Who is Karel Sroubek? An in-depth look at the convicted Czech drug smuggler and his controversial case

Convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek could face an extradition process from New Zealand, but who is he, and why has there been such a controversy surrounding his case?

Who is Karel Sroubek?

Sroubek, from the Czech Republic, entered New Zealand in 2003 under a false passport and gained residency in the name of Jan Antolik in 2008. This was granted under the sports talent category as he was the world kick-boxing champion at the time.

Last month Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granted Sroubek residency under his real name after what he said was careful consideration of all the information available at the time.

As well as being a world champion kick-boxer, Sroubek has a criminal history both in New Zealand and in the Czech Republic.

In 2009 Sroubek faced charges of kidnapping and aggravated robbery for which he was acquitted.

In 2011 he was found guilty of supplying false information to the Immigration, and of having a false passport. Also that year, he was convicted with being a party to the manufacture of a Class C controlled drug. The latter conviction was quashed on appeal.

In 2016, Sroubek was jailed for five years and nine months for importing 4.9kg of the drug MDMA, with a street value of $375,000.

A parole decision about that sentence said he came to New Zealand after he had been involved in a problem with Czech police, when a man was shot and killed. And it said he was at the time "associating with criminal elements in the Czech Republic".

An Interpol listing online said he was wanted in the Czech Republic for disorderly conduct, damaging of another's property, and attacking a law enforcement officer.

Czech Republic's Justice Ministry said Sroubek was sentenced to four years and six months in prison in the Czech Republic. He is also being sought for further criminal charges.

He was associated with New Zealand's Hell's Angels and had been charged with some gang members for offences, but they were all acquitted at trial.

What are the conditions of his residency granted last month?

A letter written by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway to Mr Sroubek outlined the conditions he must abide by to stay in New Zealand.

The minister wrote that failing to meet these conditions, Sroubek would become liable for deportation and his case would then need to be considered again.

The conditions were:

  • That Sroubek is not convicted, in New Zealand or elsewhere, of any offence committed during the next five years (starting upon his release from prison).

  • That he does not use any fraudulent identity, for any purpose, during the next five years (starting upon his release from prison).

  • He does not provide false or misleading information, or conceal any relevant information, in his dealings with any government agency during the next five years (starting up his release from prison).

Mr Lees-Galloway wrote that this does not prevent Sroubek from being liable for deportation on other grounds.

"This is a very serious matter and I do not condone your behaviour. I have given you one final chance to remain in New Zealand and this should serve as a clear warning to you," he wrote.

Timeline of events

  • 2008: Sroubek gains residency under the name Jan Antolik under the sports talent category as the current world kick-boxing champion.
  • 2009: He faces charges of kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
  • 2009: The High Court in Auckland gave Sroubek permission to travel to the Czech Republic, ahead of an impending court case.

It was stated: "He is the owner of two businesses which are involved in trade with parties in the Czech Republic and it is necessary for him to go there from time to time in order to facilitate transactions involving the import of Czech goods into New Zealand."

  • The judgement also said Sroubek had been granted a similar application earlier in the year, despite the opposition of the police.
  • 2009: Sroubek bought a house for $490,000, using mainly cash deposits made into his bank accounts, together with a mortgage. He funded the mortgage installments through cash payments.
  • 2009: No income was declared on Sroubek's tax return.
  • 2009: Czech police contact New Zealand immigration authorities, according to Immigration consultant and former minister Tuariki Delamere.
  • 2011: Sroubrek was found guilty of supplying false information to the Immigration, and of having a false passport. After completing 200 hours of community service he was discharged without conviction, avoiding any risk of deportation.
  • 2011: Sroubrek was charged for being a party to the manufacture of a Class C controlled drug. He was convicted, but that conviction was quashed, and a retrial never went ahead. on appeal.
  • 2013: An arrest warrant is issued for Sroubek in 2013 for outstanding criminal proceedings.
  • 2015: Czech Republic contact New Zealand to indicate they "may be interested" in requesting Sroubek's extradition.
    3 June 2016: Sentenced in the Auckland District Court for the offence of importing MDMA.
  • 2016: Sroubek sells his property he had bought in 2009.
  • 2017: He appealed his drug conviction, saying the verdict was unreasonable and the initial investigation flawed. The appeal was dismissed.
  • 19 September 2018: Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway writes a letter to Sroubek saying he determined that the 37-year-old holds a residence class visa in a false identity, making him liable for deportation. However, the minister cancelled the liability for deportation and granted Sroubek residency under his real name.
  • 28 October 2018: Sroubek is denied parole, with the parole board considering him unsafe to release back into the community. He is due to be reassessed in a year.
  • 30 October 2018: Mr Lees-Galloway stands by his decision to grant Sroubek residency.
  • 31 October 2018: Newstalk ZB reports that Sroubek had already been back to the Czech Republic
  • 31 October 2018: Mr Lees-Galloway announces an urgent review into his decision to grant Sroubek residency after receiving "new information".
  • 31 October 2018: Simon Bridges calls for Iain Lees-Galloway's resignation and confirms the case never went before the immigration minister in the National government.
  • 1 November 2018: Court documents confirm Sroubek returned to Europe in 2009, although it is not clear whether he visited the Czech Republic.
  • 1 November 2018: Mr Lees-Galloway orders an investigation into aspects of the case but does not give details due to "strong" legal reasons.
  • 1 November 2018: In Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway repeatedly refuses to answer questions about the case from the National Party.
  • 2 November 2018: The Czech Republic said it was soon to launch efforts to extradite Sroubek from New Zealand.
    What people are saying

