Under-fire Shane Jones blasts media 'witchhunt'

Labour MP Shane Jones, who has been stood down, says he's the victim of a media witchhunt. Photo / NZPA
Labour MP Shane Jones, who has been stood down, says he's the victim of a media witchhunt. Photo / NZPA

Under-fire Labour MP Shane Jones has taken a shot at the media, saying he is the victim of a witchhunt.

Mr Jones was stood down yesterday from his portfolios and frontbench place after Labour leader David Shearer asked the Auditor-General to investigate the handling of a Chinese millionaire's citizenship case.

While he was associate immigration minister, Mr Jones granted citizenship to William Yan against the advice of officials who said there were questions about his multiple identities and a warrant for his arrest in China.

Yan was found not guilty at the High Court in Auckland today on five immigration fraud charges.

Despite the verdict, Mr Shearer said the Auditor-General investigation would continue.

Mr Shearer said he stood down Mr Jones immediately because he had made a point of saying he would stand down any of his MPs who were under investigation.

Speaking to TVNZ after the verdict today, Mr Jones said he was always innocent and he blamed the media for an unnecessary witchhunt.

Mr Jones said he had little option but to let the investigation happen.

In the meantime he would take some time out to think about whether he wanted to come back to politics after the investigation.

"I'm dealing with what the issues are in front of me in terms of the four-year-old decision and longer-term questions about ongoing involvements in politics, I'm not making an announcement about that at this stage."

Mr Jones said he supported an inquiry.

He was angry about Department of Internal Affairs evidence in Mr Yan's court case relating to the speed with which he processed the citizenship decision.

An Internal Affairs official said the department was under pressure to hurry the application through and Mr Jones had granted citizenship only one day after he received it.

Information released first in 2008, and again by Mr Jones this week, showed it was actually more than three weeks later.

Mr Jones said the evidence was incorrect and had maligned him.

He said he made the decision on humanitarian grounds because a senior official told him Mr Yan risked execution if he returned to China.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said officials were checking their records to see if Mr Jones was verbally advised that Mr Yan would be executed.

- APNZ

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