Kiwi cops leave for historic China murder trial

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Two Auckland policemen leave for China in the next few days to be part of legal history, when a Chinese court tries a man for a murder committed in New Zealand.

A panel of Chinese judges in Shanghai would decide next week if Zhen Xiao murdered Auckland taxi driver Hiren Mohini in Auckland this year.

Mr Mohini was killed after picking up Zhen in inner city Auckland and driving him to suburban Mt Eden.

The trial would set a legal precedent, as never before had someone charged with murder in New Zealand been tried in another country, said Detective Senior Sergeant Hywel Jones, the officer in charge of the inquiry.

Zhen fled New Zealand to China a few days after Mr Mohini was stabbed on January 31. He was arrested in China in June.

Mr Jones and a police colleague who spoke Mandarin would be the only people from New Zealand at the trial.

Mr Mohini's family had decided not to be there and there would be no prosecution witnesses, said Mr Jones.

He said the trial could take only a day or two and if Zhen was found guilty, he would probably be sentenced a few days later.

All New Zealand prosecution evidence had been translated into Mandarin and sent to China and the trial would largely be "hand-ups" where the evidence was given in written form to the panel of judges.

He said he was unsure when the judges would study the evidence.

"They will be in possession of the evidence because we handed it over. In terms of the procedure of what they do prior to that, I don't know."

Mr Jones said Zhen would be in court with a lawyer.

New Zealand was assured if the trial was held in China, Zhen would not get the death penalty if convicted.

Mr Jones said a guilty verdict would bring a life sentence, possibly with a non-parole period of 10 to 15 years, similar to New Zealand.

He said a trial in another country was new territory for police.

"It has been quite a smooth process, considering we have not done it before."

There had been good co-operation Chinese authorities.

"I have been there, they have been back here to do their part in the investigation and everything has gone well."

Mr Jones said the language difference had not created any problems.

"Any documents that were needed for their benefit we have supplied in Mandarin as well as English. In terms of communication they have got their translators and we have got ours so there were no problems there."

Mr Jones said he was not sure if the trial would be fully translated into English for him, which was why he was taking a sworn New Zealand police officer to translate.

He said the bulk of the cost would be met by China and the cost to New Zealand would be minimal.

Legal observers told NZPA a four-week murder trial in New Zealand could cost anything from $250,000 but Mr Jones said for this trial they were looking only at the cost of sending two officers to Shanghai.

- NZPA

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