Sroubek 'good guy deep down': Richie Hardcore's text to PM revealed

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Friday, 18 January 2019, 2:06PM
PM Jacinda Ardern and Karel Sroubek. Photo / NZ Herald
PM Jacinda Ardern and Karel Sroubek. Photo / NZ Herald

Social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore texted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the end of October to say that Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek had made some "really bad decisions", but was a "good guy deep down".

Ardern's office today released two text messages about Sroubek in response to a Heraldrequest under the Official Information Act.

"Myself and my friends and community wanted to pass on their respects and praise for the decision about Jan Antolik, Karoul Sroubek, he's made a bunch of really bad decisions but he's a good guy deep down, so thank you to Ian and yourself for giving him another chance," the text from Hardcore said.

Richie Hardcore's text to Jacinda Ardern.
Richie Hardcore's text to Jacinda Ardern.

The "Ian" he was referring to is Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, who at the time had granted Sroubek New Zealand residency, but he has since issued Sroubek a new deportation liability notice.

The text was sent at the end of October, just after Sroubek's case was reported in the media.

The Herald asked for text messages sent to Ardern from Hardcore and anybody else about Sroubek, and Ardern's office also released a text message from convicted fraudster Alex Swney.

Sent on November 9, it said: "U r too polite to say it but I will - Bridges & the Nats r being bastards about this Sroubek saga. I want to assist with information I hve included in an email I hve copied u in on. If I can please advise [redacted] ... Best - Alex."

Alex Swney's text.
Alex Swney's text.

Swney, who spent time in prison with Sroubek, confirmed that he had sent the text and that the information he was referring to was an article he wrote in support of him.

Swney told the Herald today that he texted Ardern because he felt that the National Party had been treating Sroubek in a "distasteful way".

He added that it was not uncommon for him to communicate with politicians of all political persuasions.

He said that Ardern did not respond to his text message.

Ardern revealed in December that she had received an unsolicited text from Hardcore, an acquaintance of hers and supporter of Sroubek's, after the Opposition questioned her about Hardcore's support for Sroubek during Question Time in the House.

She said she did not respond to the text message, and did not consider it to be lobbying on Sroubek's behalf as the text message was sent after Lees-Galloway had made his initial decision about Sroubek's deportation, and only after the case surfaced in the media.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, left, was forced to apologise to the Prime Minister over his handling of the Karel Sroubek case.Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, left, was forced to apologise to the Prime Minister over his handling of the Karel Sroubek case.

National Party leader Simon Bridges demanded that Ardern release the contents of the text, describing her refusal as the Government's latest attempt to avoid scrutiny after initially refusing to discuss details of Sroubek's case, and then citing privacy reasons for not naming anyone who lobbied on Sroubek's behalf.

Ardern declined to release the contents of the text message last year, saying she feared it would set a precedent about private communications to the Prime Minister.

Today a spokeswoman for Ardern said that the text from Hardcore "proves the PM had no involvement in this case or any of the decisions made about it".

"Messages to her were sent after the first decision."

The spokeswoman said that the decision to release the contents of the texts followed advice from the ombudsman about whether doing so would unreasonably infringe on privacy rights.

"Given that advice we are happy to release them now.

"People write to the Prime Minister and offer their opinions about Government decisions every day. She can't control their opinions but has taken the step of changing the phone number she's had for years to limit unsolicited contact on her phone.

"The Government is deporting Karel Sroubek. Ministers did not have all the critical information when making the first decision, but now that we have all the info he is being deported."

Sroubek was convicted of smuggling MDMA and is serving a prison term.

He was originally granted residency, but Lees-Galloway overturned that decision following a firestorm of criticism that embarrassed the Government last year.

Lees-Galloway was forced to apologise to the Prime Minister over his handling of the matter, and is reviewing how such cases are handled.

An Immigration NZ review of the case later found that Sroubek should never have been granted a visa to stay in New Zealand in the first place because of previous convictions in the Czech Republic.

A new deportation liability notice was issued to Sroubek, which he is appealing.

Last year it was revealed that Immigration NZ did not ask Sroubek whether he had been back to the Czech Republic, a key aspect of his case because it would have undermined his case that he feared for his safety.

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