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway:

Mr Lees-Galloway said the decision to grant Sroubek residence was made after careful consideration of all the information available at the time.

"For privacy and legal reasons, I am unable to disclose this information or comment on specific details of the case.

"It's not a decision I've taken lightly."

After announcing an investigation into his decision to grant residency, Mr Lees-Galloway told reporters:

"If it turns out that I relied upon information that was incorrect, I take that very seriously and that is why I am taking advice on what the appropriate course of action would be."

"Decisions can be incredibly difficult, this was right up there, probably the most difficult decision I've had to make so far.

"But as I say, I've taken the opportunity to review that decision to assure myself I made a reasonable decision and I stand by it."

After asking Immigration New Zealand to urgently investigate the allegations to determine their veracity, he said:

"As a decision maker, I cannot rely on innuendo or hearsay or speculation, but these allegations certainly are concerning to me."

He declined to go into any detail about the new information "for legal reasons".

In Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway repeatedly refused to answer questions about the case from the National Party.

National Party leader Simon Bridges:

Mr Bridges has called for Iain Lees-Galloways resignation.

He told Morning Report "He just hasn't done his job, he hasn't exercised the judgement, the acumen that it seems to me any competent minister would in this case."

He earlier told reporters if the "remarkable" story was true, it appeared the minister had been "duped".

"If you say this is some form of humanitarian basis because he can't go back because maybe he's scared, well, he did just that - he went back, he wasn't scared.

"They know they've got no good reason. They were duped. They were naive."

National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse:

Mr Woodhouse said questions needed to be answered because he did not believe the threshold for residency had been reached.

In Parliament on 1 November, he asked Mr Lees-Galloway whether Sroubek or his lawyer expressed any concerns for his safety if he was returned to the Czech republic.

He also asked whether the minister was aware that the Czech national had twice visited the the Czech republic while awaiting trial on kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges.

He said he was skeptical about the investigation announced by the immigration minister regarding the matter.

"It's a way for him to deflect what has been very, very intense scrutiny on his decision-making, very poor decision-making in my view, and he's trying to buy time to get himself out of a deep, deep hole."

National Party justice spokesman Mark Mitchell:

Mr Mitchell said the government's decision to grant Sroubek residency made a mockery of the system.

He said he was "very serious" about considering going to the Czech Republic to get to the bottom of Mr Sroubek's past.

Former National Immigration Minister Tuarili Delamere:

Immigration consultant and former immigration minister in the 1990s, Tuariki Delamere, acted for Sroubek to help him gain residency in 2008 under the sports talent category as the current world kick-boxing champion. He said there was no indication Sroubek was not Jan Antolik, the name he was using at the time.

He said Sroubek should have been deported as soon as it was discovered in 2009 that he was using a fake passport, or when he was charged. National was in government at that time.

The minister at the time could still have deported him even though he was discharged without conviction, he said.

"It should never have been on [Iain Lees-Galloway's] desk in the first place."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report it had been a difficult decision by the minister to grant Sroubek and that if it was a simply a matter of someone having criminally offended in New Zealand then it would be an obvious case of deportation.

"The fact it wasn't a deportation order and the fact that the minister has said it was a very difficult decision gives a bit of a hint that there was obviously other information put before the minister."

rnz.co.nz

Karel Sroubek entered New Zealand on a false passport, and gained residency under the name Jan Antolik. Source: Supplied / Interpol


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