Simon Bridges is demanding answers over the decision to grant residency to a foreign-born gang associate and convicted drug importer.
Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, arrived in New Zealand on a false passport in 2003, saying he was fleeing corrupt cops after witnessing a murder. He built a successful career as a kickboxer, but was recently jailed for importing MDMA.
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On Sunday it emerged Sroubek had been given permanent New Zealand residency, so at the end of his prison sentence he won't be deported back to the Czech Republic. He was denied parole last month, after giving "evasive, long-winded and... manifestly untruthful" answers.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he could not publicly say why Sroubek was given permanent residency, citing privacy and legal reasons.
But Mr Bridges says Kiwis deserve to know.
"I've talked to several former Immigration Ministers - they are flabbergasted by this," the National Party leader told The AM Show on Monday.
"What we've got here is a career criminal. He's been in gangs, he's dealing drugs and he came in on a fake passport. Let's cut to the chase on this. My simple question to the Prime Minister is why? She should be able to - without hiding behind stuff - tell us in general terms, in the public interest, why this man is still here and hasn't been deported."
"She's the boss... Actually, I think what we've established in the last little while the real boss is Winston Peters. It would be good to know what he thinks, because I can't see that he would stand for any of this nonsense.
"What do you reckon the Aussies would do? I'll tell you what the Aussies would do - this guy would be gone by lunchtime."
Asked if National granted residency to anyone with a criminal history in their last nine years in power, Mr Bridges said he didn't know. He said he spoke to former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse last night about Sroubek's case.
"He would say in these exact like-for-like situations - where it's whether they get residency or not - we did explain. We would front up, and sometimes we'd cop flak. But in situations like this, we never granted residency."
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Sroubek should be "exported" to the Philippines to be dealt with by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to one immigration lawyer.
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Marcus Beveridge of Queen City Law says granting Sroubek residency was a "very odd decision".
"I think the minister's going to have to front-foot this decision and explain why he's come to this," he told The AM Show on Monday.
"At the moment we're kind of speculating. We don't know exactly what did happen. Does he have a New Zealand partner? Does he have New Zealand-born children?"
Sroubek has had many brushes with the law since arriving in New Zealand and has gang associations, but avoided conviction and jail time until the drug importing charge stuck. Sroubek says he was framed by the corrupt cops back in his home country.
"What we should be doing is probably exporting him to the Philippines and President Duterte could meet him at the border," said Mr Beveridge.
Rodrigo Duterte has cracked down on drugs since becoming President in 2016, urging police and vigilantes to shoot drug users in the streets and questioning whether drug users are even human beings.
"Crime pays - you've got a guy, a convict in jail - the university of crime - learning probably more criminal activities," said Mr Beveridge.
"The Parole Board actually know what they're doing. Next they'll offer him a KiwiBuild first-home loan or something when he gets out, or whatever else. Possibly a New Zealand passport. [Then we'll have] Escobar Pablo and everybody down here."
But another immigration lawyer says we don't know the whole story, so shouldn't be so quick to judge.
Alastair McClymont of McClymont and Associates says it wouldn't have been an easy decision for Mr Lees-Galloway and Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi to make.
"You need a lot of information, you need a lot of evidence," he told Newshub. "It's likely that Immigration NZ would have considered all of the facts carefully. They would have provided a very detailed report. The minister would have to weigh up all the balancing factors."
Mr McClymont said it's likely Sroubek's personal safety would have been considered, but it's hard to tell since we know so little about the case.
"The minister would have gone through a very long process in considering everything, and it would have been a very tough decision to make."
Mr Beveridge said it's likely some of the information looked at would be classified, and called Mr Faafoi a "good decision-maker" most of the time.