Malaysian envoy due back in New Zealand on sex charge: Report

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail is accused of stalking Tanya Billingsley and attempting to rape the then 21-year-old at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia's High Commission is located. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Muhammad Rizalman Ismail is accused of stalking Tanya Billingsley and attempting to rape the then 21-year-old at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia's High Commission is located. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

WELLINGTON (AFP) - A Malaysian military attache who sparked outrage when he invoked diplomatic immunity to escape a sex charge in New Zealand will arrive in Wellington to face court on Saturday, reports said.

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail is accused of stalking Tanya Billingsley and attempting to rape the then 21-year-old at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia's High Commission is located.

The alleged attack occurred on May 9 and the police charged him with burglary and assault with intent to commit rape - both offences carry jail terms of up to 10 years - but he invoked diplomatic immunity and fled to Malaysia. The case caused an uproar in New Zealand when it became public and Malaysia subsequently promised to extradite him.

Fairfax New Zealand, citing unnamed official sources, said he would return to Wellington under police escort on Saturday morning and immediately be taken to court to face the charges.

The New Zealand police and Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the imminent arrival of the diplomat, who has reportedly been under psychiatric observation at a military hospital since returning to Malaysia on May 22.

Ms Billingsley, his alleged victim, waived the right to anonymity granted in sex cases under New Zealand law to express her frustration at how the case had been handled.

She said in a television interview in July that New Zealand officials appeared more concerned about hushing the matter up and avoiding a diplomatic incident than ensuring justice was served.