New Zealand says U.S. invokes immunity for embassy staffer

WELLINGTON, New Zealand —

New Zealand authorities say they’re unable to investigate an incident involving a U.S. Embassy staffer based in Wellington after the U.S. government elected to shield him by invoking diplomatic immunity.

Police said Saturday they responded to an incident in Lower Hutt near Wellington early on March 12. They said the American had left the scene before police arrived, and nobody was taken into custody. In their statement, police declined to release further details of the incident but said they’re keeping the investigation open.

The day after the incident, police asked New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to seek a waiver of immunity from the U.S. so police could investigate, according to the ministry. But the ministry said the U.S. declined that request on Friday.

The ministry said in a statement that it then asked the U.S. Embassy to remove the man from New Zealand.

A U.S. Embassy official said Saturday the man had left New Zealand but declined to provide the man’s name or any details about the investigation. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the situation and asked to remain anonymous.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on the specifics of matters under investigation,” the embassy said in an earlier statement. “We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of U.S. government personnel.”

New Zealand’s foreign ministry said that it makes it “clear with all diplomatic missions in New Zealand that it expects foreign diplomats to abide by New Zealand law, and to waive immunity should MFAT request it if there are allegations of serious crimes.”

The ministry said that for the purposes of its policy, it defines a serious crime as one that carries a prison term of a year or more.

The U.S. Embassy in Wellington is without a permanent ambassador after Mark Gilbert, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was recalled in January by the administration of President Donald Trump. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Candy Green has been the acting ambassador since.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 1

    WA4TKG

    So, it says "Incident". Not "Accident" as in car...so, what did he DO ? *(there must be someone on here down in NZ, that knows).

  • 2

    Haaa Nemui

    An article I read started something about facial injuries so I'm guessing it was a punch up. Lower Hutt is full of the types needed for that.

  • 3

    The Womp

    What a horribly written article.

  • 0

    Ron Barnes

    Well he was a Yank just face it that Americans Spy everywhere including Japan one never Knows what he was up to at the time

  • 1

    geronimo2006

    Must've been something very embarrassing and / or serious enough for the US to do this and decline interviews. Rumours will be rife. Let's begin. Take your best pick ... a) nasty drunken punchup resulting in a death or very serious injury of a local b) crime of passion with local resulting in a death c) caught wiretapping phone calls d) something weird involving a sheep

  • 1

    Haaa Nemui

    Here's some info on this... of course not everything is known but he is named... probably won't do his career any favours.

    http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/90586641/us-diplomat-wanted-by-police-for-questioning-has-left-new-zealand

  • 0

    theFu

    Terribly written AP story. "someone" did "something" near "somewhere."

    We don't know who, what, where, or how. Why was this story approved? A child reporter would know to answer those questions.

    No other stories have been published to provide a different viewpoint that I could find.

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    I learned a new word from that Kiwi report: 'stoush.' Sounds like the American, in the parlance of antipodean newsreaders, 'got bashed' good and proper.

  • 0

    arrestpaul

    Geronimo - Must've been something very embarrassing and / or serious enough for the US to do this and decline interviews. Rumours will be rife. Let's begin. Take your best pick ... a) nasty drunken punchup resulting in a death or very serious injury of a local b) crime of passion with local resulting in a death c) caught wiretapping phone calls d) something weird involving a sheep

    Is this how fake news starts? "Death"? "Very serious injury"? "Sheep"?

    New Zealand authorities say they’re unable to investigate an incident involving a U.S. Embassy staffer based in Wellington after the U.S. government elected to shield him by invoking diplomatic immunity.

    NZ police can still conduct an investigation. One witness is not available for questioning.

    They said the American had left the scene before police arrived, and nobody was taken into custody. In their statement, police declined to release further details of the incident but said they’re keeping the investigation open.

    Did anyone else leave the scene before the police finally arrived? I've heard that people have been known to do that. Did witnesses scatter like rats leaving a sinking ship? Did the reporter, Nick Perry, care about anyone other than "the American"?

  • 1

    Gerard Michael Sugrue

    NewZealand is home to Chinese, Japanese, middle eastern take your pick. NweZealand could be the Casablanca of the south pacific? The plot thickens

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