Chapter 14
The Central Authority


14.1The gatekeeping function of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 (MACMA) is carried out by the Central Authority. This mechanism was imported directly from the Harare Scheme. At that time, it was seen as being fundamental to the efficient working of mutual assistance arrangements. As one commentator observed, an essential prerequisite of a working mutual assistance system is a central authority that “devotes as many resources as possible to learning the laws and systems of at least the major countries from which assistance is likely to be sought”.600 In recent decades, a central authority has been advocated as best practice in all forms of international mutual assistance in criminal matters.601
14.2The Commonwealth Model Legislation on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters provides:602

The [Attorney-General/appropriate body] shall be designated as the Central Authority for [enacting country], and references in this Act to the Central Authority are to the [Attorney-General/appropriate body] acting in that capacity.

Like most Commonwealth countries, New Zealand appointed the Attorney-General as its Central Authority. Section 8 of MACMA provides that every request made by New Zealand under the Act is to be “made by the Attorney-General”, and section 25 provides that every request by a foreign country under the Act is to be “made to the Attorney-General”.603

14.3This chapter first looks at the gatekeeping role of the Central Authority. We then consider whether the Attorney-General is best suited to this position. The appropriateness of having a Central Authority to transmit MACMA requests is not in question.

14.4In Part 1 of this issues paper, we have suggested there should be a Central Authority that is formally charged with the oversight of extradition in New Zealand. We discussed whether the Central Authority should be the Solicitor-General or the Attorney-General, to further emphasise that decisions as to how an extradition proceeds are not to be political ones. We recognise there may be different considerations in relation to mutual assistance, for example, stronger international relations aspects. However, on balance, if the Solicitor-General is given formal responsibility for the progress of extradition proceedings, in our view, the Solicitor-General should also have formal responsibility for MACMA requests.

600Dianne Stafford “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters: The Australian experience” (1991) 17 CLB 1384 at 1390.
601The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols Thereto 2225 UNTS 209 (opened for signature 12 December 2000, entered into force 28 September 2003) requires parties to designate a central authority for the purposes of mutual legal assistance (art 18(13)). The Model Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters GA Res 45/117, A/Res/45/117 (1990), subsequently amended by GA Res 53/112, A/RES/53/112 (1999) [UN Model Treaty], includes art 3, which requires each state party to designate a central authority or authorities. Also see Asian Development Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Mutual Legal Assistance, Extradition and Recovery of Proceeds of Corruption in Asia and the Pacific (2007) at 64; and Financial Action Task Force International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation (February 2013) at recommendations 37(b) and 27, providing that countries should use a central authority or another established official mechanism, for effective transmission and execution of requests.
602Commonwealth Model Legislation on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (2014), cl 6.
603Or “to a person authorised by the Attorney-General, in writing, to receive requests by foreign countries”. Where the latter occurs, and a request by a foreign country is made to a person authorised by the Attorney-General in writing, the request is taken to have been “made to the Attorney-General”: Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992, s 25(2).