US to share NZ fingerprint info

Last updated 14:11 18/03/2014

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Information on fingerprints will now be shared with United States authorities under a new agreement aimed at fighting cross-border crime.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has formalised the agreement, which builds on the co-operation New Zealand already provides through Interpol, as well as mutual assistance legislation between New Zealand and the US.

"Long-standing co-operation 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," Collins said.

"This agreement recognises that information sharing is essential in the fight against cross-border crime."

The agreement will allow 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.

Under the agreement, authorities will be allowed 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.

The foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee recommended the Government publicly report how often New Zealand authorities and their US counterparts shared information under the agreement.

Collins confirmed this would happen.

New Zealand is one of 36 countries to sign such agreements with the United States, as part of the US' 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.

Those 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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