Hard News by Russell Brown


Dotcom: Further news of the unlikely

On the face of it, Prime Minister John Key's consistent claim that he had never heard of Kim Dotcom until the eve of the extraordinary armed raid on the Dotcom mansion on January 20 2012 seems unlikely and absurd.

How could he not have known of the flamboyant, controversial German occupying a huge property in his electorate? If three of his senior ministers and even his own electorate office staff were familiar with Dotcom and his issues, how could he not be?

But there has never been any evidence to prove otherwise.

"It doesn't exist," journalist David Fisher affirmed to the room at the last Wintec Press Club lunch. "I know. I've looked."

Fisher's New Zealand Herald story today does not provide that proof. But it adds information that makes it seem even more unlikely that the Prime Minister was innocent of all such knowledge:

Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act show the Security Intelligence Service tried to block Kim Dotcom's residency application but dropped their objection 90 minutes after being told there was "political pressure" to let the tycoon into New Zealand.

And further:

The Herald has made multiple Official Information Act requests since Dotcom was arrested in January 2012 on FBI charges of criminal copyright violation, in an attempt to discover why he was given residency. The requests have never produced the SIS information - until a request in May accompanied by a privacy waiver from Dotcom.

The "political pressure" claim was made in October 2010 after the SIS blocked Dotcom's residency application when it learned of the FBI's criminal investigation into his Megaupload empire.

On October 22 that year, one SIS agent wrote to another saying: "INZ [Immigration NZ] has phoned me to advise that the INZ CEO [Nigel Bickle] is questioning why this case is on hold. Apparently there is some 'political pressure' to process this case."

The agent noted the need for the "CEO" to be briefed on the Dotcom case. The SIS director at the time was Dr Warren Tucker, who reports directly to Prime Minister John Key.

Laila Harre, the leader of the Dotcom-banrkolled Internet Party, responded to Herald in intriguing fashion.

"It should never have got that far," said Internet Party leader Laila Harre. "If the minister had been advised of the FBI investigation it would be extraordinary if the minister would not have blocked the ongoing residency process."

Well, quite. Why would Dotcom have been granted residency in light of a criminal investigation by the FBI, even if the crime in question was an adventurous take on secondary copyright infringement?

Harre has responded as she did because the new revelations lend some credence to one of Dotcom's key claims about his case: that he was granted residency by the New Zealand government, in breach of our procedures, so that he could be offered up on a plate to the Americans when they were ready to grab him.

Harre has now expanded on that response with a press statement:

The Internet Party says revelations of political pressure being brought to bear on immigration authorities dealing with Kim Dotcom’s residency application have moved beyond the personal to the constitutional.

The release to the New Zealand Herald of declassified emails between Security Intelligence Service agents raises the spectre of decisions being made that are inconsistent with New Zealand law, and at the behest of a foreign power, says Internet Party leader Laila Harré.

“These emails add to the already existing speculation that our immigration laws and procedures came second to the demands of another country’s government in this case.”

She believes that if the Immigration Service had followed normal procedure, the residency application by Kim Dotcom would not have landed on the Minister’s desk. It would have been frozen because of the FBI investigation into Mr Dotcom.

Dotcom's lawyers are now demanding to know -- with considerable justification -- why the newly-discovered emails were not released to them.

I doubt we're going to get the Prime Ministerial explanation that Labour's Grant Robertson is demanding this morning. But it does appear that this strange and remarkable story has legs yet.

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