Faafoi offered to help in friend's immigration case

Kris Faafoi. Photo: NZ Herald
Kris Faafoi. Photo: NZ Herald
Newshub has revealed that Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi may have breached Cabinet rules by offering to help "speed up" a friend's immigration case.

Messages between Faafoi and Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison sent to Newshub show the Minister offered to get involved in an immigration case and said he would talk to "people who can speed things up."

In October, Kerrison said he was "gutted" to hear Immigration New Zealand's decision to reject his step-father's application for residency.

His mother, Jude Kerrison, married Gitonga "Mich" Obadiah, a Kenyan national, in 2017.

But Obadiah's residency was rejected, as Immigration New Zealand questioned the legitimacy of their relationship.

Facebook correspondence given to Newshub show that on October 5, Kerrison messaged Faafoi that he had copied the Minister into a post about the decision against his mother and her husband.

"Hadn't heard anything from anyone in your office since I last brought it up," Kerrison wrote.

"Really hope you can help bro."

Faafoi replied, "I will make a call on Monday."

He said that he knew the relationship was genuine as Kerrison travelled to his mother's wedding.

"I will talk to the people that can speed things up," Faafoi wrote.

Faafoi, who has called Kerrison "a close family friend," later asked Kerrison to send him his step-father's surname and Immigration New Zealand file number, which he did.

On October 11, Kerrison checked on the progress being made in the case.

"Any news I can pass on?" he wrote to Faafoi.

Faafoi replied, "Bro I have a plan - but it can't be plastered over FB."

"Unfortunately this kind of thing can happen, so I've enlisted the help of an MP up your way. If I deal with it directly, I will have a conflict of interest."

When thanked by Kerrison, Faafoi replied, "Whānau whānau brother."

A few days later, Kerrison texts Faafoi for an update, saying, "Where are we at?"

"Bro it's moving. I can't put anything in writing." Faafoi replied.

When questioned by Newshub journalists today, Faafoi said it wasn't a conflict of interest.

"He came to me and I said I would speak to the local MP, which I have," he said.

The Cabinet Manual states that "a conflict may arise if people close to a Minister, such as ... whānau, or close associates, might derive, or be perceived as deriving ... personal, financial, or other benefit from a decision or action by the Minister or the Government.

It also says that "it may not be appropriate for Ministers to participate in decision-making on matters affecting family members, whānau, or close associates, for example, by: (a) attempting to intercede on their behalf on some official matter."

Newshub said that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office did not know about the messages until it was alerted today by the media company.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said she had "clear expectations of her Ministers to uphold the highest standards at all times."

National leader Simon Bridges said Ardern had serious questions to ask Minister Faafoi about his failure to declare a conflict of interest.

"Minister Faafoi acknowledged in his messages that if he dealt with it, it would be a 'direct conflict of interest' and asked his friend not to go public about it. He knew it would be a breach of the Cabinet Manual," he said.

"When it comes to immigration matters there must not be special treatment for some people. Not everyone has a friend in Cabinet they can call to ask for a favour."

"What's really sad for the Prime Minister is that Kris Faafoi appeared to be one of her only competent Ministers. Now, even he's let her down."

"She needs to immediately ask Mr Faafoi what went on here."

 

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