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NZ-US agreement to combat cross-border crime

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

18 March 2014

NZ-US agreement to combat cross-border crime

A new information sharing agreement to bolster New Zealand’s efforts to tackle international crime is one step closer.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Agreement on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Crime between New Zealand and the United States will allow law enforcement, immigration and border authorities to share information – to the extent permitted by each country’s laws – to prevent, detect and investigate crimes with a penalty of a year or more in prison.

The Government tabled its response to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee’s report on the Agreement in Parliament today.

“Long-standing cooperation between our two nations has been vital in enhancing our security, and protecting New Zealanders from transnational crimes, which can range from drug smuggling to online child sexual abuse,” Ms Collins says.

“This agreement recognises that information sharing is essential in the fight against cross-border crime. It will allow authorities to check whether fingerprints related to a specific case are also held by their overseas counterparts. If there is a match, they can share information about whose fingerprints they are –if there’s no match, no information will be shared.”

Information sharing under the agreement formalises existing cooperation through INTERPOL and under mutual assistance legislation between New Zealand and the United States.

In line with the select committee’s one recommendation, the Government will publicly report how often New Zealand authorities and their US counterparts share information under the agreement.

“This additional layer of transparency supports the privacy and data security protection measures which already feature in the agreement,” Ms Collins says.

“Police will detail the number of times information is shared under the Agreement in their Annual Report, which is tabled in the House. This is an efficient and effective way to inform interested parties, including Parliament and the public, about how often the Agreement is being used.”

New Zealand is one of 36 countries to sign such agreements with the United States, as part of the US’s visa waiver programme. Nearly 130,000 New Zealand residents travelled to the US in the year to July 2013.

Legislative changes will be required to incorporate the treaty obligations into domestic law. These provisions will be included in the Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill, which is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year.

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