New Zealand PM orders inquiry into fake resume case

13th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Monday ordered an inquiry into how intelligence services granted high security clearance to a defence official accused of making wild claims on his resume.

Chief defence scientist Stephen Wilce quit after allegations last week that his resume falsely claimed he was an ex-Marine combat veteran and an Olympic bobsledder who raced against Jamaica's "Cool Runnings" team.

Key said he had ordered public service watchdog, the States Services Commission, to examine the case, which has left New Zealand's defence and intelligence community red-faced.

"The investigation will cover the vetting processes used by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) regarding the granting of a security clearance to Mr Wilce in 2005, and the adequacy of those processes," Key said.

He said the probe was expected to be completed by September 27.

British-born Wilce resigned amid allegations aired on TV3's "60 Minutes" last week that he padded his resume with false claims about his qualifications and past achievements.

They included being a combat veteran in Britain's Royal Marines and a member of the British bobsleigh team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics and competing against Jamaica, which inspired hit the 1993 movie "Cool Runnings".

"60 Minutes" reported that no record existed of Wilce serving in the Royal Marines or having combat experience and that no one on the 1988 British bobsleigh team had heard of him.

Previous employers and colleagues told the programme Wilce had claimed he designed guidance systems for Britain's Polaris nuclear missiles, a defunct system launched 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War.

Wilce headed 80 staff at the Defence Technology Agency for five years.

Yet the New Zealand Herald reported on the weekend that he was asked to leave a previous job at an Auckland yacht club after just a few months when members began to suspect something was amiss.

Wilce boasted during his stint at the Royal NZ Yacht Club a decade ago that he had played Test rugby for Wales against the All Blacks and was quietly asked to leave when the claim proved false, the newspaper reported.

Key said the investigation would not be limited to how Wilce was hired by a private recruitment firm.

"The bigger worry is actually that this guy had access to top level security and therefore top level information," he said.

The defence force has also launched two inquiries into Wilce, who a former colleague described as "Walter Mitty", referring to a fictional character created by US author James Thurber who lives in a fantasy world.

One of the defence inquiries will look at how Wilce was appointed, while the other will examine how he performed and what information he had access to.

© 2010 AFP

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