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Key grilled over link with GCSB head

Wednesday 27 Mar 2013 5:28 p.m.

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The key figures in the Kim Dotcom case are well-known. There's the Dotcom himself, the Prime Minister and the GCSB spy agency, headed by Ian Fletcher.

But today, for the first time, and out of the blue, John Key revealed that Mr Fletcher and he are long-time acquaintances.

"His appointment was made by the State Services Commissioner, but if the member is trying to make some other allegation, yes, I knew Ian Fletcher," says Mr Key. "I went to school with his brother. His brother was way brighter than [Labour MP] Grant Robertson, I tell you what."

Mr Fletcher is the GCSB's chief spy. He reports directly to Mr Key. That means Mr Fletcher's role is central in the Dotcom case, as to what Mr Key was told, or not told, along the way.

And it turns out Mr Key and Mr Fletcher go way back.

"What I can say is my mother was best friends with Ian Fletcher's mother," says Mr Key. "If that makes a conspiracy, fair enough."

But Mr Key says he would not categorise him as a "friend".

"I wouldn't go that far. I haven't seen the guy a lot of the time."

Mr Fletcher returned home to head the GCSB in early 2012, just after the Dotcom spying and raid. He'd been a top-level bureaucrat in the UK and Australia.

Mr Key says he was upfront with the State Services Commissioner about their relationship before the appointment.

"I said he was fine – a good appointment. He's very bright. He used to work for Tony Blair and various other governments. One of the most senior civil servants in the British government – he's a very good person. He's doing a great job. He's got a long history of doing extremely well."

New Zealand is a small country. Green MP Steffan Browning was watching on, and says he had a mutual friend who also went to school with the pair and says they know each other well.

"They were all mates," says Mr Browning. "They all went to each other's places together. They all hung out together."

So despite all the questions and coverage of the Dotcom case, suddenly a new fact – Mr Key knows the chief spy. They go way back. Mr Key says everything has been above board, but he can expect plenty more questions from the Opposition.

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