The Corrections Department is ducking allegations that prison authorities attempted to entrap Kim Dotcom and denied him basic hygiene at Mt Eden prison.
A spokeswoman said the allegations, which were made by Dotcom in a book published on Monday, were “operational matters” for private prison operator Serco.
They included a claim that Mt Eden prison may have been complicit in allowing a fraudulent call to be placed to Dotcom while he was on remand.
Corrections national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said in a written statement that the allegations were best answered by Serco, which has the contract to operate the Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
Labour’s corrections spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, said the allegation regarding the scam phone call was “quite significant” and Corrections’ response was not good enough.
Dotcom said in The secret life of Kim Dotcom, written by New Zealand Herald journalist David Fisher, that a guard at Mt Eden prison fetched him from his cell when he was on remand last year, supposedly to take a call from his lawyer.
But he said the call turned out to be from someone claiming to be a prosecutor on his case who claimed he could make the case “go away” in return for a bribe.
Dotcom said it was not normal for prisoners to be allowed calls outside normal business hours. He believed the ploy was “orchestrated,” extended into the prison and may have been designed to find out if he had hidden assets that he might have been able to use to fund his defence.
Dotcom said he asked the guard to take down details of the call, so there was a record, but the request made the guard “uncomfortable”.
Dotcom also alleged in the book that he was denied food, a blanket, a towel, soap and even toilet paper on his first day at Mt Eden, so he had nothing with which to clean himself. He believed the deprivations had been “deliberate”.
Fellow copyright-accused Bram van der Kolk spent weeks hand-washing a single set of underwear after he was denied permission to call relatives until three days before his release, Dotcom said.
A Serco spokeswoman said none of the allegations regarding Dotcom’s time in custody had been raised with the company previously, and no complaint corresponding to the allegations had been received.
Each prisoner arriving at Mt Eden received a “new arrival pack” which included a towel, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste and toothbrush, and bedding, she said.
“Prisoners who arrive ... after the scheduled dinner period receive a hot meal and a cup of tea on arrival at the receiving office.
“If they arrive in police overalls, or their own clothing is torn or requires laundering, they are given alternate clothing. We ensure that each prisoner has decent and appropriate clothing,” the Serco spokeswoman said.
Ardern said prisons were very basic, but they still had an obligation to ensure hygiene needs were met and food and clothing provided.
It was not acceptable for Corrections to regard the alleged phone call as a matter for Serco, she said.
“Serco is the on-the-ground operator, but the buck has to stop with Corrections which needs to find out what was going on.
“I am sure there would be some kind of record of what happened and I’d of thought it would be in their own interests to demonstrate what knowledge, if any, they had of that phone call,” she said.
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