Defiant Jones vows to clear name
Shane Jones has been demoted again – as Labour leader David Shearer asks the auditor-general to investigate why he granted citizenship to a shadowy Chinese millionaire.
A judge will today deliver a verdict in the case of Yong Ming Yan – also known as Bill Liu – who is on trial in the High Court at Auckland for passport fraud.
The hearing has raised fresh questions over why in 2008 Mr Jones, then a Cabinet minister, gave Yan a New Zealand passport, against official advice.
Mr Shearer wrote to Auditor-General Lyn Provost yesterday asking her to investigate. She must now decide if it is necessary to open an inquiry.
He stood Mr Jones, 52, down from the front bench and his shadow regional and Maori economic development and fisheries portfolios.
The list MP was stood down from the front benches two years ago after it emerged he charged hotel porn movies to his ministerial credit card.
A defiant Mr Jones said yesterday that an independent investigation was necessary to clear his name.
"There's been some nauseating things said about me in a court case ... I am largely regarded as a colourful character but a fairly upfront sort of a person and I've had my fill of being subject to allegations. I will give my side of the story, believe you me."
Yan was wanted by the Chinese Government over accusations of embezzlement of about $2.7 million and was red-flagged by Interpol.
Officials were unsure of his true identity because he used several names and birth dates. Immigration officials recommended his residency be revoked in April 2008 and minister David Cunliffe advised they continue investigating.
Internal Affairs sent Yan's citizenship case file to minister Rick Barker in July 2008, recommending his application be declined. It contained letters of support from Labour MPs Chris Carter and Dover Samuels and National's Pansy Wong. Mr Barker passed the case to associate minister Mr Jones.
Mr Jones says he granted the passport on "humanitarian grounds" because an official told him Yan would be arrested, executed and his "organs harvested" if he returned to China.
However, Internal Affairs officials told the court last week that Yan had boasted of taking MP friends on a trip to China.
An Internal Affairs spokesman said yesterday the department was searching its files to find reference to the claim Yan's life was in danger – which is not in the original case file sent to Mr Jones.
Mr Shearer said he spoke to Mr Jones on Tuesday night after Mr Jones faced a barrage of questions from the media. "I suggested that we take it to the auditor-general and Shane agreed. It's the only way of him being able to clear his name.
"Yesterday [Tuesday] he went out and made a number of statements but he felt that he was still being maligned and was concerned. There's no other smoking gun, other than the fact that Shane felt that he wasn't able to clear his name."
Mr Shearer said he "doesn't have any reason to doubt that he followed the process correctly".
He faced pressure to act because of his calls for government minister John Banks to stand down over a donations scandal. Mr Shearer insisted the cases were different because Mr Banks is subject to a police investigation.
A spokeswoman for the auditor-general's office confirmed Mr Shearer's request had been received. It will take the watchdog about a month to decide if it will investigate.
SEVEN YEARS IN PARLIAMENT
Labour list MP Shane Jones has often been tipped to be a future Labour Party leader during his seven years in Parliament.
He was demoted and stripped of his shadow portfolios in 2010 after admitting to charging hotel pornography to his taxpayer-funded credit card.
The MP from the Far North studied politics at Auckland and Victoria universities. He headed the early start-up of the Environment Ministry, proceeded to a masters qualification at Harvard University and took over as chairman of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission.
Mr Jones entered Parliament in 2005. He was promoted to Cabinet in November 2007.
In opposition he has been the spokesman for transport, fisheries and aquaculture, Maori economic development and infrastructure.