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An Indian national has been denied Australian citizenship after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) found he deliberately hid information about his court conviction over a pair of shoes more than eight years ago.
35-year-old Mr Patel* did not disclose his court conviction in his March 2010 permanent residency application and subsequently in his citizenship application in July 2016.
While Mr Patel was granted a permanent visa in 2015, the Immigration Department discovered his February 2010 conviction by a Sydney court on charges of Larceny and goods in personal custody suspected being stolen and refused his citizenship application on character grounds.
According to the police record produced in the AAT, Mr Patel - then an international student - took a pair of shoes from a store without paying on 11th January 2010, and was stopped near the gates of the shopping centre while “walking very fast, almost running”.
Police also found a credit card in his possession that they suspected was stolen. While Mr Patel pleaded guilty to both the charges and he paid the fine, he insisted during the AAT hearing that his offending was not premeditated and that the credit card found on him belonged to his friend who had given it to him for safekeeping.
He told the AAT that he was “very sorry and embarrassed” for not disclosing his conviction in his citizenship application, saying since the offence had taken place six years before his filling out the citizenship application, it didn’t readily come to his mind.
He also attributed it to English being his second language and not realising that he wouldn’t get an opportunity to fix any mistakes in the application later.
“My situation was one of not paying sufficient concentrated attention to what I was doing and not attending to the exact wording of everything I had to read,” he told the AAT.
However, the AAT said Mr Patel had disclosed his conviction while registering his business just two months before filling out his citizenship application and discussed this with his business partner.
Explaining the error in his permanent residency application, he told the Tribunal that a migration agent had filled out his visa application and he may have answered ‘no’ to the character question. This was just a month after his court conviction. But he couldn’t produce any evidence of hiring a migration agent to act on his behalf.
The Tribunal heard that he attached a pre-dated police clearance statement which contained no offences, which it said it was “plainly dishonest”.
'A deliberate pattern of dishonesty'
Mr Patel said he has had an “unblemished” life before and after his “inadvertent” offending that he said was “by mistake and totally out of character”.
“I was daydreaming when I was in the shoe store as I was going overseas to India in a couple of days and the thought in my mind was to buy a pair of shoes for my nephew.”
He said he “unwittingly” stepped out of the store with shoes-priced "less than $20” in his hand while making a phone call to his nephew to know his shoe size.
Mr Patel told the Tribunal he was also under pressure to complete his assignments before going to India and that contributed to the confusion in communication with the store employee.
He also told the AAT that the credit card police found on him belonged to his friend who was travelling to India. He said he was not allowed to access his phone to see his friend’s phone number and that he couldn’t give an address for his friend as he had left his previous accommodation and would move to a new place on returning to Australia.
However, the AAT found his explanation was at variance with the police records.
AAT Member C Edwardes said in a written judgment delivered last month that Mr Patel’s non-disclosure of his convictions was a deliberate “pattern of dishonesty”.
“The Tribunal finds that [Mr Patel] changes his storyline often. This is particularly in relation to the circumstances which led to his convictions,” Member Edwardes said adding that his untrue explanations were reflective of “a pattern of dishonest behaviour”.
*Only his last name.