Big hole in Dotcom conspiracy theory

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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Opinion

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OPINION: Don't get me wrong.

I like a good cocktail of intrigue and a dash of conspiracy as much as the next voter.

Politics, passion, dark princes, evil villains and resourceful heroes. From Machiavelli to MacGyver, Bond to Breaking Bad. Scandal. House of Cards. Brilliant. What's not to like?

So it would be better than a Hollywood movie if the conspiracy theory in the latest Kim Dotcom sequel proved to be true.

Trouble is there seems to be a big hole in the plot.

Taking it from the opening credits, the theory runs that the United States movie industry lobbied the Obama administration to crack down on internet sites that undermine their income and are, from their point of view, pirates and copyright infringers.

So far, so believable. In fact, it would be stretching the audience's patience to think otherwise. Washington is up to its neck ties in lobbyists doing this kind of work.

The storyline really stirs, but gets shaken, at the point where Uncle Sam's wishes are translated into actions in New Zealand.

That's not to say the giant internet entrepreneur was not done wrong during the infamous raid on his Coatesville pile or in the GCSB's unlawful spooking. He was.

But this week's episode includes the twist that somehow pressure from the US and Big Film led to Dotcom being granted permanent residency in New Zealand so that he could then be extradited to the US to face the charges lodged against him.

It's an intriguing plot-twist, but Security Intelligence Service emails released this week create a huge paradox.

They show, true, that the SIS opposed his residency but then dropped it when they believed there was "political pressure" concluding he was not a security threat.

But on the face of the documents it is stretching credulity to say the SIS was trying to engineer his residency approval.

In fact, they made it clear that, in their view, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) had enough about his criminal past to justify refusing him residency. They also told INZ about the FBI's interest in him and to contact the police to learn more.

That looks like an attempt to have INZ block Dotcom's residency, not the other way around.

INZ's take is that it did not contact police because it believed they would only tell it what it already knew about his criminal past - and criticism can rightly be aimed at INZ's judgment for that.

But chief executive Nigel Bickle says it did not believe any of the three criteria for delaying a decision on Dotcom's case - that he was wanted for questioning, facing charges or under active investigation - existed.

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So it weighed up his past character issues against the Government's policy of luring high net worth individuals to invest here . . . and came down on the side of his residency.

If there was "political pressure" - either as an individual (which officials deny) or as one of the broader class of investors targeted by the Government's policy - it was most likely here. At the time, in 2010, the new Investor Plus category had not been a roaring success. Numbers needed to be boosted.

INZ's own intelligence officer, Theo Kuper, even refers to then-immigration minister Jonathan Coleman being an "interested party" specifically because the Investor Plus category was a government priority.

So rewind back to the conspiracy theory - that the Government engineered Dotcom's residency, all the better to extradite him later, and that Prime Minister John Key was donkey-deep in the plan.

For that to be believable, why wasn't it done through the most obvious route via the SIS - the organisation that has links to the FBI and which Key is directly responsible for? Instead the theory requires that it was done through the backdoor using a decision by immigration officials in apparent defiance of the SIS's view.

Now in Scandal, 007 or House of Cards, the sheer rat-cunning of the players would make it possible, leaving saps like us - well me - fooled to the max.

SIS would have been foxing, back-channels would have delivered the Government's wishes, under pressure from the White House, the paper work would have been prepared and lowly immigration officials manipulated into making the "right choice".

Senior public servants would then lie like flat fish.

But it would all unravel when the principal target blew the whistle, insisting that although his immigration agent had pushed hard for a quick decision, the haste was actually all a Government ruse.

He should never have been allowed residency on the evidence before authorities.

He might even fund a political party to bring down the Government - a party which would also say he should not have been granted residency.

You might think, though I couldn't possibly comment, that as a final twist he could claim to have a damning piece of evidence that would bring the top man to his knees.

But while our hero was wedded to the highest ideals of democracy, he would - to create maximum political mayhem - hold off releasing it until a handful of days before the election, denying voters the right to see it and have it tested throughout the campaign.

Can't wait to download a copy.

- The Dominion Post

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