Dom Post on Jones inquiry

March 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Given the paucity of talent within Labour’s ranks and the divisions within the party, Mr Shearer’s desire to restore a supporter to the front bench is understandable.

The public, however, may well have different priorities when it comes time to assess Labour’s fitness to operate the levers of government.

Ms Provost’s investigation found no evidence of corruption, but it did find ample evidence of poor judgment on the part of the former associate minister of immigration.

A harsh summary is not corrupt, just incompetent.

She found Mr Jones acted hastily before he was in possession of all the relevant information, did not consult either police or the Immigration Service despite knowing both were investigating Mr Liu, and failed to document the reasons for his decision.

Immigration and citizenship cases are fraught with danger for ministers because the final say on cases rests with them and because those making representations on behalf of applicants are often their parliamentary colleagues.

It is easy for the perception to develop that it is not what applicants offer New Zealand that is important, but who they know.

Especially when the applicant boasts to the Department that he is mates with MPs, insists on a quick decision despite officials telling him they will recommend no.

In those circumstances the best protection for ministerial reputations and New Zealand’s reputation as a country free of corruption is for the decision-making process to be properly documented.

Mr Jones’ failure to record why he ignored official advice to reject Mr Liu’s application and his failure to even document under which section of the Citizenship Act he granted Mr Liu’s application brought his reputation and that of New Zealand into disrepute.

As Mr Jones observed, officials were also criticised by the auditor-general for failing to adequately brief the minister and assuming he understood his responsibilities. Fair enough. It is as important for them as it is for ministers to follow proper process.

However, having explained their concerns about Mr Liu’s dual identity and the fact he had been red-flagged by Interpol, they had grounds for thinking the minister would put the integrity of New Zealand’s citizenship ahead of his impatience to be done with a vexatious case.

The question voters may want to ask themselves ahead of the next election is would they employ someone with Mr Jones’ impetuous nature to run their company. If not would they trust him to run a government department?
A question that may be answered in time.

The Jones and Liu report

March 12th, 2013 at 2:37 pm by David Farrar

The Auditor-General has reported their findings into the decision by Shane Jones to grant Bill Liu citizenship against official advice. This is a matter of discretion for the Minister so it never has been about whether the decision was legal.

Here are some extracts from the report:

Mr Barker acted properly in deciding that he could not make the citizenship decision for Mr Liu, but we do not consider it was wise for him to have signed the letter – at least in that form. We appreciate that the letter was one of many pieces of correspondence that a Minister has to deal with in the course of a busy week, and that it related to procedure rather than any substantive decision. Nonetheless, it created an impression that Mr Barker would be taking a personal interest in Mr Liu’s file. 

Mr Barker would have been better either to amend the letter to make clear that he would not be personally involved in the file or to arrange for someone else to sign the letter.

It is worth noting that signing a letter on an issue regarding someone you had a personal connection with, was sufficient grounds for Nick Smith to resign as a Minister. Of course Barker was defeated at the 2008 election.

Mr Jones had significant concerns about the advice he was given, but did not take steps to clarify that advice with other officials. He also knew that both the New Zealand Police and Immigration New Zealand were still actively investigating Mr Liu, but did not consult those agencies before making his decision. In keeping with his usual approach for ministerial decisions, he wanted to make a final decision.

A serious mistake.

He did not record the reasons for his decision, and Mr Liu’s advisers were notified of his decision before the Department was notifed.

That is appalling. Liu got told before the Department was even told! This shows he had special access.

This effectively deprived officials of an opportunity they might otherwise have had to correct the misunderstandings on which Mr Jones’ decision was based.

I still can’t believe he told Liu before he told his own department.

One recommendation is:

We recommend that the Department of Internal Affairs and the Minister record the reasons for any significant decisions they make on citizenship applications, particularly when the decision involves a departure from normal policy or procedure. 

Recording the reasons for decisions is important to ensure transparency. It also provides an important protection if  concerns are raised that the decision has been made for an improper purpose. 

This has always been my major criticism of Jones. If you are going to go against a recommendation, a semi-competent Minister should do a file note and state why.

Now Jones did produce a three page file note to the Auditor-General. But because it was not attached to the official files, and not recorded in any official way, it is impossible to know if the file note was written at the time, or written some time later after the story blew up. The fact that the DIA official involved states the file note is inaccurate in parts damages the credibility of this claimed file note. The whole purpose of a file note is to attach it to the file.

We recommend that a Minister considering making a citizenship decision against the advice of officials should explain their reasons, and give officials the opportunity to respond, before finalising the decision. 

Although ultimately the decision is for the Minister to make, this additional step would give officials the opportunity to confirm that the proposed decision is within the terms of the Citizenship Act 1977 and is not based on any misunderstanding of relevant policies or the facts.

And it goes without saying don’t tell the mate of your mate before you tell your own officials.

Some interesting stuff also on the Cunliffe decision:

The advice provided to Mr Cunliffe by officials, in particular the advice provided by the senior legal adviser in August 2007, conveyed, in reasonably strong terms, that it was open for the Minister to revoke Mr Liu’s residency. We were told that Immigration does not usually provide advice that strongly advocates that the Minister should make a particular decision. The strongly worded advice on this occasion was not common.

In other words, it was not a marginal call in the eyes of the Department.

In our view, this decision was made in an appropriate way. It represented a sensible way in which the difficult decisions arising from unproven allegations could be addressed. The reasons for the Minister’s decision were made clear, and were formally recorded on the file in the way that was understood. 

Also, although the Department’s effective recommendation was not being followed, the decision-making process shows that Mr Cunliffe addressed the issues with considerable thought and care. There was no evidence of favouritism or that the Minister made the decision for improper reasons.

And this is the key difference between Cunliffe and Jones. Cunliffe documented his decision. This sounds a minor thing, but as the AG says is very important. When there is no reason given, and the person is a donor to your political party, then how can we know it was not because Dover told his mate Shane that this guy was a donor and they should look after him?

The detailed conclusions around the decision are:

We acknowledge that Mr Jones gave considerable thought to Mr Liu’s application, and that, in his view, it was important to make a decision reasonably promptly. 

However, in our view, he made his decision too hastily and without ensuring that he had a full understanding of all the relevant information. In particular, Mr Jones either did not understand or did not accept the Department’s advice that neither section 8 nor section 9 of the Citizenship Act were applicable.

A Minister who made decisions based either on ignorance or refusal to listen.

In our view, given that he knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand Police, he should also have consulted them before making his decision, as the Investigator’s note of the first meeting suggested he was intending to do.


We also consider that Mr Jones should have recorded his reasons for authorising the grant of citizenship. He was making a decision against the Department’s recommendation, and the basis for his decision and reasons for departing from normal policy would not have been obvious from the papers. Indeed, on the face of the decision-making papers, it was not even clear under which section of the Citizenship Act he had authorised the grant.

Shane Jones is incredibly talented, but also notoriously lazy and sloppy. He has the potential to make a significant contribution to NZ Politics, and may get that opportunity to do so again as a frontbencher for Labour. But to succeed, he is going to have to make sure there is never a repeat of a situation like this.

Beware the spin

February 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Shane Jones has received a draft copy of the auditor-general’s report into his 2008 decision to grant Chinese billionaire William Yan citizenship, the report on which his political career hangs.

Neither Mr Jones nor MP David Cunliffe, who is also understood to have received a copy of the draft, will comment on the report.

However, sources suggested Mr Jones was optimistic that its contents were not damaging enough to harm his chances of a comeback to Labour’s front bench.

Stuff is reporting:

The Auditor General is reported to have cleared former immigration minister Shane Jones of any unlawful behaviour in his handling of an immigration case.

I would be very cautious of reports based on what Labour is leaking.

First of all, of course Jones will not be found to have acted unlawfully. No one has ever suggested he broke the law. That is not the issue.

The granting of citizenship has ministerial discretion. It is not unlawful to make a bad decision. It is not unlawful to ignore the fact that some one is a wanted criminal and has multiple aliases and is under investigation by four different agencies. But it is incredibly poor judgement.

