Billionaire Peter Thiel may number himself among Pres. Donald Trump’s top advisers and proudly addressed the 2017 Republican National Convention as a proud gay American, but the hedge funder and Paypal.com founder secretly “swore an oath of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth,” said TheIntercept.com, when he used his wealth and influence to gain New Zealand citizenship in 2011.
The Intercept’s Sam Biddle reported Wednesday that the New Zealand government released a 145-page dossier detailing Thiel’s pursuit of citizenship in the country, which was initially denied on the ground that the billionaire had never lived in New Zealand and had no current plans to do so.
“Mr. Thiel does not meet the ‘presence in New Zealand’ and ‘intention to continue to reside in New Zealand’ requirements for a grant of citizenship,” said the country’s Department of Immigration in one document. “Mr. Thiel considers he has exceptional circumstances that mean a grant is in the public interest.”
Biddle explained that in 1977, New Zealand enacted an “exceptional circumstances and public interest” provision under which non-resident of the island nation could apply for citizenship.
“In Thiel’s case, the exceptional circumstances were that he is immensely rich, with powerful ties to Silicon Valley,” he wrote, then provided pages from Thiel’s application, which were obtained under public information requests.
“Mr. Thiel considers his exceptional circumstances relate to his skills as an entrepreneur and his philanthropy. Public interest arises from Mr. Thiel utilizing his skills in New Zealand and on behalf of New Zealanders and through his philanthropic activities in this country,” the document reads before detailing Thiel’s history of profit-making and donations he made to earthquake relief for the city of Christchurch.
“Mr. Thiel states that being a New Zealand citizen would enable him to represent the country on the international stage and give him greater confidence in mobilizing New Zealand’s talented entrepreneurs,” the application states.
Ironically, Thiel includes among his bona fides as a philanthropist, “I am a primary supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit group that promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report news without fear of reprisals.”
Thiel was the secret financial engine behind the lawsuit by professional wrestler Terry Gene Bollea — also known as Hulk Hogan — that financially decimated the Gawker.com empire and put it out of business. Thiel was acting on a vendetta from a piece “outing” him as gay that Gawker ran when the investor was still concealing his orientation from the public at large.
The New Zealand government was persuaded by Thiel’s appeal, however, and granted him citizenship in 2011.
The idea, said Biddle, “that Thiel would act as an international steward of high-tech industry between New Zealand and Silicon Valley, is perhaps undercut by the fact that Thiel kept his citizenship secret for half a decade.”
In the Jan. 30 issue of the New Yorker, Thiel was revealed to be one of many super-wealthy “doomsday preppers” who plan to ride out a crashing world economy and social disruption by absconding to private compounds in New Zealand.