Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says he has sympathy for Hans Dalton's whānau but can't do anything for them.
The psychiatric patient was found half-submerged in a water drum his Tafa'igata prison cell in Samoa on Boxing Day 2012.
Samoan authorities refused to hand over official information to a New Zealand coronial inquiry, which couldn't determine how he died.
It's left Mr Dalton's whānau in limbo as they pursue legal action against the Samoan government over the 38-year-old's death.
Winston Peters met with Mr Dalton's whānau in September 2018, where Mr Dalton's mother, Christine Wilson, said she agreed to temporarily set aside the civil proceedings.
Her request for government intervention still stands but Mr Peters has reiterated that there is nothing the New Zealand government can do.
"I do really have serious sympathy for the family but again this is a very difficult matter for us to use the phrase 'prosecute' given it's in a different jurisdiction, totally independent from New Zealand."
Mr Peters was also asked if he was satisfied with the processes and cooperation of Samoan authorities to date.
"Well it's not for me to pass judgement on that. I'm not aware of the details or the level of their inquiry. This is an inquiry going on in Samoa, a totally separate jurisdiction from New Zealand.
He said the only assurances he had given Mr Dalton's family were to inform them of the facts he was dealing with as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Mr Dalton's family had been sufficiently assisted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"[MFAT] sought to support the family as they were going through a coronial and court process but ultimately those processes we need to leave within the domestic jurisdiction of Samoa."