I’ve never suggested that Jones personally benefited from his decision.  I think he was pressured to grant Liu citizenship to keep his mate and fellow MP Dover Samuels happy, and also the Labour Party fundraiser who had connections to his office and was being paid to “facilitate” the application.

Anyway I await the AG report with interest. What I am going to be interested in is the details. Did they find the mystery DIA official whom Jones claims told him Liu would be killed? Did they locate even one line of paperwork from Jones as to why he over-rode official advice? Did they locate any notes from Samuels disclosing that Liu was a donor?

UPDATE: Stuff is now reporting:

A report by the Auditor-General into Labour MP Shane Jones’ handling of an immigration case does not reach a ‘black and white’ conclusion, sources say.

Media today reported that Labour MP Shane Jones had been cleared by the probe. That would pave the way for his return to the front bench, from which he was demoted last year.

But a source, who had seen the report, warned the watchdogs conclusions were not straightforward in exonerating Jones.

“Those matters are a question of degree, and I would refrain from rushing to judgement…the arguments are quite complex.”

Another source agreed, saying the report is not “unequivocal.”

As I said, don’t fall for spin. Judge when the report is published.


More on Liu case

November 9th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jared Savage at NZ Herald reports:

Immigration officials questioned the decision to grant a wealthy businessman citizenship while he was under investigation by three government agencies, emails reveal.

Labour MP Shane Jones, then a Cabinet minister, awarded citizenship to Yang Liu against the advice of a senior investigator at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). …

Emails obtained under the Official Information Act reveal a senior Immigration NZ investigator wrote to Mr Ross after learning of the decision.

Russell Ogilvy asked whether Mr Ross recommended that citizenship be declined and whether he had told Mr Jones “to speak with his own department regarding the decision”.

Mr Jones was the Acting Internal Affairs Minister in this case but also the Associate Immigration Minister.

“The minister was advised of both the pending police and INZ investigations,” responded Mr Ross.

Yet not only granted citizenship, but approved the special ceremony:

The emails also reveal that Mr Jones granted Mr Liu an urgent private ceremony at the request of Labour MP Dover Samuels, despite the advice of another DIA official that he did not meet the criteria.

Criteria only apply to people who are not friends of the Labour Party.

Will Liu/Yan keep his citizenship

August 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

 Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out stripping Chinese fugitive Yong Ming Yan of New Zealand citizenship.

The Office of the Auditor-General is investigating why former Labour minister Shane Jones gave Mr Yan a New Zealand passport in 2008.

Mr Yan, a wealthy political donor – also known as Bill Liu – was red-flagged by Interpol as a fugitive.

He was wanted for fraud and identity theft in China and Internal Affairs officials advised Mr Jones that his application should be declined.

Mr Jones, who was stood down from his shadow portfolios in May, says he gave Mr Yan a passport on humanitarian grounds, and that he had been told Mr Yan would be arrested, executed and his organs harvested if he were sent back to China.

Yesterday, Mr Key said Mr Jones has some “big questions to answer”. It was difficult to comment until Auditor-General Lyn Provost had finished her investigation, he said.

However, citizenship could be revoked if “[a minister is] satisfied that they obtained the citizenship by fraud, false representation or wilful concealment of relevant information or by mistake”.

I don’t think the Minister should strip Yan or Liu of his citizenship.

It would be much more fun to make it a vote in Parliament, and watch the horror on Labour MPs faces as they realise they have to vote on whether or not Liu should be a citizen 🙂

Espiner on Liu

August 27th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner and 60 minutes did a 20 minute programme last night on the Bill Liu case. Espiner blogs on it today:

It’s not often that you put an item of nearly 20 minutes to air and still feel that there was plenty more of the story still to tell. 

60 Minutes Producer Chris Wilks and I spent a month digging deep into the story of Citizen Yan and had access to documents giving us an enormous amount of detail. 

But we still feel there is plenty we don’t know. 

In fact all the things which, for most people are very simple, in Yan’s case, are opaque. 

Like what’s his name? Yong Ming Yan, Yang Liu, Bill Liu, Wiremu Liu and William Yan are among his monikers. The search warrant for his Metropolis apartment also seeks documents in the name of Yong Ming Run. 

What about another simple question. Where does he live? That’s easy. He lives on the 35th floor of the MetropolisTower, known as Room 3505. He bought units 35H-L inclusive – property titles 138A/534, 138A/319, 138A/320, 138A/321 and 138A/322 – and combined them into one residence. 

He still lives there but he sold them in 2010 to Khai Wain Ng. The curious thing about that is that Khai Wain Ng had listed Room 3505 of the Metropolis as the address for his company, Global Market International Limited, as early as 2007. 

So is Liu also Ng? And still to this day we have no idea who Liu really is.

Curiously Liu’s early submissions claim that he was the Vice President of the Chinese Democracy Party. His lawyers argued that the Chinese government may want to persecute him for that and for information about the party’s 30,000 secret members. 

We tried to check with the CDP in New York but they would not confirm, or deny, whether he had held that position. Certainly their website names other Vice Presidents but no one going by the names Yan has used. 

In the paperwork, officials point out that if Yan felt he was the subject of political persecution there were appropriate avenues for him to take. 

“These claims, which effectively amount to an allegation of political persecution, could be advanced by Mr Liu before specialist forums namely the Refugee Status Branch and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority,” officials wrote. 

He did not do that. He appealed to the politicians and the politicians helped him. 

And did they ever help him.

Here are the questions that still need to be answered. 

How did Dover Samuels get to know William Yan and why did he go into bat so strongly for him? 

Why, after Rick Barker was introduced to Yan in 2005, did he take until mid-2008 to hand the case over to Shane Jones? 

What checks did Shane Jones make to see whether he had a conflict of interests in this case? We point out in the story that there is a shared business history between Jones and Liu. Liu was a director, and through his company Live Fish, a shareholder in the joint venture Crabco. One of the other shareholders was Te Ohu Kaimoana of which Jones was chair between 2000 and 2007. 

Now I am prepared to accept that this was a fact that Jones may not have had great interest or even awareness of. But did he check? Was it considered? We know that he knew of Liu’s role with Crabco and Live Fish because it was in the submission that QC John Billington made to Jones pleading the case for Liu’s citizenship. 

Pansy Wong also mentions the company, which she describes as a “joint venture with Talleys, Sealord and Sanford” in a letter received by Rick Barker’s office on February 4, 2008. 

David Shearer has said on Jones’ behalf that Jones had met Liu on one or two occasions. In what capacity? And why did the Internal Affairs official Johannes Gambo claim that Liu had rung him more than once during the process to claim that he had “big support” from Jones and from Samuels. 

It all looks very suspicious. Did Liu have a commitment from Jones he would approve it? Is that why Barker delegated it to Jones? And recall that Liu had paid $10,000 to a Labour Party fundraiser to help him with his application – and whose brother was the senior staffer for Jones.

The greatest mystery to me is why Jones approved the citizenship application and did so without documenting his reasons. 

He says he made a file note of an official telling him that Yan would be sent to his death and his organs harvested if he returned to China. 

Jones hasn’t produced the note and says he didn’t put it on the file. Why not? There are hand written notes from Jones on Parliamentary notepad paper in the file we saw. But not that one. 

He says he’s glad he didn’t put it on the file because the file “leaked”. But if you were a Minister making a controversial decision against the advice of officials wouldn’t you want your reasons to be there in black and white when the scrutiny came on? 

I don’t think it is unreasonable to suspect there was no file note ever made, and the reason is bogus. Jones can not produce the note, and it was not put on the file. He can not name the official, and no official can be found who said they gave such advise.

The worst case scenario is this is a case of citizenship sold for favours (not to Jones directly but to others in Labour). The best case for Jones is it is gross incompetence. To not do a comprehensive file note stating your reasons when you overturn the advice of officials and grant citizenship to such a dubious character is incompetent.

