New Zealand lawmaker quits party over dead baby identify theft scam

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand politician resigned from his party Friday after admitting he stole a dead baby's identity to obtain a false passport 26 years ago.

David Garrett, a lawmaker with the minor Act Party, made the surprise admission in Parliament this week, calling the identity theft a "harmless prank" when he was in his mid-20s.

Garrett, now 52 and Act's spokesman on law-and-order issues, said he picked the idea up from the best-selling novel "Day of the Jackal."

He told Parliament he stole a dead baby's identity in 1984 using details he found on a cemetery tombstone. Police arrested him in 2005 after uncovering the fraud while investigating a similar action by two Israeli secret service agents who stole another dead New Zealand baby's identity for a passport.

Garrett was released without conviction at the time, and the details were not released until now. Garrett made his statement to Parliament after details of the case were leaked to the media.

Garrett said he never used the false passport and eventually destroyed it.

He also admitted to an assault conviction in the South Pacific nation of Tonga in 2002 after details of that case were also leaked. "As a result of my own actions, my political career is almost certainly over," Garrett told New Zealand's National Radio.

He said he quit the Act Party, which had five members of Parliament, and was considering resigning from Parliament, too.

Act Party leader Rodney Hide on Wednesday said Garrett's actions in obtaining the false passport were "outrageous," but the lawmaker deserved to stay on as the crime was committed decades ago and he had since turned his life around.