American diplomat expelled from New Zealand amid police inquiry

Ruth Sherlock
This undated handout file photo shows Awaroa beach at Awaroa inlet, an 800-metre (2,600-foot) stretch of golden sand adjoining the Abel Tasman National Park at the top of New Zealand's South Island. -  STR /AFP PHOTO / BAYLEYS REAL ESTATE / STR 

An American diplomat has been expelled from New Zealand over allegations that he was involved in a serious criminal incident that saw him sustain a black eye and broken nose.

The man - who has not been named - was asked to leave the country after the US embassy refused to waive his diplomatic immunity so that he could be questioned by police.

Police said they responded to an incident close to Wellington in the early hours of 12th March but declined to release further details, except that the American had left the scene by the time they had arrived.

The following day New Zealand's ministry of foreign affairs sought, on behalf of law enforcement, a waiver of his diplomatic immunity.

The foreign ministry said it makes clear that it expected all "foreign diplomats to abide by New Zealand law" and that they should suspend immunity should law enforcement request it in relation to allegations of serious crimes.

The foreign ministry defines a serious crime as one that carries a prison term of a year or more.

When the embassy refused, the diplomat was expelled.  A US embassy official said Saturday the man had left New Zealand.

TVNZ, a New Zealand news outlet said the diplomat received a broken nose and a black eye.

The US embassy in Wellington, which is currently without a permanent ambassador after former president Barack Obama's appointee was recalled by Donald Trump's administration in January, said it did not comment on the specifics of matters under investigation.

“We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of US government personnel," the embassy said in a statement.


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