I personally like Shane Jones, and regard him as one of the best communicators in Parliament. He had great potential. But this Liu case has always hung over him. Unless he can produce some proof to back up his claims about why he granted citizenship against official advice – then he can not be allowed to become a Minister again – and hence a shadow Minister.

A popular citizen

July 7th, 2012 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Seven government agencies wanted to join a raid on Metropolis tower apartments owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman later granted citizenship in controversial circumstances.

A search warrant was executed on the apartments owned by Bill Liu – also known as Yang Liu, Yong Ming Yan and now William Yan – on the 35th floor of the tower in Auckland in June 2007.

Officers took more than an hour to search individual rooms, such were their size.

He was under investigation by the Department of Labour for immigration fraud at the time and documents released under the Official Information Act show that other law enforcement agencies wanted to be part of any raid at the property.

The police were going to execute the warrant with Immigration officers alone – until approached by the Ministry of Fisheries, the Department of Internal Affairs, Customs, the Serious Fraud Office and the Inland Revenue Department.

Seven different agencies wanted in on the raid! Sure let’s make the guy a citizen as quickly as possible.

More credibility issues for Liu and Jones

July 6th, 2012 at 1:39 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reports:

3 News has learned New Zealand authorities were working with Chinese counterparts to have a controversial Chinese millionaire extradited.

Yong Ming Yan, also known as Bill Liu, is the mystery Chinese man Shane Jones granted New Zealand citizenship against official advice.

And new documents show how why officials wanted rid of Mr Yan.

In China he faced allegations that he “misappropriated funds in excess of $61 million New Zealand dollars”, and “Chinese authorities wanted him returned to face charges and had requested his extradition.” …

Discussion between officials in both countries was happening just three weeks before Mr Jones’ decision, and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security referred to “the importance of the Yan case.”

The documents also detail a raid on Mr Yan’s apartment in the Metropolis tower. They show there was plenty of interest in taking part – not just from immigration – but also the Police’s Asian Crime Squad, Internal Affairs, Customs, the Serious Fraud Office, Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Authorities were also informed by Internal Affairs that Mr Yan “is spending literally millions of dollars at the casino and associating with known criminals.”

So officials here and in China were working on having Mr Yan extradited. Then, at complete cross-purposes, Mr Jones’ decision meant Mr Yan got citizenship here in a special ceremony at Parliament.

Liu/Yan seemed to be under active investigation by almost every criminal or regulatory body we have.  You had Government officials in almost a dozen ourfits investigating him, and trying to get him extradited to stand trial in China – and in the midst of this Shane Jones grants him citizenship!!!

There is another story by Gower, which wounds the contention that Liu/Yan was a democracy activist and Falun Gong supporter who feared execution in China.

Now here’s a twist – the mystery Chinese millionaire, Bill Liu/Yong Ming Yan, is linked to an even more controversial Chinese billionaire caught up in a massive political scandal that is rocking the Communist Party to its core.

That link is through a man called Xu Ming – one of richest men in China.

Xu Ming is big time – touted as a potential Chinese Finance Minister before a foiled coup plot.

And Liu/Yan is apparently so close he even bought Xu Ming into New Zealand for a visit at one point.

Gower asks:

  • Why was Bill Liu/Yong Ming Yan so fearful of going back to China if he had connections with people so close to the very top of the Communist Party?
  • Why was Bill Liu /Yong Ming Yan – who claims to be a leader of the Chinese Democracy movement – prepared to host such people out in New Zealand?

Good questions. Noe ones asked by Shane Jones, but hopefully will be asked by the Auditor-General.

Judge says citizenship grant “highly suspicious”

May 31st, 2012 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff report:

A High Court judge has ruled that the way Chinese millionaire Yong Ming Yan was granted citizenship was “highly suspicious”. 

The full decision is online here.

I step back now and look at the evidence as a whole. Overall, it proves a situation that is highly suspicious. An adult male obtains two passports in different names and with different dates of birth. He uses them both to access Australia and the United States of America. He uses one of them to access New Zealand. He does not disclose his dual identities. New Zealand immigration documents are filled in and in some cases signed on his behalf. Four of the five are false in that they assert that there is no other identity. Regardless of the validity of the passports, this proven situation is highly suspicious. But to move from highly suspicious to proof beyond reasonable doubt of dishonest intention, more is required.

Proof beyond reasonable doubt is a very high standard.

UPDATE: Have had pointed out the highly suspicious comments made by the Judge refer to the application for citizenship, rather than the decision itself – so the Stuff story is somewhat misleading in that regard.


The Jones inquiry

May 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Auditor-General is inquiring into the Jones/Liu affair. The terms of reference are:

The inquiry will examine: 

  • the policies and practices of the Department of Internal Affairs when advising the Minister on applications for citizenship, in particular where the applicant’s ‘good character’ is in question;
  • how and why the Minister decided to grant citizenship to Mr Yan; and
  • any other matters the Auditor-General considers it desirable to report on.

Francis Cooke QC has been appointed to lead the inquiry, which is being carried out under sections 16 and 18(1) of the Public Audit Act 2001. We will publish a report when the inquiry is completed.

It is a pity that the inquiry is into the citizenship issue only, as I think it would have been better to look into the totality of Yan’s dealings with the Government, and with Labour officials such as party fundraiser Shane Te Pou who was paid $5,000 to help Yan get citizenship.

On the positive side, the Auditor-General has the power to require people to provide information and to give evidence under oath.

The Shane Jones issue

May 28th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

It was good to see the media cover the Jones/Liu issue in detail over the weekend. Now the court case is over, one can look at where this should end up. First it is useful to consider all the background on Liu, when remembering how two separate Labour Ministers refused official advice to rescind his residency and to refuse him citizenship.

  • Born Yongming Yan on 15 June 1969
  • He was Chairman of Tonghua Jinma Pharmaceutical which collapsed after a loss of around NZ$100m and he fled China in 2001. It is alleged they were manufacturing placebos.
  • As he fled he gained identity documents in the name of Yang Liu, with a DOB of 20 October 1972. In total it appears he had four passports with three different dates of births, and two or three different names.
  • We charged in China with fraud and embezzlement. The alleged fraud totalled not $2.5m as reported by some media, but between $170m and $250m.
  • CCTV in China reported in 2007 that Australian authorities there confiscated and repatriated A$3.4m  to China. This was per a decision by the NSW Supreme Court.
  • Yan moved to New Zealand and purchased two properties worth $7.4m. He paid cash for them.
  • Yan claims to be a member of Falun Gong, and cites this as why he left China. However Falun Gong prohibit gambling, and Yan was the largest customer of the Sky City casino.
  • Paid Labour Party fund-raiser Shane Te Pou $5,000 to help his citizenship application. Te Pou (whom Clark had banned from the Beehive over ethical concerns) introduced him to Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker. Te Pou was also campaign manager to Dover Samuels, whom his brother had also worked for.
  • Samuels received a $5,000 donation from a Tamaki Wu who appears to be a fictitious person, and whose listed address is owned by Daniel Philips, brother of Shane Te Pou.
  • Yan also donated $5,000 to Chris Carter and to Pansy Wong. Rick Barker also received an “anonymous” $5,000 donation the same year.  It is also a matter of record that Labour held several fundraising dinners at the Jade Terrace restaurant, attended by Yan. At these dinners the “bucket” is literally passed around and no one knows how much any one individual contributed. They are reputed to sometimes raise a six figure sum in one evening.
  • Barker did not recuse himself immediately on the basis of his friendship With Yan. In fact he stayed involved until quite late in the piece when he delegated the decision to Shane Jones (Jones was not the Associate DIA Minister, and any Minister could have been chosen) – the one Minister whose most senior office staffer was the brother of Shane Te Pou who was being paid to help him get citizenship.
  • Jones was strongly advised not to grant citizenship, on the multiple grounds of the Interpol warrants, the criminal charges in China, the multiple identities and the ongoing investigation by Immigration NZ over whether he was even entitled to residency. Jones granted citizenship.
  • Yan given citizenship by Dover Samuels in the Maori Affairs Select Committee Room on 11 August 2008, five days after the decision.

