Karel Sroubek supporter texted PM after residency initially granted

Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 12 December 2018, 7:40PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text from a Karel Sroubek supporter after the Czech drug-smuggler was initially granted New Zealand residency, but she did not respond.

During Question Time today, National's immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse asked Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway if Richie Hardcore, believed to be a friend and supporter who met Sroubek through kick-boxing circles, had supported Sroubek.

Lees-Galloway would not answer, citing a lack of public interest, but after Question Time a spokesman for Ardern confirmed that Hardcore had texted the Prime Minister after news broke of Sroubek being granted residency.

"The Prime Minister received a text message from Richie Hardcore following media coverage of the first decision about Karel Sroubek that acknowledged the decision. She did not respond to the text."

The spokesman said that Ardern and Hardcore were acquaintances and she had known him for years through his public advocacy work.

She did not know whether Hardcore had advocated for Sroubek, the spokesman said.

The PM's office has confirmed that Richie Hardcore, pictured, considered a Karel Sroubek supporter, texted Jacinda Ardern after news first broke about Sroubek's residency. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The PM's office has confirmed that Richie Hardcore, pictured, considered a Karel Sroubek supporter, texted Jacinda Ardern after news first broke about Sroubek's residency. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Hardcore is a fan of Ardern, writing on his Facebook page when she was elected Prime Minister: "I'm so happy someone I truly know is a kind and decent person is leading the country."

The revelation follows weeks of pressure from National MPs about who might have tried to influence Lees-Galloway over Sroubek, hinting that it might be someone associated with the Government.

Woodhouse first asked Lees-Galloway about Hardcore during Question Time on November 7, over a month ago, and Lees-Galloway declined to answer because it might prejudice an Immigration NZ review.

National leader Simon Bridges said tonight that Ardern had not been upfront and it was time she told the whole story.

"She's only told us this much because of our relentless questioning. It beggars belief to say that this would be the first contact that she has had with Richie Hardcore about this case."

Bridges said Ardern should release the full text message, and asked why Hardcore would have sent a text if she didn't know who Sroubek was.

"For total clarity, the Prime Minister should appear in the House tomorrow and make a Ministerial Statement about her associations with Richie Hardcore, Sroubek and any of their other associates."

Today in Question Time, Lees-Galloway said there was no public interest in naming the people who had supported Sroubek, but there had been no lobbying from MPs, former MPs, or their partners or staff.

"None of those who made representations were known to me. None of them were MPs, or former MPs, or MPs' partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party."

Asked what indirect or informal lobbying there had been in support of Sroubek, including from MPs' staff or supporters, Lees-Galloway said: "None."

He did not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support.

He said there were pleadings on Sroubek's behalf from friends, family and business associates when Lees-Galloway wrote to him on September 19, granting him New Zealand residency in his real name and cancelling his deportation liability.

After the Immigration NZ review and intense political pressure, Lees-Galloway issued a new deportation notice to Sroubek, meaning he would have to leave New Zealand after finishing his jail sentence.

Sroubek is appealing the notice to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.

 

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