David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

The secret Dotcom papers

Why our spy agency let Dotcom into New Zealand.

The  Herald  has made multiple Official Information Act requests since Dotcom was arrested in January 2012. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Herald has made multiple Official Information Act requests since Dotcom was arrested in January 2012. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Prime Minister John Key must explain the "political pressure" government officials were under to process Kim Dotcom's residency application, Labour says.

Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act show the Security Intelligence Service tried to block Kim Dotcom's residency application but dropped their objection 90 minutes after being told there was "political pressure" to let the tycoon into New Zealand.

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Labour's Associate Security and Intelligence Spokesperson Grant Robertson said said Mr Key needed to explain the political involvement in the application.

"John Key has two important questions to answer, who was exerting political pressure on officials and why were they doing it.

"The Dotcom affair has always had the fingerprints of National Ministers on it, John Key must finally front up to New Zealanders and explain what he and his Ministers knew and what pressure they were applying.

"On the surface it looks like more of the same from National - interfering and playing politics with what are meant to be independent decisions," Mr Robertson said this morning.

What the documents show

Read the released documents here.

Documents declassified and released through the Official Information Act show the Security Intelligence Service describing Dotcom as a "bad but wealthy man" who was under criminal investigation by the FBI.

It also has agents passing on information about the FBI investigation for then Minister of Immigration Jonathan Coleman, described as an "interested party" wanting to get "high rollers" into New Zealand.

After the release of the latest documents, Dotcom's legal team said it would go back to court with the new information.

The Herald has made multiple Official Information Act requests since Dotcom was arrested in January 2012 on FBI charges of criminal copyright violation, in an attempt to discover why he was given residency. The requests have never produced the SIS information - until a request in May accompanied by a privacy waiver from Dotcom.

The "political pressure" claim was made in October 2010 after the SIS blocked Dotcom's residency application when it learned of the FBI's criminal investigation into his Megaupload empire.

On October 22 that year, one SIS agent wrote to another saying: "INZ [Immigration NZ] has phoned me to advise that the INZ CEO [Nigel Bickle] is questioning why this case is on hold. Apparently there is some 'political pressure' to process this case."

The agent noted the need for the "CEO" to be briefed on the Dotcom case. The SIS director at the time was Dr Warren Tucker, who reports directly to Prime Minister John Key.

One hour and 27 minutes later, another SIS agent said the agency's block would be lifted, writing: "Since Dotcom is not of security concern, there is no reason for this application to be on hold with us. Please can you inform your INZ contacts of this, also noting Dotcom is the subject of a criminal investigation and that they need to discuss the case with NZ Police before they proceed with granting him PR [permanent residency]."

On October 27, 2010, the SIS again urged Immigration NZ to discuss Dotcom with the police, saying "just from looking at his records INZ do have enough on his criminal history to not give him [residency]".

The next day, an SIS agent was instructed to brief INZ's intelligence chief, Theo Kuper, ahead of a meeting scheduled with Dr Coleman to brief him on "the background regarding FBI/NZ Police".

In an email later that day, the SIS agent asked: "How did the meeting go with the minister?"

Mr Kuper responded: "My responsibility is to merely provide information and advice which hopefully will lead to the right decision being made. What I do know is that the Minister of Immigration is an interested party as the Investor Plus Residence category (for high rollers with more [than] $10 million to spend in NZ) is a government priority because of the economic benefits to NZ."


Internet Party leader Laila Harre. Photo / Doug Sherring

An Immigration NZ spokesman said last night no contact had been made with police after the SIS urged Immigration to do so.

And despite SIS papers speaking of an FBI "criminal" investigation, the spokesman said they only ever considered Dotcom to be a "person of interest to the FBI", which "did not meet the threshold to trigger a deferral of the residence application because of character concerns".

An earlier statement from Immigration NZ - provided by the SIS - said "it appears the government interest in the success of the [business migration] policy may have been misconstrued as political pressure".

The statement appeared to be contradictory, saying so much time had passed "it is impossible to know whether this is an accurate reflection of comments that were made" while adding "INZ can state unequivocally that there was no political pressure".

Previously released OIA material shows Dr Coleman was extensively briefed on Dotcom, his history and his residency application in detail before it was granted. Large sections of the briefings to Dr Coleman were redacted, with officials saying the information needed to be kept secret to protect relations with another country and avoid prejudice to criminal investigations or trial rights.

But when the residency was granted, Dr Coleman's signature was absent - approval for Dotcom entering was delegated by "special direction" to two Immigration NZ officials.

A spokesman for Dr Coleman said last night: "Dr Coleman is unavailable."

Harre: Residency bid should not have got that far

The leader of Kim Dotcom's political party says she "wouldn't have been comfortable" granting the tycoon residency having now seen the information provided to the Immigration Minister at the time he was allowed into the country.

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"It should never have got that far," said Internet Party leader Laila Harre. "If the minister had been advised of the FBI investigation it would be extraordinary if the minister would not have blocked the ongoing residency process."

Dotcom's lawyer, Paul Davison QC, said the "political pressure" emails should have been released through the court process.

"There is no satisfactory explanation as to why it wasn't included in the previous material provided."

He said the emails "give rise to questions which go right to the heart of the propriety of what was done. And who was behind the decision-making. And who influenced it.

"We are committed to ensuring this material is placed before the court."

Labour's associate NZSIS spokesman, Grant Robertson, said the claims of political pressure were "extraordinary".

"I've never heard of a situation like this before. Political pressure means politicians.

"There are serious questions about what John Key knew and when."

He said Labour, as an incoming government, would include the Government's handling of the Dotcom affair as part of the 2015 inquiry into the intelligence agencies.

- additional reporting Jared Savage, APNZ

- NZ Herald

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