New Zealand has cancelled a visa for former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson because of his 1992 rape conviction. The decision came after Prime Minister John key and a children's charity opposed Tyson's planned visit to the country.
Tyson was convicted of the rape of Indiana beauty queen Desiree Washington, in an Indianapolis hotel room in 1992. His conviction, under New Zealand regulations, prevents him from visiting the country. According to The Associated Press, he was scheduled to speak in November at an event in Auckland, the "Day of the Champions," promoted by a Sydney agency called Markson Sparks.
New Zealand's Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson, said Wednesday that the decision to cancel the visa was also influenced by the decision of a children's charity, the Life Educational Trust, that would have benefited from his visit, but said that it did not want to be associated with Tyson because of concerns over his character. NBC News reports Wilkinson said: "Given that the trust is no longer supporting the event, on balance, I have made the decision to cancel his visa.”
Even though the charity has withdrawn its support from the "Day of the Champions" event, the agency promoting it, Markson Sparks, continued to sell tickets for Tyson's appearances in New Zealand's five major cities.
The chief executive of the charity, John O'Connell, said the initial support they gave by sending a letter to immigration was a mistake. AP reports that visitors to New Zealand are required to pass a character test. Would-be visitors with a "substantial criminal record," and those who have been more than a year in prison are disqualified under the regulations. Tyson served three years in prison for the rape conviction before being released on parole.
Promoter Max Markson says the agency will continue to sell tickets and will give refund if Tyson is unable to appear at the event. He said the company would find another charity and expressed confidence that Australia would grant Tyson visa and that New Zealand would reverse its decision. He said that Tyson would "only be in the country for 20 hours, I don't think he's a danger to anybody, and thousands of people want to see him."
NBC News reports Markson told New Zealand television channel TV ONE that Tyson was "disappointed." He said: "He is quite down about it... He's clean, he's sober, he's a vegan, he's coming with his wife, his two children under four and his mother-in-law, he can't possibly do anything wrong in 20 hours... And in addition to that he is very much giving a social and economic benefit to the New Zealand economy."
The Associated Press reports Tyson had said he was looking forward to meeting the aboriginal people of New Zealand, the Maori, whose traditional body art he claims inspired his elaborate facial tattoo.
A spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship said, "I can tell you that a decision (on Tyson's application) is still pending."