Dotcom saga continues to dog PM

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 10/10/2012

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Opposition parties heaped pressure on Prime Minister John Key after it emerged his office was notified about Kim Dotcom six months before his arrest.

Staff in the office of former justice minister Simon Power rang Mr Key's deputy chief of staff Phil de Joux in July last year to say an Overseas Investment Office application from Dotcom was to be declined.

Mr Key says the message was not conveyed to him because it was not "significant".

He has always said he first became aware of the German multimillionaire when he was briefed by police on January 19 - the day before a raid on Dotcom's home.

The tech entrepreneur is fighting extradition to the United States on internet piracy charges.

Political opponents have ridiculed Mr Key's stance because Dotcom lived in his Helensville electorate. Constituents had contacted his electorate office to complain about noise from Dotcom's cars - but Mr Key says this was not passed on by staff either.

Dotcom wanted to buy the $30 million mansion he was renting. Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson - who was lobbied by former Auckland mayor John Banks - backed the application.

But Mr Power turned it down because Dotcom had convictions in Hong Kong and Germany.

Mr Key yesterday confirmed the July phone "courtesy call" to Mr de Joux, now head of government relations at Air New Zealand.

"Lots and lots of ministers contact [Mr Key's Beehive office on] the 9th floor . . . things get elevated to me if they believe it to be important and, frankly, my deputy chief of staff didn't."

The Dotcom saga has haunted Mr Key for weeks. In August police released their files from an investigation into anonymous donations to Mr Banks, now a coalition partner.

Evidence pointed to Mr Banks knowing a $50,000 gift came from Dotcom but Mr Key resisted calls to sack him.

Then it emerged last month that the foreign intelligence agency Government Communications Security Bureau had been illegally spying on Dotcom and his co-accused Bram van der Kolk - both New Zealand residents and thus protected from surveillance.

An inquiry revealed GCSB had misinterpreted new immigration laws.

But Mr Key was under pressure to explain why no-one had briefed him about the GCSB's role in "Operation Debut" - even his deputy Bill English did not tell him he had signed an order suppressing details in August.

Mr Key said last week he had been fleetingly told about GCSB involvement in a February briefing - but couldn't recall it.

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- Fairfax Media

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