Ionescu used embassy car in private capacity: MFA

CNA
15 April 2010

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said it is clear from the findings of the Coroner’s Inquiry that the acts for which Dr. Ionescu has been charged were not pursuant to his official functions.

Dr. Ionescu was using his embassy car in his private capacity and for his private purposes.

As such, with effect from Dr. Ionescu’s recall, he no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity for the acts in question.

The spokesman added that as Dr. Ionescu was recalled by his government on January 5 this year and is no longer serving as a diplomat in Singapore, his immunity for acts performed outside of his function as a diplomat would have lapsed as provided for by Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The spokesman also explained that as a result, there was no need for a waiver of diplomatic immunity by Romania and no need for Singapore to seek waiver.

The spokesman also referred to the Romanian Ambassador to Singapore Aurelian Neagu’s comments to Singapore’s Foreign Ministry during a meeting on February 11 that the events of December 15 last year were “the responsibility of Ionescu as a person and not a Romanian diplomat”.

The Coroner had ruled that Dr. Ionescu, Romania’s former Charge d’Affaires was the driver of the car that hit three pedestrians on December 15.

Singapore has issued a warrant of arrest against the former Romanian Charge d’Affaires Dr. Silviu Ionescu, and Interpol has issued a Red Notice against him.

The red notice allows the warrant to be circulated worldwide for the wanted person to be arrested with a view to extradition.

The Romanian Justice Ministry had on April 9 issued a press statement suggesting that Romania is unable to arrest Dr. Ionescu and extradict him as he enjoys diplomatic immunity, which Romania has not waived and Singapore has not sought such waiver.

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said that the Romanian government’s position was that it could not compel Dr. Ionescu to return to Singapore not because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity, but because there is no Extradition Treaty between Singapore and Romania.

The spokesman added that Singapore has taken the Romanian government at its word that it cannot compel Dr. Ionescu to return to Singapore.

That is why Singapore has asked the Romanian government to do what it can to persuade (and not arrest or compel) Dr. Ionescu that it is in his own interest and in Romania’s interest, to return to Singapore to stand trial.

The Romanian Ambassador had informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the relevant Romanian officials were prepared to visit Singapore at any time to begin its work with the Joint Technical Working Group.

Singapore is waiting for the Romanian government to propose dates for the visit.

Singapore will facilitate the visit of these Romanian officials, and assist them to gather the necessary evidence.

Such evidence will, amongst other things, show that Dr. Ionescu was acting in his private capacity and for his private purposes when the accidents took place.

On April 12, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had forwarded a copy of the official records of the Coroner’s Inquiry pursuant to the request for mutual legal assistance by the Romanian Ministry of Justice to the Romanian Embassy in Singapore.

These materials contain all the evidence heard by the Coroner’s Inquiry.

The MFA spokesman added that the Romanian government has consistently assured Singapore, most recently through its Ambassador on April 9 and later that same day by the Secretary of State (Permanent Secretary) of the Romanian Foreign Ministry himself, that the Romanian government is committed to seeing that justice is served.

Based on these assurances, Singapore understands the obligations of the Romanian government to be:

Firstly, to do all it can to persuade Dr. Ionescu to stand trial in Singapore;

Secondly, if it is not possible to persuade Dr. Ionescu to return to Singapore to stand trial, to investigate and prosecute Dr. Ionescu under Romanian law, as the Romanian authorities have repeatedly said they will do.

When asked by the media on Dr. Silviu Ionescu’s latest interview with Libertatea, the MFA Spokesman said: “We cannot take the wild babblings of a desperate man too cowardly to face up to his own responsibilities seriously.

“As you are aware, we have informed the Romanian authorities that they have an obligation to ensure that Dr. Ionescu, who has only been suspended but not dismissed from the Romanian Foreign Ministry, refrains from making outrageous and inappropriate statements and that it is in their own interest that they do so.

“The Romanian Foreign Ministry has told us that Dr. Ionescu, as a Romanian citizen, has the right to say what he pleases and that they cannot stop him. We have to respect this position. And the Romanian government has quite properly disassociated itself from his comments.

“Dr. Ionescu is not hurting Singapore. If you follow what Romanian netizens are saying, it is clear that even his own compatriots do not believe him. He is only hurting himself and embarrassing his own government and all Romanians.

“In his latest comments, Dr. Ionescu has now dragged in Moldova, a neighbour of Romania, in a less than flattering way. In some of his previous comments, he has even mentioned the EU.”

On Dr. Ionescu’s comment that he would be hanged if he returned to Singapore, the MFA Spokesman said: “This is a complete red herring. None of the charges against Dr. Ionescu is a capital offence.”

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