David Fisher 's Opinion

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

David Fisher: The Kim Dotcom wrecking ball rolls on

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Dr Jonathan Coleman and Kim Dotcom. Photo / NZPA, NZH
Dr Jonathan Coleman and Kim Dotcom. Photo / NZPA, NZH

There are a lot of people looking for someone to blame over Kim Dotcom's entry to New Zealand.

Step forward the remarkably disinterested Jonathan Coleman and the bungling people at Immigration NZ.

The reason people are seeking accountability is clear - the Crown's legal bill is around $6.5 million and it is likely to double before the issue of extradition is settled.

Read more:
Coleman knew of FBI interest in Dotcom pre-residency decision

Dotcom's kinetic character has also had a wrecking ball effect on politicians, public servants' careers and this year's election.

It should be said that on the plus side, we know more now about the workings of some of New Zealand's most powerful agencies. We know more about our spies than we ever did - that they struggle for competence and had no idea of the law they were operating under.

As a nation, we have had peeled back the sometimes unlawful and certainly questionable way our police operate.

However, the cost for many people is far too great. They don't think Dotcom should have been allowed into New Zealand - and they're absolutely right because Immigration NZ broke its own rule to do so.

Immigration NZ should have known this, too, but was hampered by a string of bungles and an extremely odd lack of interest in knowing more about Dotcom.

The SIS emails in October 2010 were a clear warning, and should have stopped Immigration NZ in its tracks.

They speak of an active criminal investigation into Dotcom and a desire to work with NZ Police on the inquiry.

The SIS agents urged Immigration NZ's intelligence manager Theo Kuper to pass the information to Dr Coleman. The details were set out in a still-classified briefing document to Mr Kuper.

It is important to note that Immigration NZ's rule state any investigation into a residency applicant means the applications must be put on hold for six months.

This was the first opportunity to stop Dotcom before he got residency. It was missed when Mr Kuper - for whatever reason - didn't tell anyone there was an "investigation" underway.

He didn't call the police - as suggested by the SIS - and neither did anyone else in the chain which followed.

That was the second opportunity to stop Dotcom before he got his residency.

Instead, he told the Immigration NZ staff member handling the application there was FBI "interest" in Dotcom because of his Megaupload business. That staff member told his boss, who told Nigel Bickle, the chief executive of Immigration NZ, who toddled off to brief Dr Coleman the day before residency was approved.

Dr Coleman received his briefing, including the fact Dotcom was a person of interest to the FBI and it related to the operation Megaupload. He was told Dotcom was not a "security threat" - which means he's not a terrorist, basically - but it should not have given him any comfort in relation to the FBI's interest.

ZBTV: Meet Kim Dotcom

Video

Dr Coleman doesn't appear to have asked any questions as to why Dotcom was of "interest" to the FBI - not a single one.

So there goes the third opportunity to stop Dotcom coming into the country.

There was another opportunity, too, which came in the following months. Dotcom's lawyer declared, after he had residency, that the tycoon was facing charges in Hong Kong in relation to share purchases. The admission, on which they were earlier bound to silence by the Hong Kong court process, threw Immigration NZ into a loop.

It prepared papers for the minister, which are still secret, telling him they were considering deportation and cancelling his residency. It would be incredible if Dr Coleman was not told at that stage exactly what "interest" the FBI had. In March 2012, the same month the FBI asked the NZ Police for help, they decided not to.

That was the fourth opportunity to stop Dotcom coming into the country.

Dotcom has incensed a section of the population over his continued presence in New Zealand. They are right to be incensed. He should never have been allowed entry, if everyone had done their jobs properly.

They did not, and the wrecking ball rolls on.

- NZ Herald

David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

David Fisher was named best reporter at the Canon Media Awards 2013 for a portfolio of investigations, including the revelations of air force failures following the fatal Anzac Day Iroquois crash; an exclusive interview with Kim Dotcom; the donations to John Banks' mayoral campaign; and a report on the huge ACC privacy scandal. PGP Key here.

Read more by David Fisher

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