A huge story in New Zealand right now is the arrest of Kim Dotcom, a wealthy investor who is being held on charges of reproducing and distributing infringing copies of copyright works – including movies, television programmes, music, software and books.
It’s a big story which has many facets, but in terms of immigration there are a couple of points of interest to me:
1) Dotcom was allowed into the country despite serious previous criminal convictions
I don’t have an issue with taking a decision on previous convictions, especially as full details were given to the immigration officials making the decision and the German system had wiped them anyway.
However in this case the immigration department has created a situation where they have drawn accusations of allowing Dotcom to buy his way past the good character test. Initially he was declined but somehow passed the good character test after paying $10 million to the NZ government. This looks even more shabby when another government department had decided to block Dotcom from buying land because in their opinion he failed the good character test.
We won’t even get into the revelations that Kim has diabetes, a slipped disc and hypertension but apparently had no problem with medicals.
The Immigration Minister knew about the decision but was not involved, however the Prime Minister John Key has come out in defence of the decision saying:
“I think because they deemed under the clean slate legislation he effectively didn’t have a record and he wasn’t trying to hide anything, those convictions were a long time ago, so they let him through,” he said.
The idea that admitting your crimes should confirm good character is a little difficult to swallow as is the inconsistency shown in these decisions.
Political support for Dotcom after he splashed cash around is extremely worrying. The government has already reduced the English Language requirements for investors (they only need an IELTS score of 4 now) moving away from concentrating on skilled workers to encouraging investors, and this could be a worrying sign that they are willing to bend the rules more if the right amount of money is on offer.
2) John Banks, then Auckland Mayor, provided Dotcom with immigration advice.
It transpired through the reporting that John Banks, then Mayor of Auckland, had admitted to giving Dotcom immigration advice in relation to his Residence application.
As Mayor of Auckland Mr. Banks may not have been aware that in providing immigration advice he would have been committing a serious criminal offence punishable by up to 7 years in prison – arguably more than Kim .com will face in the USA.
A perfect example of a much needed piece of legislation that was very poorly written and implemented (the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007) was introduced in 2008 that prohibits anyone not licensed or exempt from providing immigration advice.
Mr. Banks is not registered as a licensed immigration adviser and does not appear to fall into any of the classifications of an exempt person as Mayor (although bizarrely as an MP he does as if this somehow gives him magical information on immigration law and policy).
Move2NZ as an independent migration commentator has written to the Immigration Advisers Authority to ask what their response to this will be. Their reply has been that they are thinking about it and will respond next week. Hmmm.
We’ll see what the IAA does/says and what other tidbits of information come out about this case in days to come.