How Peter Thiel got New Zealand citizenship revealed in DIA documents video

Peter Thiel's application form for New Zealand citizenship.

Peter Thiel's application form for New Zealand citizenship.

Why exactly did Peter Thiel want New Zealand citizenship? 

In a December 2010 email an unnamed Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) official queried just that. Why did a controversial American/German billionaire want citizenship here, given he didn't intend to live in the country, didn't meet the requirements for citizenship, and already had permanent residence?

Another case manager later described the application as "interesting".

Then-President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump ...
DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Then-President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower in December. Thiel is an adviser to the US President.

For his part, Thiel wrote in a letter it would "give him great pride to let it be known that he is a New Zealand citizen".

​READ MORE: 
*Peter Thiel is a New Zealand citizen. This is what you need to know
*Peter Thiel donated $1m to Canterbury recovery before getting citizenship
*PM Bill English defends Thiel decision
*Politicians demand answers over Peter Thiel

But despite his claim of pride, Thiel kept his citizenship secret for almost six years following the grant, and is yet to discuss it publicly.

Peter Thiel speaks in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Reuters

Peter Thiel speaks in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

"I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future than New Zealand," Thiel wrote.

He advised his "wide global network" would be of "great value" to New Zealand.

His application noted his considerable investments in New Zealand technology companies like Xero and Pacific Fibre. There was also discussion of $1m donation to the Canterbury rebuild.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant Peter Thiel citizenship.
ROBERT KITCHIN

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant Peter Thiel citizenship.

The DIA have released the surrounding documentation concerning Thiel's citizenship, which required a special grant by then-Minister of Internal Affairs Nathan Guy. 

Ad Feedback

The "special grant" was required as Thiel did not meet two statutory requirements to become a citizen - a history of residing in New Zealand and an intent to reside there in future.

Thiel had never lived in New Zealand long-term and made plain in his application that he did not intend to move.

The exact number of days he had lived in New Zealand was redacted, but the size of the redaction suggests it was only in the double digits. 

The grant was given and Thiel attended a private citizenship ceremony at the New Zealand Consulate in Santa Monica in August of 2011.

Guy was advised to grant the citizenship under an "exceptional circumstances" public interest clause in the law, as Thiel had great skills as an entrepreneur and was philanthropic.

STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended a decision to grant citizenship to American tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Thiel offered to assist with the establishment of an Auckland-based technology company and a "landing pad" in San Francisco to help New Zealand technology companies break into the US market.

His lawyers pointed to his large investments in New Zealand technology companies and donation to the Canterbury earthquake recovery.

TradeMe founder Sam Morgan and Xero CEO Rod Drury wrote letters in support of Thiel's application. 

Nathan Guy signed off Peter Thiel's citizenship application in 2011 when he was internal affairs minister.
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Nathan Guy signed off Peter Thiel's citizenship application in 2011 when he was internal affairs minister.

Numerous news articles surrounding Thiel's investments in New Zealand and donation to the Christchurch earthquake recovery were also included. 

​When approached about Thiel's citizenship application last week, Drury said he wasn't aware of it. 

"I wasn't sure, I had to go back and check. I didn't want to be a part of the story at that stage," he said on Wednesday.

But he added that he "absolutely" had written a letter in support of Thiel.

"We offered it when we heard he was going for citizenship," he said.

"He's a huge supporter of us and he's been a fantastic advisor. He's very supportive of New Zealand so we were very pleased to help."

Drury said Thiel was one of the most well-known and respected people in the technology industry, and he had been thrilled to work with him.

Thiel made a US$4 million investment in Xero in 2010 to support Xero's expansion into the US market. 

LABOUR CRY FOUL

Labour party immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said he was "shocked" by the decision to grant Thiel citizenship.

"Peter Thiel was granted citizenship because he was a wealthy individual. Money talks with this government.

"I am yet to see any evidence that New Zealand has gained from this arrangement. It's very clear what Mr Thiel has gained as a citizen - he's been able to purchase a very large piece of South Island real estate.

"It seems he has set himself up an insurance policy should things become unstable in America."

​The Overseas Investment Office revealed Thiel's citizenship last week when they were asked whether they had scrutinised his purchase of a $13.5 million lifestyle block in Wanaka - a requirement for foreign residents, but not citizens.

Guy said at the time he did not remember what the exceptional circumstances were, but that he had acted on the advice of officials.

Potential Kiwis usually have to spend at least 70 per cent of a five-year period in the country to gain citizenship.

WHO IS PETER THIEL?

