18 Mar 2017

Bruised US diplomat leaves New Zealand

9:24 pm on 18 March 2017

The man at the centre of a diplomatic row has left the country.

US embassy in Thorndon

Photo: Screenshot / Google Maps

The United States Embassy refused to lift diplomatic immunity for one of its staff who was involved in an incident in Lower Hutt in the early hours of last Sunday.

The man is reported to have left a Tirohanga house in the early hours of last Sunday with a broken nose and black eye. Police arrived after he left. Officers had been unable to speak to him because diplomatic immunity was invoked.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade asked the US to waive immunity on Monday, but the US refused.

MFAT asked that the man be removed from New Zealand.

A source at the American Embassy confirmed today that he had left.

Foreign diplomats in New Zealand are normally immune from criminal prosecution, under reciprocal international arrangements.

MFAT said it expected foreign diplomats to abide by New Zealand law - and for foreign embassies to waive immunity on request if there were allegations of serious crimes.

A serious crime was one where the penalty was a term of imprisonment of a year or more.

The ministry could not "compel" other states to waive immunity, it said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said he was satisfied with how his ministry handled the incident.

In a statement, Mr McCully said both ministry officials and New Zealand's ambassador to the United States, Tim Groser, told the US that foreign diplomats were expected to obey New Zealand law and face justice here.

Mr McCully said the US had assured the government it will fully investigate the allegations.

Police said they were still investigating.