Matt Nippert is a business investigations reporter.

The secret pride of New Zealand citizen Peter Thiel

Controversial billionaire Peter Thiel claimed in a citizenship application that if his unusual request was granted he would tell the world he was a New Zealander.

"It would give him great pride to let it be known that he is a New Zealand citizen,"
his lawyers wrote to the Minister of Internal Affairs.

That claim last night attracted ridicule, with Labour Party immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway noting this pride was well-concealed despite his application having being approved in June 2011.

"He couldn't have been that proud of it, because nobody knew about for six years," Lees-Galloway said.

Attempts to seek comment sent to Thiel's representatives in San Francisco yesterday went unanswered, as have multiple other attempts since the story broke in the Herald last week.

The 145-page citizenship application file, explaining what exceptional circumstances underlay the unusual award, was released last night after a nearly a week of repeated delays by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The file chronicled official concern that Thiel failed to meet residency requirements - acknowledging he did not live in New Zealand, nor did he intend to in the future - but came down in official favour of the application after being convinced of his "exceptional" abilities in entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

Thiel, worth $3.7 billion according to Forbes, became famous for co-founding PayPal, rich from investing early in Facebook, and has invested tens of millions of dollars in local businesses.

His application for citizenship was supported by letters of reference from prominent technology industry locals - and business partners of Thiel's - Sam Morgan and Rod Drury.

In a personal letter Thiel, who also held German and United States citizenship at the time of his application, was effusive about New Zealand.

"I am happy to say categorically that I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future than New Zealand," he wrote.

Guy, who signed the application off in June 2011 and also corresponded with Thiel's lawyers in the months following the filing of the initial application in December 2010, said last week he couldn't recall the case.

Lees-Galloway pointed to a cascade of unusual factors surrounding the case, ranging from fewer than one percent of applications requiring a ministerial waiver of under the "exceptional circumstances" clause of the Citizenship Act, to only one in eight - one a fortnight - being eventually signed off.

The department said fewer than one in a thousand citizenship ceremonies took place in a private ceremony overseas, as Thiel's did in August 2011 at the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica.

"I cannot believe that Nathan Guy could not recall this case. It's very unusual, involving a very high-profile individual."

Last night a spokesman for Guy said; "He stands by what he said."

In a press conference at the Karaka Sale on Monday Guy said he had reviewed the file and said his decision was the right one. "The decision was backed by officials," he said.

How it unfolded
1995: Thiel first visits New Zealand. He visits a total four times before applying for citizenship.
22 October 2010: Invests $4 million into local company Xero and joins their advisory board.
12 December 2010: Makes formal application for citizenship.
20 April 2011: Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust announced Thiel has made a $1m donation.
30 June 2011: Thiel's citizenship application is signed off by then Internal Affairs minister Nathan Guy.
12 August 2011: Private citizenship ceremony take place for Thiel in Santa Monica.
25 Jan 2017: News of Citizen Thiel breaks in the New Zealand Herald.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 29 May 2017 14:07:32 Processing Time: 653ms