Thiel, worth a reported $3.7b, rose to fame as the co-founder of PayPal. After PayPal was sold to eBay he became an extraordinarily successful venture capitalist, making over a billion dollars as the first outside investor in Facebook.

Just before gaining citizenship, Thiel talked up New Zealand in foreign media, donated $1m to the Canterbury rebuild, and invested in failed fibre venture Pacific Fibre.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant him citizenship, saying Thiel had "demonstrated his commitment to New Zealand" over the last 11 years after becoming a resident in 2006.

"There's 200 to 300 cases a year where they don't quite fit the criteria or there's some overriding public interest, and the minister acts on the advice of officials as to whether it is generally appropriate for that person to become a citizen."

Thiel's lawyers and PR agency have been asked for comment on the circumstances of his citizenship, but he is yet to respond.

The German/American/Kiwi has been in the spotlight often over the last few years.

He secretly funded a lawsuit in 2016 that bankrupted media company Gawker and was a member of Trump's transition team.

He also made an investment in a company experimenting with the transfusion of young blood into older people, calling the area "underexplored".

Thiel is the co-founder of Palantir, a secretive data analysis company that works with several spy agencies, including potentially New Zealand's.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Bonobo, a cult attraction

FILE PHOTO - UK DJ Bonobo performed to a sold-out Auckland Town Hall on Thursday night with a live band.

REVIEW: A lot of strange things happen in town halls. This was one of them.

Learning football business at super-club

Steph Trowill, left, playing for Auckland in the ASB women's national football league, has been selected for a ...

Talented rep player Steph Trowill is off to football powerhouse FC Bayern Munich on a once-in-a-lifetime job experience.

Boxer claims Commonwealth bronze

Paihia's Kyle Chen has claimed a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Paihia boxer Kyle Chen has won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, now he wants to change that gold at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires next year.

Sport: Southern Cross in semis

27072017. NEWS PHOTO. The Aorere College 1st XIII. 21-mkc-aorereleag01

Southern Cross Campus are a good chance of adding an Auckland premiership to their New Zealand crown.

Wellington

The secret possum rescuers video

Dawn the baby possum is four months old and thriving.

They're one of our most hated pests. But there's an underground network trying to save them.

Our crumbling capital

A car was crushed by a slip on Palliser Rd, Roseneath,Wellington.

Wellington has become slip city, with about 400 reported this winter already, far more than usual. But why?

Police defend sneaky snaps

Police photograph protesters at the 350 Aotearoa climate change protest outside Parliament in June.

Cops delete their pics of Rex Tillerson protesters, but their actions have drawn criticism.

Log hits forestry worker

A forestry worker was in great pain after being struck by a log in rural Wairarapa. (File photo)

Injured worker struck by log winched out of forestry block and flown to hospital.

Canterbury

A reinvented dream home

Bedrooms and living areas wrap around a fully enclosed, private, central courtyard.

A retired Cashmere couple loved their old home so much they had a new one built in its likeness.

Sex grooming arrest

A 51-year-old man has been arrested after meeting a young person following online sexual grooming.

A man has been arrested after meeting a young person following sexual grooming online.

Nurse shuns diets, loses 46kg video

Lisa Press says at 55 she feels better than she has ever felt in her life.

She's gone from 114kg and breathless to 68kg and "the happiest and strongest" she's been.

What skiing was like in 1947 gallery

Happy Valley Chalet in 1953.

When dog sleds served as make-shift chairlifts and skiiers used "suicide bindings".

Waikato

Ferrari clocked at 210kmh

A Ferrari California T similar to the one Hui Zhang was driving when he was pulled over after speeding at 210kmh on the ...

Businessman roared on when cop spotted late model Ferrari California on expressway.

Rennie airs Chiefs' 'hate' video

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie will join Scotland club Glasgow Warriors after Super Rugby.

Chiefs and Crusaders have hardly had a cosy relationship since Dave Rennie took over.

Home burns to ground

Neighbours were the first to spot the flames surging from the 30m by 15m building around 11.30am on Thursday.

Residents were in a nearby town when they heard the fire siren.

Growth gobbles up rural roads

Roadworks on Hamilton's Kay Road are a blessing in that they slow drivers down, resident Sian Wilson says.

Residents ask council for footpaths and lower speed limits on what were once rural roads.

Taranaki

New owners for burger joint

New Prohibition owners Andy Le and Gabby Tran will be keeping the burger restaurant much the same.

A popular New Plymouth burger joint is under new ownership but the burgers won't change.

Collecting for a tangi

The men had collected 251 paua between them.