As people can see this is not just an issue about one Minister, Shane Jones. It is about the combined decisions and advocacy of Shane Te Pou, Dover Samuels, Rick Barker, David Cunliffe and Shane Jones.

The Serious Fraud Office has told the Auditor-General they have an interest in this case, and may investigate also. I think it is appropriate to state in my opinion Shane Jones has not broken any law, and there is nothing to indicate that he received any personal financial benefit from making the decision he did. This makes this case different to Taito Philip Field, who did receive considerable benefits from his activities as an MP and was charged with corruption and bribery.

I don’t think any reasonable person could dispute that the decision by Jones was wrong. His claim that an official told him Yan would be executed in China has no basis in reality. Not only does DIA have no record of this advice being given, this was an issue over citizenship not deportation. Also Yan’s claims of being Falun Gong are also contradicted by the evidence. In fact he has no evidence to back up his claims, while the DIA concerns were all fully documented. Also as reported here, Jones deported a 25 year old resident back to Iran, despite her claims that she faced a death penalty for converting to Christianity.

Now as I said Jones is not the only player here. Many Labour people have acted wrongly in my opinion. Dover Samuels’ advocacy on behalf of his good friend was totally inappropriate, and bordering on the threatening. As we saw in the Nick Smith case MPs should generally not get involved in advocacy for their friends.

Rick Barker was wrong to not have immediately recused himself from the case, and wrong to delegate the decision to Shane Jones – the Minister whose SPS was the brother of Shane Te Pou who was helping Yan with the application. Barker would have known this as Te Pou introduced Yan to Barker.

David Cunliffe was wrong to have also gone against the advice of his immigration officials, and not rescind Yan’s residency (a move which was cited as a reason to make Yan a citizen).

Shane Te Pou was wrong to take $5,000 to help Yan with his citizenship application. That is an activity incompatible with being a political party fundraiser.

Shane Jones was wrong to grant citizenship, and to (presumably) authorise the special ceremony at Parliament.

As I have said previously, I do not believe Jones received any personal financial benefit from approving the citizenship. I do not believe Jones broke any law. But how you judge his actions can vary between a worst and a best case scenario.

The best case scenario for Jones is that he just gave Yan citizenship because Samuels asked him to. He trusted Dover’s judgement, and decided pleasing Dover was more important than the good character test in the Citizenship Act. Now this is not illegal, and Ministers do have discretion. However I believe such a failure of judgement means Jones is not fit to be a Minister again. If Nick Smith is removed as a Minister for a mere letter of advocacy, then Jones for granting citizenship to someone obviously not qualified has offended far worse.

Also, even putting aside the decision itself, Jones has shown incompetence in not documenting his decision. If I was a Minister of the Crown and I was making a decision that goes against official advice, I would absolutely ensure my reasons for doing so were documented, signed and dated and that this be added to the official file. It is because Jones failed to do such a basic thing, that there is enhanced speculation over what his motives were.  The fact that the decision was one where he had been lobbied by his political colleagues should have made it even clearer that he should have documented his decision.

That is the best case scenario. That is based on an assumption that no one ever told Shane Jones that Yan was a very wealthy man who had already donated to Labour, and presumably would donate more in future. This means that Dover Samuels never mentioned it, Rick Barker never mentioned it, Chris Carter never mentioned it, Shane Te Pou never mentioned it, and Shane’s brother Daniel never mentioned it despite being the most senior official and advisor in Jones’ office.

You see if any of those people did tell Jones that he had donated to Labour, and implied Labour would do well out of Yan in future if he was made a citizen, then it literally becomes a case of selling citizenships to donors. Now again this is not illegal, as far as I can tell. Only if a specific donation was promised for a donation, would it be illegal – and I am unaware of any evidence that this was the case. It was about buying influence, not buying a decision.

Now I don’t know of anyway we can resolve if it is the best case scenario or the worst case scenario. The SFO have said they have an interest in the case. However as I have said, there do not appear to be any laws broken. So I don’t see a role for the SFO, unless there is more to emerge than is currently in the public domain.

Now we have the letter from David Shearer to the Auditor-General. His PR says:

“Based on my discussions with Shane Jones, I believe that he followed a proper process. But given the differing statements made in and outside of court and the questions that have been raised publicly, I believe that an independent agency should review the case.

“I’ve asked for the Auditor-General to look into all the departmental as well as ministerial processes involved in this case.

The trouble is here that the issue is not generally about process. The process is that DIA provides a background paper and a recommendation and the Minister makes a decision. The only process issue I can think of is Jones failing to document his decision, but the wider issue is that Jones has made a decision which runs contrary to all the evidence (as opposed to unsupported allegations) in this case.

Now the Auditor-General is in no way bound by the terms of reference proposed by David Shearer. She has the authority and power to set a much wider terms of reference. If she does investigate, she should set as wide a terms of reference as possible.

But there is still a big problem. The Auditor-General’s scope is generally the Government. Would the Auditor-General be comfortable determining how much money Yan donated to the Labour Party. Could she determine whether Yan was the “Tamaki Wu” who donated to Dover Samuels (from the address of a house owned by Daniel Phillips, brother of Shane Te Pou). Can the Auditor-General find out how much Yan donated at the Fundraising dinners. Testimony would ne requited from Te Pou, Phillips, Samuels and Yan himself.  Maybe though this mystery DIA official whom Shane Jones can’t even name,whom he insists told him Yan would be executed, can be identified!

So overall, upon reflection, I am unsure if an inquiry by the Auditor-General will resolve issues. As I said, the issues are not just about Shane Jones, but about numerous Labour Party people – many no longer in Government. The Auditor-General may not have the scope to fully investigate, and at the end of the day it is impossible to prove whether or not Jones was or was not influenced by the fact Yan was a donor to Labour.

What I, and others, have advocated in the past is for an Independent Commission against Corruption, with powers like the SFO has. The NSW have one, which works well. An ICAC could investigate not just breaches of the Crimes Act, but abuses of power in the wider sense – such as Government decisions favouring donors and mates of MPs. They do not have the ability to prosecute but have the standing powers of a royal commission to investigate, report and recommend charges if warranted.

Ultimately this issue is likely to be resolved as a political question, not a legal one. David Shearer needs to consider whether he regards the following as appropriate:

  • Labour Party fundraisers acting as agents for people wanting a favourable Ministerial decision
  • Labour MPs advocating in the strongest possible terms on behalf of their friends and known Labour donors
  • Labour Ministers refusing the rescinding of residency and granting citizenship to donors, against the advice of officials
  • Labour Ministers not documenting any reasons at all for why they overturned a recommendation, and allowed citizenship to someone whose identity wasn’t even known, had an Interpol arrest warrant out for them, and was under investigation by multiple agencies
  • Labour MPs declaring donations by seemingly fictitious people, allegedly living at a residence owned by a senior Ministerial advisor

If David Shearer wants to say that is all fine, and is business as normal – well that is his call. But I suspect he knows in his heart of hearts that things were not kosher, and that Yan would never have been made a citizen if it were not for the fact he donated to and befriended multiple Labour MPs, through the efforts of Labour fundraiser Shane Te Pou.

DIA official told “to stop asking questions” about Liu

May 26th, 2012 at 12:26 pm by David Farrar

Jared Savage in the NZ Herald reports:

The public servant who handled the citizenship application of a millionaire Chinese businessman with multiple identities was told by his boss to “stop asking questions”, a transcript of court evidence shows.

Nothing to see here, just move on.

Mr Gambo wanted to make further inquiries with immigration authorities in Australia.

“I had a phone call that I was told not to ask any more questions because there was a lot of political pressure to send the file to Wellington.

“I was told to just process the file, send it to Wellington, don’t worry about asking any more questions.

“I have been working there for seven years and that was the first time I have had my boss phone me about an application.”

This is what is at the heart of the case. That a man with friends in the Labour Party, got special treatment.

