Decision to cancel deportation of Karel Sroubek has been controversial, but judge who heard the false passport case has no doubts' about fears for safety.

The judge who gave Karel Sroubek a second chance to stay in New Zealand stands by his decision - but said it was a "great shame" the Czech national used the clean slate to smuggle drugs into the country.

Seven years ago, Sroubek was found guilty of having a false passport in the name of Jan Antolik and lying to immigration officials when he first came to New Zealand in 2003.

He told the jury in his trial he had fled his home in the Czech Republic in fear of corrupt police officers and a criminal after witnessing a murder.

The Crown did not dispute his version of events; but did not have to prove the charges.

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The senior prosecutor in the case also pointed out the Czech murder trial was conducted fairly and other witnesses suffered no recrimination.

Sroubek's guilty verdicts would normally lead to a conviction and jail sentence, in turn giving the Immigration Minister automatic grounds to deport Sroubek - without any avenue for appeal - for being convicted of holding a visa under a false identity.

But Judge Roy Wade discharged Sroubek without conviction - on completion of 200 hours of community work - so he could argue his case to stay and not be "removed from this country without proper procedure and review''.

The false passport of Karel Sroubek in the name of Jan Antolik. Photo / Supplied.
The false passport of Karel Sroubek in the name of Jan Antolik. Photo / Supplied.

This week it emerged Sroubek was to be deported until Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway intervened; a decision Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended on the grounds his life was at risk.

She was referring to the false passport sentencing where Judge Wade told Antolik his penalty was "one of the most difficult sentencing decisions I have ever had to come to".

Under normal circumstances, the offences warranted a prison sentence of 18 months to two years but Antolik's story was an "exceptional case'".

Karel Sroubek came to New Zealand from the Czech Republic in September 2003 to start a new life as Jan Antolik.

He was 22 at the time, and said his family had been threatened by two police officers who wanted them to lie and clear the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Instead, he left a videotaped witness statement that was later crucial in convicting the killer, and fled the country with a doctored passport.

But he was unmasked in October 2009 when Czech police gave Auckland detectives details of his identity and an arrest warrant on minor charges in connection with the 2003 murder.

On hearing the evidence, Judge Wade was convinced that Antolik would still be in danger from corrupt Czech authorities and the man he helped convict of murder if he were deported back to the Czech Republic.

"I am satisfied that your initial false applications were as a result of you doing the right thing, not the wrong thing," Judge Wade said in sentencing Sroubek in 2012.

Karel Sroubek is a talented kickboxer who represented New Zealand under his false name of Jan Antolik. Photo / Supplied.
Karel Sroubek is a talented kickboxer who represented New Zealand under his false name of Jan Antolik. Photo / Supplied.

"Furthermore, had you been frank with the authorities when you first came here, it seems plain that you would have been granted a work permit and, ultimately, residence in any event, on your own merits.''

Judge Wade was unaware Sroubek had been arrested as part of Operation Ark, a covert investigation into Ecstasy-like pills, just days after his false passport trial in 2011.

He was later convicted of being a party to the manufacture of Class-C controlled drugs, although the conviction was later overturned on a technicality and the prosecution abandoned.

Now retired, Judge Wade told the Herald he still believed Sroubek's story about fearing for his life.

"It was all very suspicious that the Czech police sought an international arrest warrant for the most trivial of matters. Obviously keen to get him back," said Judge Wade.

"I personally have no doubts about the truthfulness of his case. The great shame is, of course, he went overboard later with the drug smuggling and gang connections."

Just two years later, Sroubek was arrested and charged with smuggling 5kg of MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, from the Czech Republic.

One plank of his defence was the Ecstasy was planted in the shipping container as revenge by the man he helped convict of murder in the Czech Republic.

Sroubek was found guilty by the jury in 2016 and sentenced to five years and 9 months in prison - a conviction he unsuccessfully sought to be quashed in the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal said the jury was entitled to conclude the defence theory was "far fetched".

"The jury plainly rejected the evidence of Mr Antolik and his mother and must have been satisfied that the Crown had excluded the reasonable possibility that someone else had planted the MDMA in the container without Mr Antolik's knowledge in order to frame him."

Now 37, Sroubek is still in prison after failing to convince the Parole Board to release him early.

While a psychologist assessed Sroubek's risk of re-offending as "low", the Parole Board chaired by Judge Phil Gittos found he "presents a complex and more comprehensive risk of re-offending than his criminal conviction history in this country would betray".

"We had a lengthy interview with Mr Antolik in which aspects of the matters referred to above were put to him for comment. His responses were self-exculpatory, evasive, long-winded and ultimately in our view in many respects manifestly untruthful when measured against the facts."

The Parole Board also noted Sroubek's close association with the Hells Angels and that the Czech Republic were still seeking his extradition, which had been on hold until a decision had been made on deportation.

Any decision about extradition would ultimately be made by Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been forced to defend the decision of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been forced to defend the decision of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

While it hasn't been explicitly stated by Immigration Minister Lees-Galloway, it seems he was persuaded to cancel the deportation of Sroubek because of his evidence about why he fled from the Czech Republic.

Sroubek told the jury in his passport case about what happened on September 7 2003 - the day Vladimir Domacka was shot in the head with a revolver in Prague.

Sroubek was with a group of men when one, Stepan Cisar, smashed a bottle over another man. A scuffle broke out and Sroubek said he ran back to his car.

"I just didn't want to be a part of it, I had nothing to do with it."

Cisar then jumped into the car with him. "He said: 'Go, go, go, drive'. I said, 'What happened?' and he said: 'I think I just shot the guy'. Then I saw the gun in his hand," said Sroubek. "So of course I drove."

The next day Sroubek discovered Vladimir Domacka, a dodgy car dealer, was dead. He was called to a meeting with Cisar and two strangers, introduced as police officers. The pair said they could influence the investigation to make it look as if the gun fired accidentally during a struggle.

If he didn't co-operate, the police officers said Sroubek could be implicated in the murder and shot by police if he tried to run away.

His parents and close friends urged him to leave the country for his own safety, fellow kickboxer Jan Antolik giving Sroubek his own passport. He doctored the photo and fled to Germany, where he made a video statement about the murder and sent it back to Czech police.

A full transcript was given as evidence at Cisar's murder trial in December 2004, which convinced two other witnesses to come forward. The video was also played in the Auckland District Court to back up Sroubek's defence.

Cisar was convicted of murder, while the two other witnesses were given suspended sentences on charges of hooliganism and attempted bodily harm. An international arrest warrant for Sroubek still exists on those charges.

Sroubek went on to represent New Zealand at international kickboxing under the ring name of Jan "Atomic". He now imports fruit beverages from Europe for supermarkets around the country.

In his closing address to the jury, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone did not challenge Sroubek's story - but he did not need to prove the charge.

But Johnstone pointed out the two other witnesses at the murder trial still lived in the Czech Republic without any recrimination from the convicted mobster and received light sentences on their charges.

And despite fears of a corrupt police force, Johnstone said the Czech investigation was conducted in a proper manner with a transcript of Sroubek's statement presented unchanged at Cisar's trial.

"[Sroubek] preferred to stay in New Zealand rather than face a fair trial."