Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal who was one of Donald Trump's biggest backers for president, has set off a controversy in New Zealand when it was revealed that he has citizenship there even though he apparently did not meet the requirements for obtaining it, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
A reporter for The New Zealand Herald discovered that Thiel had citizenship when he was checking into a property that he bought in 2015 for some $10 million that appeared to be "sensitive land," which requires foreigners to have official permission in order to purchase it. When the reporter investigated if Thiel received the permission, he found out that he was already a New Zealand citizen and thus did not need special approval.
That raised more questions, because New Zealand requires someone to live extensively in the country for a five-year period in order to receive citizenship, which apparently Thiel did not do.
Labour Party spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway told the Times "what people are concerned about and the question that we're asking is, 'Did money play a part in this? Is it because he is a wealthy person that he was given special treatment?' That is something which jars with New Zealand values. We're an egalitarian country. We pride ourselves on treating everyone equally regardless of their wealth."
The New Zealand government has been officially asked about the circumstances of Thiel obtaining citizenship and has until next month to respond.
Thiel has become a key adviser for Trump and has been reportedly been considered as a possible Supreme Court justice or an ambassador to Germany, as well as a potential candidate for governor of California governor.
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