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
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The U.S. has promised to supply and train "acceptable" rebels in Syria to counter ISIS. But who are they and are can the strategy work?
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
updated 2:55 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT