Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Businessman in citizenship row up on violence charges

Developer in special court over incident allegedly involving assault on a woman.

Donghua Liu, left, with John Key at the opening of first stage of the construction project in Newmarket.
Donghua Liu, left, with John Key at the opening of first stage of the construction project in Newmarket.

The businessman granted citizenship against official advice after a Government minister lobbied on his behalf is facing domestic violence charges.

Donghua Liu has been charged with assaulting a woman and assault with intent to injure after an incident at the Boulevard Hotel in Newmarket, the first stage of a proposed $70 million property development by one of his companies.

The 53-year-old appeared in the specialised Family Violence Court held within the Auckland District Court in December and was bailed to a $2 million home in the suburb of Orakei.

He has pleaded not guilty and will appear in court next month for a case review hearing. The more serious charge of assault with intent to injure carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

Liu's lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said the charges were denied and would be vigorously defended.

The Herald revealed yesterday that Mr Liu was given citizenship in 2010 after National Party minister Maurice Williamson and the then Mayor of Auckland, John Banks, lobbied the Minister of Internal Affairs, Nathan Guy.

Mr Williamson, the Minister of Building and Construction, and Prime Minister John Key then opened the first stage of a $70 million construction project launched by the Chinese-born developer after he became a citizen.

The following year, one of his companies made a $22,000 donation to the National Party.

It emerged that Mr Liu was granted permanent residency - also against official advice - in 2004 by Labour Party Associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor.

A second citizenship case involving Mr Williamson also raised concerns among officials handling the file.

Internal Affairs staff recommended the application be declined because the individual did not meet criteria covering residence, English skills and intention to live in NZ.

However, citizenship was granted after Mr Williamson personally lobbied Mr Guy in a meeting.

The citizenship bid was also supported in a letter from business consultant Roy Mottram, according to documents released under the Official Information Act.

Mr Williamson and Mr Mottram also successfully lobbied together for Mr Liu to be granted citizenship against the recommendation of officials.

Mr Guy, who no longer holds the internal affairs portfolio, said he made the final decision on more than 800 citizenship cases and regularly received correspondence from families and supporters of applicants.

"In every citizenship case I always carefully considered all of the evidence provided and advice from the Department of Internal Affairs.

"In these two cases I considered at the time that, on balance, the potential benefits to NZ warranted the granting of citizenship."

The official recommendation on the granting of citizenship was ignored in 61 of the 1011 cases between 2009 and 2011.

Mr Williamson, the MP for Pakuranga, said he did not comment on "constituency matters".

Mr Mottram said both of the people whose citizenship bids he supported had made "huge contributions" to New Zealand as significant businessmen.

He would not reveal the identity of the second applicant, but conceded he lived "part-time" in the country.

- NZ Herald

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