John Roughan 's Opinion

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

John Roughan: SIS revelations tarnish Dotcom most

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Obsession with proving conspiracy more evidence of serious ego issue

Kim Dotcom. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Kim Dotcom. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Conspiracy theories may be mad but they are fun. When my colleague David Fisher unearthed documents this week showing how the Security Intelligence Service had cleared Kim Dotcom's application for residency in New Zealand, only Dotcom could imagine that it did him much good.

The SIS had described him as a "bad but wealthy man" who was under investigation by the FBI, but let the application go through after a call from the head of Immigration New Zealand asking why they had it on hold. "Apparently there is some political pressure to process this case," one SIS officer told another.

The director of the SIS was briefed at that point and it was decided Dotcom could not be blocked on security grounds. But they advised Immigration to talk to the police about the FBI investigation. The agency repeated that advice a few days later and went so far as to have one of its staff brief Immigration's intelligence man before a meeting with his minister at the time, Jonathan Coleman. After that meeting, the immigration official could only remind his SIS contact that the residence category for "high rollers" was a Government priority.

So it would seem fairly clear how Dotcom got in. Immigration admits it did not talk to the police. Coleman is a nice man, a doctor, who would give anyone the benefit of a doubt. Dotcom's wealth explains the "political pressure".

If this week's disclosure reflected badly on Dotcom, his own take on the events was even worse. His theory is that the SIS dropped its opposition to his entry at the request of the FBI who believed that once he was in New Zealand he would be within their clutches.

There are a couple of weaknesses in the theory. It does not explain why the SIS then made repeated attempts to have Immigration talk to the police. It also sits uncomfortably with the fact that, two and half years after his arrest for extradition, the jolly German is still here.

If the FBI had supposed he would be easy to seize in New Zealand, it cannot have been well acquainted with this country's courts. The pace of proceedings could just as easily suggest the bureau is in no hurry to extradite him and may be content to have put his website out of business.

But none of this is nearly as intriguing as the question: how would the conspiracy, if proven, help him avoid extradition? He must think it would help because he gave the SIS a privacy waiver for its material to be released to the Herald.

His lawyer, Paul Davison, QC, told the paper the material ought to have been disclosed earlier under court orders, but presumably they think it is worth more to his case than that.

Maybe it is all just for politics. Dotcom's prospects are brighter if he can change the government. To that end he wants to discredit John Key's denials that he was aware of Dotcom's existence long before the Coatesville raid in January 2012.

The SIS documents show its director was briefed on the case in October 2010, and so was Coleman. Two other ministers, Maurice Williamson and Simon Power, refused to let Dotcom buy property here. Is it credible that none of them mentioned him to the Prime Minister?

It is a fair question but so is this one: if they did, why would Key deny it? There would be nothing wrong in him knowing of Dotcom much earlier than he says he did. Key always looks bemused that this detail matters so much to the big fellow. Dotcom's obsession with the point has been so persistent that Key probably wishes he could truthfully say what the guy wants to hear.

We are dealing, I think, with a colossal case of delusional self-importance, as is evident in the adopted name. Dotcom needs to be noticed.

He announced his arrival in New Zealand with a New Year fireworks display in Auckland that outdid the Sky Tower. It was broadcast nationally on television but he would be mortally disappointed to know that not many of us noted his name on a credit at the end of the telecast that night.

He might not believe how few of us had heard of him until the police made their spectacular arrest. Since then, he has imposed himself so much on the national consciousness that many find it hard to believe he was unknown to the Prime Minister until the raid. But he was not that important.

If immigration officers and their minister had acted on their SIS advice we would never have heard of him. Thanks to Fisher's work we now know he should not have been allowed in. That fact means it is even more important to get him out.

- NZ Herald

John Roughan

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald. A graduate of Canterbury University with a degree in history and a diploma in journalism, he started his career on the Auckland Star, travelled and worked on newspapers in Japan and Britain before returning to New Zealand where he joined the Herald in 1981. He was posted to the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1983, took a keen interest in the economic reform programme and has been a full time commentator for the Herald since 1986. He became the paper's senior editorial writer in 1988 and has been writing a weekly column under his own name since 1996. His interests range from the economy, public policy and politics to the more serious issues of life.

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