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Labour leader David Shearer has assured MP Shane Jones he would be reinstated to the front bench if the Auditor-General found he acted properly granting citizenship to a Chinese businessman now accused of immigration fraud.
Mr Jones was stood down yesterday from his portfolios and his front bench place after Mr Shearer asked the Auditor-General to investigate the handling of William Yan's citizenship case by the MP and the Department of Internal Affairs.
Mr Jones granted citizenship against the advice of officials who said there were questions about Yan's multiple identities and a warrant for his arrest in China.
Today, Justice Timothy Brewer will deliver his ruling on whether Yan is guilty of making false declarations on immigration and citizenship papers, after a two-week trial in the High Court at Auckland.
Mr Shearer said he still believed Mr Jones' assurances that he had acted properly. However, despite Mr Jones' own attempts to explain his decision publicly this week, there were still ongoing questions.
"He has been left in the impossible position of not being able to clear his name. An independent inquiry will enable him to do so.''
He had made the suggestion to Mr Jones and Mr Jones had supported it.
He said the Auditor-General was the best body to look into the matter.
"There are very few options as an Opposition MP to get your name cleared and get an investigation that will give people confidence.''
The Auditor-General is yet to decide whether it will start an inquiry, which could take up to a month.
Mr Shearer said he stood Mr Jones down immediately because he had made a point of saying he would stand down any of his MPs who were under investigation.
Mr Jones said he supported an inquiry. He was also angry about Department of Internal Affairs evidence in Yan's court case relating to his speed processing the citizenship decision which he said was incorrect and had maligned him.
That was after an Internal Affairs official said that the department was under pressure to hurry the application through and Mr Jones had granted citizenship only one day after he received it.
Information released first in 2008, and again by Mr Jones this week, showed it was actually more than three weeks later.
Mr Jones said he made the decision on humanitarian grounds because a senior official told him Yan risked execution if he returned to China.
"I was told he would be executed, which is the reason the officials gave for him not wanting to go back to China.''
Mr Jones said he was told that Yan would be "jailed, executed and his organs harvested'' if he was sent back.
"That to me comprised grounds for a humanitarian decision,'' Mr Jones said.
However, Yan already had permanent residency status in New Zealand, which former Immigration Minister David Cunliffe declined to revoke when asked to by his officials.
Mr Cunliffe said this week that he had sent officials back to investigate further _ although the residency issue was not mentioned in the briefing paper given to Mr Jones in 2008.
A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said officials were now checking their records to see if Mr Jones was verbally advised that Yan would be executed.
"Our advice was written on the case. That advice is out there in the public arena. We're checking our records now.''
Mr Jones _ who has kept a lot of the paperwork relating to the case since it was first revealed by Investigate magazine in 2008 _ said he had written a file note of it because it was so striking.
Officials had advised Mr Jones that Yan did not meet the good character test for citizenship because he had two passports, with two names and two birthdates.
A number of MPs lobbied on behalf of Yan, including Dover Samuels, Pansy Wong and Chris Carter.
Yan also donated $5000 to both National and Labour and held political fundraising events at his restaurant.
- Claire Trevett and Jared Savage of the NZ Herald