NZ signs Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with China

  • Michael Cullen

New Zealand today signed a treaty with the People's Republic of China which will allow greater cooperation between the law enforcement authorities of both countries, said Attorney-General Michael Cullen.

The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters treaty was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Helen Clark and the Premier of China, Wen Jiabao, at a ceremony in Parliament.

It provides a legal framework for both countries to request and receive the assistance of the other in matters such as the taking of evidence in court, the execution of search warrants, and the recovery and forfeiture of proceeds of crime.

The treaty will not only benefit police but also customs officials who will be able to seek assistance with the investigation of offences against the Customs and Excise Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act.

This strengthens the cooperation that already exists under a non-binding arrangement with China to cooperate on customs matters.

As links with China continue to grow, the treaty will become increasingly useful in dealing with criminal matters in both countries. It also assists in ensuring that requests from New Zealand will be afforded the same level of attention as those of other countries that have mutual assistance treaties with China.

The treaty allows either country to refuse assistance in certain circumstances, for example; if assistance would be contrary to fundamental principles of either country's law, or if the request is of a political or military character.

New Zealand has concluded two similar mutual legal assistance treaties with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (Hong Kong).