Shane Jones has previously said he granted Mr Yan citizenship on humanitarian grounds because an Internal Affairs official told him Mr Yan risked execution if he returned to China.

Yesterday, an Internal Affairs spokesman said the files on the case had now been checked and there was no record of a departmental official discussing that issue with Mr Jones.

“We are not saying absolutely that didn’t happen, but we don’t have any [record of it].”

The execution in China angle was pushed by Yan, and his lawyer (who also happens to be Dover Samuels’ lawyer). As far as I am aware they have never provided a shred of proof. Anyone can assert something. What a competent Minister does is ask for proof, or at least consider the plausibility of the claims, such as will being a citizen rather than a permament resident in any impact whether or not he goes to China, and how consistent is it to claim to be Falun Gong, which bans gambling, and spent millions at Sky City casino.

Liu found not guilty

May 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A millionaire businessman at the centre of a political scandal has been found not guilty of immigration fraud charges.

William Yan – also known as Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan – pleaded not guilty to four charges relating to false declarations on immigration papers in 2001 and 2002 and one of using false written statements to get citizenship.

He was found not guilty on all five charges against him in the High Court in Auckland this morning. …

Justice Timothy Brewer said the case had nothing to do with political connections and commentary.

His decision was based on the evidence in court about whether false declarations had been made on documents.

He said he found that the Crown had not reached the level of proof of beyond reasonable doubt which the judge said was a very high standard.

The court case, as I said before, was on whether Liu lied on his immigration forms. The issue with Shane Jones is whether he granted Liu citizenship against official advice because Liu had donated to various parties and MPs. His explanation that Liu faced execution because he was Falun Gong is very dubious when you consider:

  • The decision was about being a citizen vs a permanent resident, not about staying in the country
  • Falun Gong are strictly banned from gambling, Liu spent over $10m at Sky City
  • There is no written record of the advice Jones claims he was given by an official he seems unable to name

I’ll comment tomorrow on the request for the Auditor-General to investigate. The way the request has been worded is incredibly narrow. Any investigation should be full and robust. I’ll try and blog tomorrow what, at a minimum, an inquiry should look at.

The danger for the Auditor-General is that things could be a repeat of the Ingram Inquiry into Taito Philip Field. Helen Clark set very narrow terms of reference, related to Field’s ministerial role only. Ingram actually did a superb job with his inquiry, but due to his terms of reference found no breach by Field in terms of his ministerial role. As people know, the Police later charged Field and he was convicted of corruption and bribery. Ingram’s report was unfairly seen as a whitewash, because the terms of reference were so narrow.

The essence of the allegations against Jones is that he was influenced by MPs (principally Dover Samuels) to grant citizenship despite the lack of good character, and that part of the motivation for this was because Liu had donated to various MPs and parties. Now it is difficult to see how one can investigate this, unless you can access the donor records of the various political parties. And I am unsure that the Auditor-General has any power over political parties.

Hence I think a full inquiry with powers to compel witnesses and material would be the best way forward, if Shearer and the PM could agree on terms of reference. In the absence of such an inquiry an investigation by the Auditor-General is better than nothing happening – but the terms of reference need to be as wide as possible to ensure it is not a repeat if the Ingram Inquiry.

Jones admits he was not sure of Liu true identity

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

First an easy rebuttal of Jones claim that he was told Liu would be executed if he went to China. The ODT reported:

The department’s case officer, Johannes Gambo, told the court Yan boasted that he had politician friends who would ensure he was granted citizenship.

When told he would not receive citizenship, Yan said he was 99 per cent sure he would, according to Mr Gambo.

“He said he had a lot of support from members of Parliament … he was going to take them to China.”

Do you really think he would be planning to take his MP mates to China, if he was at risk of being executed and organ harvested?

Also an amazing concession by Shane Jones, as reported by Stuff:

Labour MP Shane Jones knew there were serious questions over the true identity of Chinese millionaire Yong Ming Yan when he gave him a New Zealand passport. …

Mr Jones admitted he knew there were questions about Yan’s identity. “I certainly know that there was a live issue as to whether or not this man is who he says he was … there was always a mystery … Those were allegations.”

So Jones has said that he was not sure that Liu or Yan was who he claimed he was, yet he still gave him citizenship!!

I can’t think of another non third world country where the Minister grants citizenship to someone on the urging of his mates, despite not even knowing if that is the person’s real identity.

The papers about this case are on the Investigate site and worth a read. Some salient points:

  • Nowhere at all in the papers is there any mention at all of fearing of going back to China. It is all about how much he has invested in NZ. So the reasons Jones says he made his decision on are not even in the official papers. It is all this mystery official’s verbal briefing!
  • The fraud charges in China are for NZ$2.7m
  • The papers clearly state he is entitled to reside indefinitely in NZ in terms of the Immigration Act, so this was NOT an issue about whether or not he might be deported to China. That is a total red herring.
  • According to the Chinese Government he stole another person’s identity in 1999 by falsely registering their birth, and used this to obtain two false passports. He stole the identity of Yang Liu.
  • The papers refer to Liu claiming he has worked to develop trade and good relations between China and NZ, including involvement in formalising agricultural agreements. Does this sound like someone terrified of China, and who fled because he was facing persecution?
  • The papers also refer specifically to humanitarian considerations and does not detail any applicable in this case.
  • The letter from Dover Samuels fails to disclose Liu donated to him.
  • Strangely the Samuels letter says Liu deeply respects NZ’s anti nuclear policy. God knows what that has to do with anything, unless it is code for being a Labour Party donor.
  • The papers make it clear that Rick Barker was the Minister initially dealing with this issue.  He must have recused himself only after a very late stage. Recall that Labour fundraiser Shane Te Pou took Liu down to meet Barker.
  • A follow up letter from Samuels borders on the hysterical and accuses the officials of subjecting Liu to “mental torture”, and that his treatment is not the mark of a civilised country. Samuels seems to think citizenship for migrants is a right, not a privilege.
  • Pansy Wong’s letter of support refers to the Immigration Minister not revoking Liu’s residency, and citing this as grounds for citizenship. So Cunliffe’s decision not to follow the advice of his officials, is then used to advocate for Liu to get special treatment from Jones, against official advice again.
  • Wong’s letter was just addressed to DIA, and did not in fact advocate what the decision should be, just that they should commence consideration and take account of his community contributions. I find that quite different to Samuels who directly advocated the outcome to the Minister in the strongest possible terms.
  • Chris Carter’s letter, like Pansy Wong’s, cites Liu’s contributions but does not call for a particular decision and is a general reference, not an advocacy letter direct to the Minister. I find no fault with Carter or Wong, except that they would both have been wise to have declared Liu had donated to them campaigns.

I suggest people read the full file. There are parts redacted but hopefully after the court case they will become public also.

A great cartoon by Hubbard Emmerson.

Some questions

May 22nd, 2012 at 9:35 pm by David Farrar

As widely predicted Shane Jones has said he made the decision he did, to stop Liu being executed in China. 3 News reports:

As a minister, Mr Jones signed off on Yong Ming Yan’s application to become a New Zealand citizen, despite officials telling him not to.

“I was told the execution of this man…that he would be executed…which is the reason the officials gave for him not wanting to go back to China.”

Mr Jones said declining it would have been like signing a death warrant.

Mr Jones says he was told that Mr Yan would be “jailed, executed and his organs harvested” if he was sent back to China.

Some questions on this claim:

  1. Who was this official who told him this? It wasn’t by some chance Daniel Phillips was it, the brother of Shane Te Pou – the Labour fundraiser who got paid $5,000 to help get Liu citizenship
  2. Does having citizenship in any way impact whether or not one can be extradited to China over the fraud charges laid against him?
  3. If one truly believes you face execution and persecution in your home country, don’t you apply for asylum not citizenship?
  4. But if one applied for asylum, wouldn’t that actually require some substantiation of the claims that he was Falun Gong and fearing for his life, with adjudication by an independent tribunal, rather than Ministerial discretion as with citizenship?
  5. Has Jones or Liu or anyone at all ever produced a shred of evidence that he actually faced anything in China except a fraud trial?

