Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek says his prison stint has been the "hardest time of my life" as he seeks parole after his role in embarrassing the Government.
The Parole Board today decided to reserve its decision on whether to release Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, saying they needed more time to discuss it.
Sroubek has been battling to remain in New Zealand once his sentence finishes, arguing his life is in danger if he returns to his homeland.
His case sparked a political firestorm that burned Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
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If the Parole Board frees Sroubek, it could mean he would be released into the community as he waits for the Immigration and Protection Tribunal to assess his appeal on deportation.
Sroubek was controversially granted residency in New Zealand despite having gang affiliations and serving a prison sentence for smuggling 5kg of MDMA.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was criticised for his initial decision to grant residency, and eventually issued a new deportation liability notice, meaning once Sroubek finished his drug-smuggling sentence he would be ordered out of the country.
He first came to New Zealand in 2003 on a false passport in the name of Jan Antolik.
Sroubek was found guilty in a 2011 jury trial of using a false passport and lying to immigration officials, but was discharged without conviction by the trial judge, who believed his evidence.
The representative kickboxer claimed he had to flee his home in the Czech Republic in fear of corrupt police officers and a criminal after witnessing a murder.
Four years later he was jailed for five years and nine months for bringing a drug used to make Ecstasy into the country hidden among legitimate goods. He is due to finish his sentence in early 2022.
At today's parole hearing, Sroubek said he was taking prison "day by day", running yoga classes, and trying to remain positive.
"It's been the hardest time of my life, I'll be honest," he said.
Sroubek said he took responsibility for his offending and that he'd made a "terrible mistake" in committing the crimes.
"I've learned that there's no shortcut in life. I've lost everything that I really cared for.
"I want to be a good member of the community, I don't want to be remembered as a criminal, I don't want to be portrayed as a person who's committing crimes because that's not who I am.
"I'm trying to be a better man. I was trying before I even got found guilty of this and I'm trying every day in this place."
The board questioned why Sroubek fought his convictions so hard and denied all the offending only to turn around and say he accepted responsibility in a parole hearing.
He said it was simply because he did not want to go to jail and was doing everything he could to prevent it at the time.
"That makes me wonder whether you're saying whatever is necessary for you to get out of jail again," board member Sam Perry said.
Sroubek and the board also discussed convictions and warrants from the Czech Republic, and issues of misconduct in prison.
One of those was when Sroubek spoke over the phone to a journalist, trying to organise an interview. The other incident was an allegation of speaking threateningly to his wife, but the charge was dismissed.
Sroubek said he has a job offer in the building industry for when he is released and hopes to become a productive member of the community.
The Parole Board has reserved its decision.