaching boundaries or thumbing his nose at what was legal.

Dotcom on the other hand has been knowing involved in helping others distribute music and video that is copyrighted, contrary to the copyright laws that surround and apply to music and video when the original purchase is made.

There is nothing noble, or honourable about piracy. We can all agree that with high speed internet that the model of how music and video gets distributed needs to change, but that does not justify providing a service and encouraging others to enter into piracy.

Dotcom's statements that "he could not have known" what his upload service was being used for, are disingenuous. His pre-disposition of having no respect for boundaries and copyrights, weighted his approach and he encouraged others through clever marketing, to share copyrighted material.

His lack of ethics, principles and boundaries combined with ready cash, make him a dangerous person to be involved in politics. Dotcom, like anyone, could always change for the better. However his involvement with the party hopping Harre confirm that he is still telling people what they want to hear.

Harre's comments are bizarre even by her own new standards of bizarre!

When will Dotcom go away. Nobody cares about him any more. How is he even a celebrity. We have so many people in NZ who earn more money than him yet have no media face time. I dont care his house was raided and if he wasnt doing anything legal than neither should he. If he is so innocent go back to the USA and face the charges. Or move back to germany. NZ doesnt want him here.

Good point - how much money does he actually make? I suspect his financial situation might be detoriating badly.

The new cloud storage company is going to be chased out of the market by the big competitors (aka Dropbox) that are now offering the same services. The ex has taken what part of it he owned anyway. And that music service he keeps talking about sounds basically like Spotify - which is well established, reputable and has a massive user base. I dont understand what all the fuss is about.

Ah, the NP trolls.

He is an enemy of corporate America, which makes him an enemy of the US, which makes him an enemy of the NP, which in turn makes him mine.

Conservatism: The abiding fear that somewhere somehow someone you feel is inferior to you is being treated as an equal.

Weasel - He's a recidivist offender convicted multiple times... and that's before he landed here. Now he's trying to subvert our form of democracy by buying his own political party and the cheapest / bendable political tragic for hire he can buy - regardless of whatever their Plasticine principals might have been in the past.

You should get over your "class warfare" it's so 1970's, stale and failed then... like it will fail now, like so many politicians of that era already have done...

Well said

If dotcom obtaining residency was a problem to him why did he not withdraw his application before it was granted.To make a successful application and then complain about it makes no sense ??

The minister in charge of the SIS still claims he had never heard of Dotcom. One of the richest men living in his electorate? Time for the man, at home in Hawaii maintaining his green card, returned down under with a lot explaining to do.

It's a small storm in a smaller teacup! Nobody cares. Just go back to the hole where you crawled up from, Dotcom!