10 Dec 2003

Cook Islands PM to determine future of residency permit of convicted property developer

6:13 am on 10 December 2003

The Cook Islands prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, will make any decisions over the future of the permit granted to property developer, Mark Lyon.

Question have been raised about why Mr Lyon has been given a 12 month residency permit when he is facing serious criminal charges in New Zealand and has minor convictions to his name.

The principal immigration officer, Tutai Toru, says Dr Woonton, as the immigration minister, chose to issue the permit.

And, Mr Toru says he has the legal right to do so .

"He has the discretion and authority on this issue and he has the right to direct us to do whatever he wishes to direct. The minister made a public statement that the case will be subject to review. If he's convicted, he will review the case and whatever the outcome of that, it's a matter of the minister's discretion."

The permit was issued with a 150,000 New Zealand dollar bond attached to it.

A spokesman for the prime minister's office says the money has gone into a separate trust account.

But he was unable to provide details as to who has access to the account or in whose name it was set up.

The immigration service says it has not seen any of the bond money.