New Zealand authorities say they are unable to investigate an incident involving a US Embassy staffer based in Wellington after the US government elected to shield him by invoking diplomatic immunity.
Police said Saturday they responded to an incident in Lower Hutt near Wellington early on March 12.
They said the American had left the scene before police arrived, and nobody was taken into custody.
The day after the incident, police asked New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to seek a waiver of immunity from the US. But the ministry said the US declined that request on Friday. The ministry said in a statement that it then asked the US Embassy to remove the man from New Zealand.
A US Embassy official said Saturday the man had left New Zealand but declined to provide the man’s name or any details about the investigation. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the situation and asked to remain anonymous.
“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on the specifics of matters under investigation,” the embassy said in an earlier statement.
New Zealand’s foreign ministry said that it defines a serious crime as one that carries a prison term of a year or more.
The US Embassy in Wellington is without a permanent ambassador after Mark Gilbert, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was recalled in January by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Embassy Charge d’Affaires Candy Green has been the acting ambassador since.