    Some other questions:

  6. Does anyone seriously think Liu would have been granted citizenship if he had not donated to various Labour MPs, who advocated so strongly on his behalf?
  7. Is anyone else curious about why Liu paid Labour Party fundraiser Shane Te Pou $5,000 to fill in a citizenship form for him? That’s a lot of money for filling in a form.
  8. Is the more likely explanation that he paid Te Pou the $5,000, so Te Pou could use his political influence to get him citizenship.
  9. Is it a coincidence that Te Pou immediately introduced him to then Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker
  10. Is it also a coincidence that a donation to Dover Samuels election campaign was made from an unknown Chinese entity using the address of Daniel Philips, who is Shane Te Pou’s brother and worked for Shane Jones

Mr Jones says he would be happy for any investigation to take place into his role in this matter.

Excellent. I repeat the call for a full independent inquiry into the Liu affair.  This should be an inquiry that has the ability to compel testimony from all parties involved, and obtain all relevant documents.

Dom Post on Jones

May 22nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Today’s Dom Post editorial:

Whatever the outcome of the citizenship-fraud trial taking place in Auckland, former associate immigration minister Shane Jones has some explaining to do. …

According to evidence presented to the High Court in Auckland last week, Mr Jones was told in 2008 that Yan was the subject of Interpol Red Notices based on arrest warrants issued in China and that the Internal Affairs Department did not know who he was because he had two passports, two names and two birth dates. Yet Mr Jones approved his application one day after receiving his file.

Mr Jones, now an Opposition front-bencher, has refused to comment on the matter while “it’s in front of the court”, other than to say he had “most certainly not” gone to China.

It is worth noting the outcome of the court case has little bearing on whether Jones acted properly. The court case is about whether Liu lied on his immigration forms. But the focus is on Jones is about why he approved the citizenship when the officials told him this guy has multiple identities, multiple passports, multiple dates of birth and an Interpol arrest warrant.

However, his leader, David Shearer, said yesterday he would not stand the list MP down after receiving assurances from Mr Jones, speaking to other MPs with knowledge of the case and reviewing information retained by Mr Jones. The Labour leader is attaching his reputation to that of Mr Jones in the same way that his predecessor fatefully attached his reputation to that of former Labour whip Darren Hughes when he chose not to stand him down while police investigated a complaint against him.

To be fair to Shearer, the allegations were known about before the 2008 election. It was Helen Clark who should have done a stand down. I’m not sure a stand down is needed. What has been needed for the last three and a half years is a clear plausible explanation for why Jones granted citizenship, apart from he did it to keep his good mate Dover Samuels happy. And if Jones can not give a convincing reason (and by convincing I mean being able to point to some proof that Liu was not dodgy – rather than merely taking Liu’s word for it) for giving citizenship to such a dodgy character, than Shearer should rule Jones out of any future Ministerial role.

It is a risky strategy that leaves Mr Shearer open to charges of hypocrisy given that he has called for ACT MP John Banks to be stood down from his ministerial duties while allegations about his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign are investigated.

Mr Shearer says Mr Jones followed due process. That sounds impressive, but simply means Mr Jones considered the material associated with the case before exercising his authority as minister.

It does not explain why the then minister ignored the concerns of officials who met twice with him about the application.

I’m glad the Dom Post has seen through the spin about process. And yes it is hypocrisy.

The case must now be allowed to run its course. But, once it is completed, there is clearly a need for a full inquiry reviewing Mr Jones’ actions, the material put before him by officials and the involvement of other members of Parliament. Yan’s application for citizenship was supported by letters from National’s Pansy Wong and Labour’s Dover Samuels and Chris Carter.

New Zealanders rightly take pride in this country’s reputation for propriety. Anything that threatens that reputation should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

We definitely need a full inquiry into this. The problem is that if the National Government establishes an inquiry into the actions of a Labour Minister, it looks hopelessly partisan no matter how credible a person is appointed.

But if David Shearer was to come out and agree to an independent inquiry, and agree on the terms of reference with the Prime Minister – then that would be a great sign of bipartisanship – and would allow the true facts to be established.

The whole case is very murky. The person who helped Liu apply for citizenship was a fundraiser for the Labour Party. His brother worked for Shane Jones. Liu had donated to at least three MPs (two Labour, one National) and may held fundraisers at his restaurant which may have raised tens of thousands of dollars. And not only was the citizenship granted despite the official advice, a Labour MP arranged a special citizenship ceremony in the Maori Affairs Select Committee Room at Parliament just a few days later.

The perception is that Shane Jones sold citizenship. Now maybe he did not. Maybe the fact that he was a donor to Labour MPs was not a factor. Maybe the fact that his very good friend Dover Samuels lobbied him intensely did not impact his decision to grant citizenship to Dover’s friend and donor. But Jones argument that he made his decision on humanitarian grounds is pitifully weak. That might be a reason to grant permanent residency, but not citizenship. One can live in NZ all your life as a permanent resident, without being a citizen.

Also note that there has not been a shred of proof that Liu was associated with the Falun Gong. What there is proof of is an arrest warrant for fraud charges.

UPDATE: John Armstrong’s column is “A nasty smell that needs cleaning“. He concludes:

That Shearer is understood to still be keeping his options open in terms of calling in some independent body like the Auditor-General to conduct an inquiry into the approval of Yan’s citizenship suggests the Labour leader realises he is not on terribly strong ground in not standing Jones down, if only temporarily.

There should be an independent inquiry. The inquiry needs to interview all the people involved – the officials, the MPs who advocated, Shane Te Pou and his brother Daniel who worked for Jones. David Cunliffe also as Minister of Immigration who also didn’t act on official advice. The inquiry should also ask the Chinese authorities to document the nature of the fraud allegations that Liu was charged with.

Armstrong’s column is a good read, but I would note that he has missed what I think is a critical point in comparing the Banks case to the Jones case. Banks when advocating for Dotcom was a private citizen and not in power. Samuels was a Government MP and Jones was the actual decision maker. And Banks advocacy was turned down, despite the officials making no recommendation. While Samuels advocacy on behalf of his donor was successful, despite the officials strongly advising against.

It’s the decision, not the process

May 21st, 2012 at 12:01 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Labour leader David Shearer says he has received assurances from Shane Jones that he followed due process in granting citizenship to Bill Liu, also known as Yong Min Yan, when he was associate immigration minister.

Umm, that is a red herring. The process is that the Minister gets a recommendation and makes a decision. Hard not to follow due process. The issue is why Jones granted the citizenship when officials had so strongly advocated against, pointing out the multiple identities and passports plus the criminal charges against Liu.

But while we are on due process, what part of due process is having a special ceremony in Parliament organised by a Labour MP just days after the decision was made – normal due process is you get a letter in the mail a few weeks later, and then go to the town hall in a group.

“Having looked at the material we have available, it appears that the process which Yong Min Yan (Bill Liu) was granted citizenship was considered and proper.”

He said Labour did not have access to departmental files, but was relying on information retained by Jones about the case.

Good God. That doesn’t even qualify as a whitewash.

Jones had denied any pecuniary association with Liu.

“He has received no money, gift or travel.”

“Shane is not a friend of Mr Liu. He believes he has met him on one or two occasions.”

No one has suggested Jones received money. The suggestion is that Labour did – on multiple occasions.

Shane Te Pou, a Labour party organiser, met businessman Yan in 2005 at a Labour Party fundraiser at Auckland’s Viaduct.

Te Pou told the High Court this morning that he took Yan on a trip to the Hawkes Bay to investigate exporting wine to China. …

When they returned to Auckland, Te Pou entered an arrangement to fill in Yan’s citizenship application.

Te Pou used to be known as Shane Phillips, and guess who his brother used to work for? Shane Jones.  Here’s what I blogged in 2008:

Tonight, TGIF Edition can also reveal that one of Yongming’s former associates in this country – Shane Phillips – was a Labour Party campaign manager, and his brother Daniel Phillips works in the office of Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones – the man who gave ‘Bill Liu’ citizenship against the recommendations of officials who’d investigated his background.


A further $5,000 was given to Dover Samuels by the oddly-named ‘Tamaki ki te Paki Wu’, apparently residing at a house in Derrimore Heights in Manukau City.

So, according to the official documents, two separate Wu’s slipped a total of eight grand between them into the Dover Samuels campaign fund. But who was this mysterious Mr Tamaki Wu? A check of the Manukau address Dover had given for him provides an added twist to this story: it was registered not to Mr Wu but to Daniel Phillips – Dover’s former private secretary now working for Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones. So $5,000 had come to Dover from the address of a man whose brother was involved with Chinese
businessman ‘Yang Liu’ (real name Yan Yongming), yet the money was not in Daniel Phillips’ name, but a person or entity named Tamaki Wu.

So $8,000 was donated to Dover, from someone living at the address registered to a staff member in Shane Jones’ office.

It is obvious Shane Jones approved the citizenship because his very good mate Dover Samuels asked him to do so. Just as Damien O’Connor used to grant residency to almost anyone Taito Philip Field asked him to. Dover was a beneficiary of donations from Liu, as were other MPs. Was Jones aware of this? Was Jones aware that Liu’s restaurant had hosted fundraisers which can bring in tens of thousands of dollars, none of which gets disclosed as they count as coming from each individual who attended.

Shearer defends Jones

May 21st, 2012 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at the NZ Herald reports:

Mr Shearer has been calling on Act leader John Banks to be relieved of his ministerial portfolios while police investigate whether he breached the Local Government Electoral Act by declaring donations to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign from German billionaire Kim Dotcom as anonymous.

But he said last night the questions around Mr Jones’ involvement in the Yan case were not as serious as those around Mr Banks donations from Dotcom.

The strength of the evidence against Mr Jones was “very arguable”.

Mr Jones has declined to comment on the matter.

Shearer’s comments defy comprehension, and reinforce that this is just “gotcha” politics rather than anything serious.

Let’s look at what the two cases have in common. Dotcom was a request to buy a house. Yan was to gain NZ citizenship. Both donated to politicians campaigns, and had politicians advocate on their behalf.

But in the case of Banks, he was neither MP nor Mayor when he advocated – and most importantly he was not the decision maker.

But in the case of Jones, we was the actual Minister who made the decision to grant citizenship. He did it against the advice of officials. He knew of the allegations that Liu was a wanted criminal, with multiple identities. Yet he still gave citizenship, and had a special ceremony in the Labour Caucus Room for it, attended no doubt by some of the MPs Liu had financially supported.

While in the Dotcom case, officials made no recommendation, yet it was still turned down.

So for Shearer to claim the questions around Jones are “not as serious” as those around Banks is a position not grounded in reality.

Also at least Banks has fronted up and answered questions (albeit not that well) on his issue. However Jones has spent years refusing to answer the question of why he granted citizenship against the advice of officials – except the obvious one that it was to keep his colleagues happy, who had been receipients of largesse from Liu.

Shearer’s comments on the Liu case mean we can pretty much ignore him in future on issues of ethics.

UPDATE: The original stories on this back in 2008 said that the room in Parliament used for the special citizenship ceremony was the Labour Caucus Room. I am informed that Mr Samuels says it was in fact the Maori Affairs Select Committee Room (which needs an MP to book it). The ceremony was two days after the approval, in contrast to the normal process where it takes weeks.

I also understand that Jones says he granted citizenship because he was told Liu could be executed upon his return. This is crap though, as Liu had permanent residency anyway. Also if someone really fears for their life, they seek asylum. He was wanted in China on fraud charges, and simply didn’t want to face them. There isn’t a single shred of proof that he feared for his life because he was associated with the Falun Gong, as he now alleges. What there is proof of is that he lied on immigration documents, had multiple passports and multiple identities and was wanted by Interpol.

More on Liu

May 19th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance profiles Bill Liu:

He was a high-rolling gambler with a mysterious fortune who lavished cash on political parties and boasted of his connections to MPs – the curious case of Chinese millionaire Yong Ming Yan, also known as Bill Liu, surfaced in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election, embarrassing senior Labour figures.

It has now returned to haunt Labour MPs in Opposition, as they face awkward questions about just how a wealthy donor, wanted for fraud in China, was granted citizenship – overruling the advice of high-ranking officials.

And was given it the day after approval in a special private ceremony in the Labour Caucus Room.

Yan donated $5000 to both National and Labour during the 2005 election campaign. A host of politicians, including Mrs Wong, held fundraisers at his Manukau restaurant, which he is believed to have sold in 2008.

The fundraisers do not count as a donatiion

The Bill Liu trial

May 18th, 2012 at 8:41 am by David Farrar

Michael Field at Stuff reports:

A Chinese millionaire on trial in the High Court at Auckland for fraud boasted to immigration officials that he had MP friends who would ensure he got citizenship.

The high-ranking officials were stunned when then Cabinet minister Shane Jones approved the application one day after getting his file. They were certain Yong Ming Yan, also known as Bill Liu, who had been red-flagged by Interpol, stood little chance.

And what we have never heard is why Shane Jones granted citizenship over the advice and warnings of officials. Let alone why Liu got a special citizenship ceremony just for him in the Labour Caucus Room.

But Yan leaned back in his chair, with his arms behind his head, and said he was 99 per cent confident he would get citizenship, the court was told yesterday.

“He said he had a lot of support from members of Parliament … he was going to take them to China,” Internal Affairs case officer Olele Johannes Gambo said.

I don’t think one can be overly critical of MPs who advocated on Liu’s behalf, unaware of his background. The issue is the MP, or Minister, who was made aware by officials and ignored them.

Mr Gambo said that when Yan was told he could not have citizenship, he said friends in Parliament would ensure he got it.

Mr Jones, who refused to comment on the allegations last night, was named in court with former Labour MP Dover Samuels.

The court was told Yan was sworn in as a citizen within a day of Mr Jones approving citizenship.

In the Labour Caucus Room.  One can only assume he was told of the approval directly by the Minister and/or a Labour MP, who then arranged the ceremony.

Obviously the MPs involved can not comment during the trial. But once the trial is over, there can be no more dodging of accountability.

The Liu trial

May 7th, 2012 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

Michael Field reports at Stuff:

A millionaire naturalised Chinese New Zealander who used senior political connections to win citizenship has gone on trial in the High Court, Auckland, today on five charges linked to claims he created a false identity.

In a case that has been before the court for nearly two years, Yong Ming Yan, 41, has pleaded not guilty to five charges over claims he created a false identity in China to get citizenship.

Justice Timothy Brewer is hearing the case without a jury.

Originally Yan was charged with 12 offences but these, the court heard, had been reduced due to issues with evidence from China.

Yan, also known as William Yan, Bill Liu and Yang Liu, arrived in 2001.

He got citizenship with letters of support and lobbying from Labour’s Dover Samuels and Chris Carter as well as National’s Pansy Wong.

The Department of Internal Affairs opposed citizenship saying with two passports, two names and two birth dates they did not know who he was. Then Immigration Minister David Cunliffe over-ruled and granted citizenship.

I might be wrong but I thought it was Shane Jones who granted the citizenship, not Cunliffe. It was an Internal Affairs issue.

What we have never ever heard is why Jones ignored official advice to grant citizenship to someone whom he knew was facing criminal charges overseas and had multiple identities. Samuels, Carter and Wong did not know of this when they advocated for him so I don’t see a major issue there. But Shane Jones did know and granted him citizenship, with Samuels presenting it to him in the Labour Caucus Room.

The Yang Liu case

April 7th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Yong Ming Yan – also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and William Yan – has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges relating to false declarations on immigration papers and using fake identities to obtain a passport. …

The Herald was first to report the criminal charges against Yan, a development which was embarrassing for several MPs who assisted his successful bid for citizenship.

