Remember Karel Sroubek? He could be released soon

Convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek will appear before the parole board in two weeks and there is a chance he could be released back into the community. 

His legal team filed an appeal with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal on 18 December last year to stop him from being deported, but no hearing date appears to have been set. 

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said on Thursday that Sroubek's case is currently with the tribunal. He said whether or not he could be released is "a matter" for them. 

"He's liable for deportation. I understand he's lodged an appeal with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal. When that is dealt with is a matter for them."

Deportation appeals for non-residents are generally determined within two to four months after the tribunal receives them. It's been over six months for Sroubek. 

National's Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell is concerned Sroubek could be released back into the community, as he cannot be deported while he's currently in the middle of that appeal process. 

"He could be back on our streets within weeks... New Zealanders need assurances their safety won't be put at risk. If the minister can't provide them, he should stay behind bars," Mitchell said. 

"Iain Lees-Galloway's decision to grant Sroubek residency continues to jeopardise the safety of the New Zealand public."

The Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway.
The Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo credit: Getty

Sroubek - who fled to New Zealand on a false passport in 2003 - was granted residency in September 2018 after the Immigration Minister cancelled his liability for deportation back to the Czech Republic. 

The case was highly publicised after it was revealed Lees-Galloway made the decision in under an hour and without reading Sroubek's full immigration file. 

There was outrage around the minister's decision because in 2015 Sroubek was convicted of importing 5kg of MDMA and he was jailed for almost six years. 

Mitchell criticised the minister for granting Sroubek's visa while "denying residency applications to law-abiding immigrants and vastly increasing visa processing times". 

In justifying his initial decision, Lees-Galloway said last year Scroubek's life could be in danger if he returned to the Czech Republic.

Following the Lees-Galloway's's ruling last year, Sroubek admitted he had travelled back twice to his home country under a false identity. The revelation forced a U-turn from the minister.  

"Despite the Government's best efforts to sweep this under the carpet, New Zealanders won't forget the minister granted residency to a convicted drug smuggler," Mitchell said. 

Sroubek's sentence is set to end in 2022. But he will appear before the parole board in the week of September 16, so there is a chance he could be released from prison. 

Karel Sroubek, who fled to New Zealand from the Czech Republic on a false passport in 2003.
Karel Sroubek, who fled to New Zealand from the Czech Republic on a false passport in 2003. Photo credit: Supplied

Immigration refugee lawyer Kamil Lakshman said she doubts Sroubek would be released. She said it would depend on his representation and what the parole officer says.  

"Despite the media publication of the case, the traditional officers are very independent and fair and see whether there is any reason why he should be deported or allowed to stay."

An investigation into Sroubek's residency application was launched on November 1 last year by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), following the debacle around his case. 

Sroubek was found to be liable for deportation. The Immigration Minister said the findings determined that he "may be liable for deportation on grounds that I had not previously considered". 

He said the information about Sroubek travelling to the Czech Republic had not been made available to him when he made his original decision. 

Sroubek told Newshub last year he felt he deserved to stay in New Zealand. 

He said in December: "I was charged with crime and I am doing the time and the crime and I have lost so much."

It's understood INZ has received a copy of a passport from Sroubek under his real name, with the appropriate paperwork, and that it's being considered by the tribunal.