Jared Savage

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

Liu case: MP intervened three times

Former Labour Minister Damien O'Connor and Chinese businessman Donghua Liu. File photo / NZ Herald
Former Labour Minister Damien O'Connor and Chinese businessman Donghua Liu. File photo / NZ Herald

A former Labour Minister intervened three times in the immigration bid of Donghua Liu including waiving the English language requirement for the millionaire businessman.

Damien O'Connor, in his role as the associate Immigration Minister, wrote three letters to Liu's advisor Warren Kyd - the former National Party MP - before deciding to grant residency against the advice of officials the day before the 2005 election.

The West Coast MP has said he cannot remember why he granted residency to the businessman whose links to both National and Labour have created political waves this year.

But letters released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show Mr O'Connor was being lobbied by Mr Kyd on behalf of Liu in the lead up to the tightly fought election.

The first, dated June 1 2005, stated Mr O'Connor would not intervene on Liu's behalf in regards to an "amended photograph" submitted as part of the immigration application.

"As my previous intervention on Mr Liu's behalf shows, I think Mr Liu has to date had a positive impact in New Zealand, and to this end, I would encourage him to lodge another application for residence.

"Mr Liu should be advised that I have instructed the Immigration Service to receive any such application without prejudice which may have been caused by his previous application."

There is no explanation of the "previous intervention" of Mr O'Connor, who accepted Mr Kyd's explanation that a third party was responsible for the "amended photograph" on the file.

A second letter to Mr Kyd, dated August 9 2005, reveals Mr O'Connor said "it is not my
normal practice to intervene in the established immigration application process, however, I have decided to make an exception in this case.

"I have directed the Department of Labour Immigration Service to waive the English language requirements for Donghua Liu for any forthcoming residence application."

Mr O'Connor suggested Liu should enclose a copy of the letter with application, to be lodged within two years.

A third letter to Mr Kyd, dated September 16, 2005 - the day before the election - stated Mr O'Connor had considered the case carefully and "decided to intervene".

"I am therefore instructing the Department of Labour Immigration Service to grant residence to Mr Liu as an exception to policy. The grant of residence will be subject to Mr Liu completing an application form, paying an application fee and meeting health and character requirements".

The residency was granted under the terms of the Investor Category at the time.

Mr O'Connor has told the Herald he cannot remember the circumstances in which he granted Liu's application.

Read the correspondence from Damien O'Connor here:

- NZ Herald

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