The Herald may be first to report the criminal charges, but one should recognise that the entire story was broken by Ian Wishart.

Yan became a New Zealand citizen in August 2008 under the name Yang Liu. But he changed his name days later, and was granted a passport in the name of William Yan.

Passports in two other names were earlier seized by investigators. He was granted citizenship in a VIP ceremony in Wellington last year after lobbying from former Labour MP Dover Samuels, who regards him as a close friend.

Labour’s Chris Carter and National’s Pansy Wong also wrote letters of support for his citizenship. Rick Barker, the then Internal Affairs Minister, was also on the list of politicians who knew Yan.

And while slightly embarrassing, they had no idea that Liu was wanted on criminal charges, had been deported from Australia and had multiple fake aliases.

Because of this, he passed the file to another minister, Shane Jones.

Mr Jones overruled Internal Affairs advice that Liu – now Yan – did not meet character requirements and granted him citizenship.

Among the reasons officials gave for opposing Yan’s citizenship application was that they did not know his true identity as he had two names, two passports and two birth dates.

This is where the scrutiny should be. Shane Jones did know all of this. DIA was absolutely insistent that Liu should not be given citizenship. They talked of him being under criminal investigation.The Immigration Service said he should not even have residency, and wanted to revoke his residency status,

Yet Jones went ahead and made him a citizen. Why? Well he won’t say.

Labour official in immigration probe

July 22nd, 2009 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

The Herald report:

A Labour Party official is being investigated over immigration irregularities, just weeks after he helped Labour MP Su’a William Sio facilitate a meeting with Pacific Islanders duped in a fake-visa scam.

Immigration New Zealand confirmed it was investigating Semisi Faka’osikimuli, the secretary of the Labour Party’s Tongan branch, but would not disclose details or comment further while the investigation is going on.

There comes a point at which you wonder if certain problems are due to individuals, or are institutional. We have the current trial of Taito Philip Field. We have the unresolved issue of why Bill Liu was granted citizenship by Shane Jones despite official advice of his criminal record in China and offences in Australia. We have the Choudary immigration scam. There was also the dropping of list candidate Steven Ching over allegations of bribery. And now this case. Important to note only Choudary has been convicted of crimes.

The Herald understands the investigation centres around fake skilled employment offers to help immigrants get New Zealand work permits and residencies, but it is not clear how much money or how many people were involved.

No doubt details will emerge in time.

Mr Sio said he had known Mr Faka’osikimuli for two years and had worked with him in various capacities – most recently at a meeting with Pacific Islander victims of a fake residency stamps and visa scam on July 4, where Mr Faka’osikimuli chaired the Tongan group.

“He’s an active member of the Labour Party, and like many members of the local Pacific community, Semisi comes regularly to my electorate office in Mangere,” Mr Sio said.

The question is whether the alleged scam was being run out of Sio’s office, and whether that office was used for meetings. Regardless of the criminal allegations, commercial money making ventures should not be using MPs offices.

Han Jian, a former client of Mr Faka’osikimuli – whom he knows as James Semisi – said he decided to lodge a report to the police and Immigration, after receiving a letter from Immigration accusing him of fraud and submitting fake employment job offer documents, and for falsely claiming he had an offer of skilled employment from a company, TVP Computers.

“I was shocked, because I didn’t go for any interviews and didn’t even know I had any job offer, and I definitely did not submit anything to Immigration,” said Mr Han in Mandarin.

“After paying James about $14,000, all he said was to trust him and that is what I did. I thought with his involvement in the Labour Party, he will have good connections with Immigration.”

And this is what I mean about is there institutional issues. Regardless of the criminal issues against Field, it is very clear that his mate the Associate Minister was massively more likely to allow someone to gain residency here if Field acted on behalf of the migrant. There seem to be strong incentives that if Labour is in Government, you deal with people connected with Labour to gain residency or for Bill Liu citizenship.

Regardless of the change of Government, I would like to see much more transparency around MPs involvement in immigration issues. Maybe a quarterly report of the number of applications sponsored by MPs, and their sucess rates. If we had this years ago, it would have been obvious that Ministers were whitelighting almost all applications sponsored by Field.

According to Immigration documents, the application papers were submitted by Rosie Brown, JP, a community worker who works part-time out of Mr Sio’s electorate office.

Again, this may not be about individuals, but institutions.

Herald on Yang Liu

January 31st, 2009 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Finally we have the mainstream media publishing on the Yang Liu citizenship scandal. Well done to the NZ Herald who have a long story by Phil Taylor:

Jones granted Liu citizenship against the advice of Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) officials who informed the minister that Liu was suspected of identity fraud, including entering New Zealand and applying for permanent residency and citizenship under a false name, and was subject to an Interpol red notice indicating he was wanted for arrest in China on charges relating to alleged large-scale misappropriation and embezzlement and of stealing another person’s identity and using it to obtain two false passports.

Liu had not resolved the matter, either by contacting the Chinese authorities or through the Chinese court system, Jones was told, and “had not fulfilled the onus of satisfying … that he meets the good character requirement” of the Citizenship Act.

Jones has not publicly explained why he overrode advice to decline Liu’s citizenship application and earlier this month declined the Herald’s request to do so.

And that is not good enough. MPs and Ministers need to be accountable for their decisions. You can refuse to comment if it is some issue of private business. But you can’t hand out cizienship to alleged wanted criminals and refuse to explain.

And then we have:

By 2007 Immigration officials recommended Liu’s permanent residency be revoked on grounds that he had allegedly provided false information.

The Immigration Minister of the time, David Cunliffe, did not act on the advice, instead recommending further investigation and noting that he did not “discount the possibility of reconsidering it in the future”.

As part of those further investigations, Immigration last April obtained a search warrant to seize from the DIA identity documents Liu had provided as part of his citizenship application.

Two weeks later Samuels wrote to Barker again, condemning the delay and urging Liu’s citizenship application be given urgent attention.

Delegating for Barker, Jones granted citizenship to Liu on August 6, 2008.

Five days later, Liu had a citizenship ceremony at Parliament, in the Maori Affairs select committee room. Samuels officiated.

So DIA are saying this guy is so bad you should revoke his residency, while Labour Ministers not only refused to do that, but did the opposite by making him a citizen and giving him a private VIP ceremony at Parliament.

A second story by Taylor focuses on David Cunliffe:

The Weekend Herald can reveal that Mr Liu was given citizenship nine months after officials advised the Immigration Minister at the time, David Cunliffe, that dual identities allegedly used by Mr Liu were grounds to revoke his permanent residency. They provided a legal opinion in support.

So you have multiple people in the gun:

  • Shane Jones for giving him citizenship, against advice
  • David Cunliffe for refusing to revoke his permanent residency, against advice
  • Dover Samuels for advocating on behalf of Liu, despite knowing about the allegations from China

As I said, it is excellent to see the Herald cover this story. A pity though they did not credit the original investigation by TGIF.

Herald on Jones

November 22nd, 2008 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Documents show former Cabinet minister Shane Jones was told a Chinese businessman was under criminal investigation for alleged identity fraud at the time Mr Jones approved his citizenship application.

Mr Jones approved Yang Liu’s application in August against the strong advice of officials. Mr Liu has donated money to Labour and National in the past and received letters of support from MPs of both parties.

Papers released to journalist Ian Wishart under the Official Information Act show the extent of officials’ concerns in their recommendation to Mr Jones.

In his weekly newspaper TGIF, Wishart quotes parts of the report which show Mr Jones was told Mr Liu was under criminal investigation by Immigration’s fraud unit over allegations he had used a false identity, including obtaining two false passports.

Under another name, he was also subject to an Interpol “red notice” for a warrant of arrest in China for alleged serious financial fraud.

The report advised against accepting the application, saying “it is considered that Mr Liu does not meet the good character requirement” to be eligible for citizenship.

The first question is a simple one. Why did Shane Jones ignore all this information, and grant citizenship against the advice of officials?