News24

Chinese man sorry for killing NZ driver

2011-08-02 09:07

Shanghai - A Chinese man admitted in court on Tuesday to killing a New Zealand taxi driver, saying he was sorry and asking for a lenient sentence.
Xiao Zhen, aged 24, was arrested last year in China for the alleged murder of Auckland taxi driver Hiren Mohini, aged 39, in January 2010.

The case marks the first time a person accused of a murder in New Zealand has been tried in another country. China and New Zealand do not have an extradition treaty.

Xiao admitted in Shanghai's Second Intermediate court that he fled New Zealand shortly after the incident and that he told family and friends in China he had come back to visit relatives.

New Zealand policeman Hywel Jones and a representative from the New Zealand Embassy sat in court but did not speak.

In court, Xiao expressed remorse over the killing, which he said was in self-defence when an argument escalated after Xiao refused to pay Mohini adequate cab fare. Still, he acknowledged that it was an inappropriate response.

Letter of apology

"I did not mean to kill the driver. I am sorry for what I did. I am guilty," said Xiao, wearing a neatly pressed white cotton shirt and black pants. "Please forgive me ... I am still young, have no previous criminal record and am the only child in the family. I was scared of the result so I did not surrender. Please consider these reasons for giving me a lenient sentence."

Outside the court, Xiao's relatives said they sent a letter of apology to Mohini's family, but did not receive a reply.

"We wrote a letter to the victim's family," said Xiao's aunt, Li Liping. "There's a Chinese saying that if the son breaks the law, it is the father's fault. No one has the right to take someone else's life. We are deeply remorseful."

But Chinese prosecutors said Xiao purposely meant to hurt Mohini.

"Although Xiao Zhen's act of violence was not premeditated, he meant to hurt the driver," said state prosecutor Feng Zhiyu. "What he did is a serious crime and the sentence should be more than 10 years to life in prison."

Prosecutors said a lighter sentence would be considered if the victim's family forgives Xiao.

It is unclear how long the trial will last. Media reports in New Zealand said the government had been promised Xiao would not face the death penalty if convicted.