Skip to main content

Malaysia to send back envoy to New Zealand to face sex charge

updated 6:47 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman discusses the case at a press conference in Putrajaya.
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman discusses the case at a press conference in Putrajaya.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Malaysian official who used diplomatic immunity to flee a sex charge caused outcry in New Zealand
  • New Zealand PM John Key said he wanted the man to face justice in New Zealand
  • Malaysia said Wednesday it would return the official to cooperate with New Zealand authorities
  • The 38-year-old face charges of assault with attempt to commit rape, and burglary

(CNN) -- Malaysia says it will send back to New Zealand an envoy who used diplomatic immunity to flee a sex charge there, defusing a messy wrangle between the nations.

Malaysia's government released a statement Wednesday saying it would return Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail to New Zealand "to cooperate fully and assist" authorities in their investigation into allegations against him

Ismail, 38, faces charges of burglary and assault with intent to commit rape, relating to an alleged attack in Wellington on May 9, according to officials in both countries.

Superintendent Sam Hoyle, commander of Wellington police district where the alleged offenses took place, said in a statement that Ismail would be arrested at the New Zealand border and taken to the nearest court on his return. No date had yet been set for Ismail's return, he said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully welcomed the news of Ismail's impending return, saying in a statement that it underlined the "good faith and integrity" with which Malaysia had approached the case.

Ismail was working as a defense staff assistant at Malaysia's High Commission in Wellington when he allegedly stalked a 21-year-old woman and attacked her in her home.

He was apprehended by police and appeared in court the next day, but returned to Malaysia with his family on May 22, Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The case caused an outcry when it was reported in the New Zealand media, with Prime Minister John Key telling reporters it was his country's "very strong preference" that the man face justice there, rather than in Malaysia.

But it later emerged that while at a formal level New Zealand had pressed Malaysia to waive Ismail's diplomatic immunity, Malaysian officials were under the impression after informal discussions that the New Zealand government was comfortable with him returning home to face justice, CNN affiliate TVNZ reported.

McCully apologized Wednesday for his ministry's handling of the case, TVNZ reported.

"It is now clear to me that officials engaged in informal communications over what is a complex case, in a manner that would have been ambiguous to the Malaysian government," he said in a statement. "I can say that the Malaysian side have acted entirely in good faith."

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are granted full immunity from local laws while embassy staff are immune from criminal charges but not from specific civil matters.

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign affairs said in its statement that it had "complete faith in the New Zealand legal system" and "full confidence" Ismail would be dealt with fairly.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT