People Want to Know How Peter Thiel Became a Citizen of New Zealand

January 25, 2017, 7:16 AM UTC
Peter Thiel, PayPal founder-turned-venture-capitalist, discusses his support for Donald Trump at the National Press Club in Washington, Oct. 31, 2016.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers in New Zealand are demanding to know how Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire and Donald Trump donor, obtained citizenship in New Zealand—a fact uncovered through documents of a property purchase made under his name.

The New Zealand Herald first broke the news that the PayPal (PYPL) founder and Facebook (FB) investor had acquired citizenship, after discovering that a company wholly owned by Thiel had bought a farm on what’s considered “sensitive land” under New Zealand law.

Foreign buyers are usually required to get special government permission before purchasing such property, but a government official told the Herald that this particular deal “did not need consent as [Thiel] has New Zealand citizenship.

A member of the country’s opposition Labour Party has since lodged a parliamentary question, asking the government to explain the circumstances under which Thiel obtained his status, reports the Herald.

“I can’t imagine someone of Thiel’s stature and wealth and not being noticed for five years, it just doesn’t seem very likely,” the party’s immigration spokesperson Ian Less-Galloway was quoted as saying. Apart from “exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian and other nature,” people are usually required to have lived in New Zealand for the majority of five-years before citizenship can be granted.

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The Herald reports that Thiel has invested in a number of New Zealand tech startups, including accounting software company Xero and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

The revelations about Thiel’s New Zealand links come days after a New Yorker article named the country as one of the places where rich Americans increasingly look to as a refuge from hypothetical doomsday scenarios in the U.S. Thiel was named as a client of a local real-estate agent catering to the super-rich in that report, though Thiel became a New Zealand citizen in 2011.

The property in question, a 477-acre (193-hectare) lakefront estate in Wanaka on the South Island, is valued at $5.6 million, according to the Herald. Thiel had already made acquisitions in the country prior to this, including a mansion in the city of Queenstown.