Minister defends approving PayPal co-founders application, saying he has been a great ambassador for New Zealand
Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Paypal, was granted New Zealand citizenship despite spending only 12 days in the country, new documents have revealed.
The government ombudsmen has forced New Zealand authorities to release further details of Thiels highly unusual citizenship process because it was deemed in the public interest.
On Thursday, Nathan Guy who oversaw Thiels citizenship application as minister of internal affairs in 2011 said Theil had been a great ambassador for New Zealand, a great salesperson. He is a fine individual, good character, he has invested a lot in New Zealand, hes got great reach into the US and I am very comfortable with the decision that I made.
The billionaire entrepreneur who is a close adviser to Donald Trump, was granted New Zealand citizenship in June 2011, after taking four brief trips to the country. He made it clear he had no immediate plans to settle in the country.
The usual route to citizenship requires applicants to be in New Zealand as a permanent resident for at least 1,350 days in the five years preceding an application.
The New Zealand government granted Thiel citizenship due to his exceptional circumstances, and because it was understood he would promote New Zealand on the global stage, and provide introductions and contacts for New Zealand start-ups in Silicon Valley.
Official information documents stated Thiels exceptional circumstances related to his skills as an entrepreneur and his philanthropy, which were deemed to be of potential benefit to New Zealanders and the country. The formal citizenship process took place in a private ceremony in Santa Monica in 2011.
In his application for citizenship Thiel stated that although he had no plans to reside in New Zealand, and did not work for a New Zealand business overseas, he intended to represent the country on the international stage. He also donated NZ$1m to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund, and bought prime land and luxury homes in New Zealand.
Despite this intention Thiel never appeared to mention his New Zealand citizenship in any public capacity it was revealed by New Zealand media this year.
Labours immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway told Radio NZ that Thiel was not promoting New Zealand internationally as hed stated in his application, as no one knew about his citizenship or ties to New Zealand for six years.
If Peter Thiel was an amazing ambassador and salesperson for New Zealand we would have found out he was a citizen of New Zealand because he would have told the world that he was a citizen of New Zealand, Lees-Galloway said. He kept it under wraps. He hasnt gone around telling the world that hes a citizen of New Zealand and that hes proud of New Zealand.