Two men were caught with 251 paua, 191 of them undersized.

Fail and move on

New Plymouth man Paul Feltoe swam more than 32 kilometres across the Catalina Channel in July.

 A couple of weeks ago New Plymouth man Paul Feltoe got a boat from Los Angeles to Catalina Island - then swam the 32.3kms back.

Firewood running out

A roaring fire maybe a thing of the past unless you've stocked up as supplies of firewood  run out in Taranaki with ...

Stock up in summer to avoid being left out in the cold.

Manawatu

Wowed over WOW

Jennie Munro in her workshop with costumes that have been finalists in Wellington's international World Of Wearable Arts ...

A Palmerston North designer has made the finals of September's wearable arts show.

No intercepting emails

Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney sees no reason to intercept emails, unlike Horowhenua ...

Council chief executives see no reason for intercepting emails - unlike Horowhenua council's boss.

Collar-dragging teacher cleared

Clive Stevens with his grandmother Maureen Stevens.

Teacher who dragged special needs student along floor did nothing wrong, investigation finds.

Back to school

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei stopped to talk with Tanika Jeffery, 14, who was learning speech writing in te reo, at ...

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei talks education at her old high school.

Nelson

Cafe plans for historic building

12072017 NEWS PHOTO MARTIN DERUYTER/ STUFF

The former Green Grocer Store on the corner of Grove St and Tasman St in The ...

After 20 years as a greengrocer, a heritage building in The Wood could be home to a new cafe.

Man critically injured

A man has critical injuries after a car hit a tree on the Coastal Highway.

Driver trapped in a car with serious injuries after a car hit a tree near Nelson.

Tool time returns to preschool video

Phoenix Brimble-Morrison uses tools donated by Mitre 10 Mega to Healthkids Preschool after its previous tools were stolen.

Hand drills, hammers and saws stolen from a Nelson preschool have been generously replaced.

Calls to defer Waimea dam plan

Lindsay McKenzie says the degree of uncertainty about the level of commitment to the dam project is of concern.

Lack of binding commitments by other potential funders of the dam frustrates TDC.

Marlborough

'Our niche is Marlborough'

Dog Point Vineyard co-owners and event sponsors Ivan Sutherland, left, and James Healy read up for the Marlborough Book ...

With intimate venues and stunning surrounds, the Marlborough Book Festival is a little different.

Power to the people

Marlborough Lines managing director Ken Forrest shows off the newest addition to the company fleet, an all-electric ...

A lines company is letting residents take a spin in its new electric car.

Bigger planes?

Sounds Air chief executive Andrew Crawford inside the cockpit of one of the company's 9-seat Pilatus PC-12s.

Demand for flights prompts Marlborough airline to investigate "quantum leap" to larger planes.

Blenheim bemoans unfair fares

Air New Zealand said it would not be reinstating direct flights to Christchurch from Marlborough Airport.

"It's almost like we've offended Air New Zealand somehow and they're making us pay." 

South Canterbury

Troops stage op in Waimate

Private  Nathan Hammond keeps a watchful eye out at a vehicle checkpoint in Waimate.

Waimate has been turned into a foreign nation infiltrated by insurgents- but only for a week.

Disease hits top farm

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen's herd has been struck by the cow disease Mycoplasma bovis, and 150 of their cattle will have ...

Rich-list farming dynasty which owns world's "largest robotic farm" devastated by cow disease.

Region poised for milk boost

While the forecast price rise from Fonterra is good new for South Canterbury dairy farmers, regional Federated Farmers ...

Another $25m added to South Canterbury farmers' milk payout.

Oamaru firearm theft

Police are investigating a targeted firearms burglary in Oamaru.

Police are investigating a targeted firearms burglary in Oamaru.

Southland

Fire guts city house

Firemen at the scene of the gutted house, which was owned by former mayor Eve Poole, on Friday morning.

A fire has gutted the house of former mayor Eve Poole in Invercargill this morning.

Mass killing fantasies

Southland man Tony Gow has been sentenced in the High Court at Invercargill after admitting a raft of firearms offences, ...

A Southland man who fantasised about mass killings could not get the mental health help he needed, court told.

World champs beckon

New Zealand discus thrower Marshall Hall practices ahead of the 2017 IAAF World Championships.

Invercargill discus thrower 'committed and focused' ahead of world championships.

Ice causing crashes

10082016. News.Kavinda Herath. Southland Times/Stuff-Ice on the Winton Lorneville Highway

Police are warning drivers to take it slow and beware of ice on the roads.

Ad Feedback