Malaysian diplomat returning to NZ to face charges

McCully updates media
Malaysian diplomat Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail
Julian Myles, QC
The Malaysian High Commission in Wellington

UPDATE / July 3: Malaysian diplomat Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail will return to NZ to face charges in a matter of days, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told media late last night.

The junior Malaysian High Commission staffer is accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old Wellington woman in her home with the intention of raping her.

He was arrested on May 10 following the alleged attack in the victim's home in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn.

He left New Zealand a few days later without facing trial after Malaysia invoked diplomatic immunity – apparently in the belief that it did so with the blessing of the New Zealand Government.

Mr McCully said Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials informally sent mixed messages via phone calls and emails. That led Malaysian authorities to believe New Zealand was okay with the diplomat leaving the country.

"Earlier this evening I spoke with Minister Anifah [Malaysia Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman] and he advised me that the Malaysian authorities will be returning the official in question to New Zealand to assist with our investigation," Mr McCully said last night.

"I want to convey my thanks to the Malaysian Government for this very welcome development which underlines the good faith and integrity with which they have approached this issue."

Mr McCully said his ministery had let him down. Neither he nor Prime Minister John Key were properly briefed on the mixed messages sent to Malaysian authorities about a waiver.

Asked whether MFAT CEO John Allen had offered to resign, Mr McCully did not directly answer but said, "I'm not ruling anything in or out. I'm going to go through a good process here to try and make sure that something that's been less tidy that I would have like is made tidy."


Malaysian diplomatic 'staffer' named at centre of criminal charges

July 1: The foreign diplomat who left New Zealand after allegedly attacking a woman has been named as Malaysia's Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail.

Mr Ismail has been described by the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington as a “staff assistant.”

A court order imposed by the Wellington District Court judge suppressed the staffer's name on May 30.

An urgent hearing was conducted to overturn the suppression order today after challenges from the New Zealand media establishment.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the solicitor-general had advised the government not to name the man while the suppression ruling was in force.

Julian Miles QC told the NBR ONLINE this afternoon that there really isn’t anything a media outlet can do with such court suppression orders.

“If there is a court order, then you can’t report it, and that’s the end of it. I mean, you always can, but you may not want to spend a month inside. Not for something like this anyway.”

But he says the more interesting question is why diplomatic immunity and name suppression were linked in the first place.

“It’s one thing to be entitled to diplomatic immunity – we all understand the rationale for that. I don’t see why they should be linked at all.

“If a country chooses to insist on its diplomats having waiver from criminal charges, particularly in circumstances where it sounds like a particularly gross example of its kind  I can see no rationale for that,” Mr Miles says.

nsmith@nbr.co.nz

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