2009 Singapore Romanian diplomat incident

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The Singapore Romanian diplomat incident occurred on 15 December 2009, when three pedestrians were struck in a hit-and-run in the Singapore suburb of Bukit Panjang.[1] The vehicle, a black Audi A6 bearing diplomatic license plates, was later identified as being driven by Dr Silviu Ionescu, at the time Chargé d'Affaires ad interim of the Romanian Embassy in Singapore.[1][2] At approximately 3 am, the vehicle ran two red lights and hit the pedestrians on a pedestrian crossing, injuring two and killing one.[3][4] Approximately 40 minutes after the incident, Ionescu reported the vehicle as being stolen.[3] The car was later found abandoned in Sungei Kadut approximately 4 hours after the collisions.[1]

Singapore began an investigation into the incident.[5] Romanian authorities also commenced an investigation into the incident on 6 January 2010, and formally indicted Ionescu on charges on 2 February.[6] A Singapore coroner's inquiry held in early March 2010 determined the vehicle had not been stolen and was being driven by Ionescu at the time of the incident.[7] Ionescu, who had left Singapore three days after the incident, declined to return to Singapore for the proceedings.[7] Singapore authorities have used diplomatic law to interview Ionescu's driver, but Romania has declined several requests to extradite Ionescu himself.[7]

Ionescu was arrested by Romanian authorities in May 2010. His trial in Romania began in July 2010, and in March 2013, he was sentenced to 3 years' jail after being found guilty of manslaughter, negligent bodily injury and leaving the scene of a crash. Ionescu appealed, with the result arriving in February 2014, with the Court of Appeal upholding his conviction and doubling his sentence from 3 years to 6 years.

Incident[edit]

At approximately 3 am on 15 December 2009, Malaysians Tong Kok Wai, 30, his friend Bong Hwee How, 24, and Singaporean Muhd Haris Abu Talib, 18,[1][8] were crossing at the pedestrian crossings in Bukit Panjang. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a black Audi A6 with diplomatic license plates run through two red traffic lights before striking the three men.[9] Bong suffered severe head injuries, including post-traumatic amnesia.[1] Tong suffered the most severe of injuries. After three days in hospital, he slipped into a coma and was pronounced brain dead on 18 December 2009. He was taken off life support on 25 December.[8]

The abandoned Audi was later recovered by police in the Sungei Kadut neighbourhood. Ionescu had reported the vehicle as stolen approximately 40 minutes after the incident.[9] According to his police statement, Ionescu drove the car to his diplomatic office shortly before 3 am. Shortly thereafter, he noticed the car was missing, at which time he reported it stolen. He then asked his driver, Marius Trusca, to drive him around in search of the car. After 20 minutes of searching, he took a taxi to his private residence.[3] Police reports filed in a Singapore court differ from Ionescu's account. Police say Ionescu's driver was not working the night of the incident and was not called in to look for the vehicle until almost 9 am, rather than 3 am as reported by Ionescu.[3]

Three days after the incident, Ionescu left Singapore to return to Romania.

Actions by Singaporean agencies[edit]

On 6 January 2010, the Romanian prosecutor's office opened a criminal investigation and officially requested information about the case from Singaporean authorities.[6]

On 28 January 2010, Singapore police revealed they had evidence that Ionescu was the driver in the hit-and-run. His presence, as well as that of his Romanian driver, was requested for the coroner's inquest into Tong's death.[10] Singapore completed a coroner's inquiry into the events on 31 March 2010. Based on the witnesses (one of whom identified Ionescu as the driver at the time of the incident) and evidence presented by police in the coroner's inquiry, it was concluded that Ionescu was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the incident.[11][12]

In response to the allegations, Ionescu said, "Honestly, I don't believe in the court of Singapore".[13]

Actions by Romanian agencies[edit]

The Romanian Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from Ionescu since he was excused from his diplomatic position, saying his statements carry the weight of any common citizen.[2][14]

The Romanian government has taken action against Ionescu.[15] He was recalled from his post in Singapore with effect from 5 January 2010 and the case had been referred to the Romanian Prosecutor's Office. The Romanian Foreign Ministry also suspended Ionescu from his duties following the Romanian Prosecutor's Office's starting a criminal investigation regarding the incident.[7]

Since the coroner's inquiry, a "joint technical committee" was established between Singapore and Romania, which intends to pursue legal action against Ionescu.[14] Pending such action, Singapore has filed 13 charges[16] against Ionescu and as well as issued an arrest warrant against him. The Romanian government seized a property in Bucharest belonging to Ionescu on 3 February 2010 with the aim of "satisfying the claims of the civil parties."[17] Meanwhile, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for Ionescu in April 2012.[11]

Public response[edit]

The fact that Ionescu could not be brought back to Singapore for trial due to diplomatic immunity and the absence of an extradition treaty between Singapore and Romania has triggered much public outrage in Singapore.[18]

There was also outcry in Malaysia as the deceased was a Malaysian who was working in Singapore. The family of the deceased sought help from the Malaysian government, but were turned down as it was considered an internal matter between Singapore and Romania.[9]

Romanian arrest and sentencing[edit]

Ionescu was arrested by Romanian authorities in May 2010.[19] On 1 July 2010, the Romanian State Prosecutor charged Ionescu with culpable homicide, grievous bodily harm with intent, deserting the place of an accident and providing false evidence to the police.[20] On 27 March 2013, a Bucharest district court found Ionescu guilty of manslaughter, negligent bodily injury and leaving the scene of an accident, so he was sentenced to 3 years' jail.[21][22]

Ionescu's appeal kept him out of jail and led to the case being brought to the Bucharest's Court of Appeal, with Ionescu twice filing for postponements.[23][24] On 13 February 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and doubled his sentence from 3 years to 6 years, after taking into account the State Prosecution Service's arguments that Ionescu showed no remorse for a grave crime which he continued to deny despite the weight of the evidence against him, and that he had deformed Romanian's international reputation. In response, the Singapore government welcomed the decision.[24]

Death of Ionescu[edit]

On 9 December 2014, Ionescu died in a Bucharest jail hospital due to cardiorespiratory problems. It was less than a year after his final sentencing.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Chong, Elena (4 March 2010). "Survivor can't recall". The Straits Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Sujin (26 February 2010). "Ionescu not likely to return". The Straits Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Ionescu drove hit-and-run Audi, say police". Asiaone.com. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Chong, Elena (28 January 2010). "Envoy was driver". The Straits Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  5. ^ "Online petition for hit-and-run accident". Asiaone. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Singapore | Timeline of events". TODAYonline. 6 January 2010. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d http://app.mfa.gov.sg/internet/press/view_press.asp?post_id=5810
  8. ^ a b "Sent off in his wedding best". Asiaone.com. 27 December 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c "A grave injustice". The Star. Malaysia. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "Let Romania deal with diplomat". Asiaone.com. 23 February 2010. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "Sentencing of former Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu: A timeline of the case". Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "Ionescu drove hit-and-run Audi, say police". AsiaOne News. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "7 stories that changed Singapore in 2010". CNN. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Channel NewsAsia – Romania is determined not to let Ionescu's case affect bilateral ties with S'pore". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Ambasadorul Aurelian Neagu a fost in audienta la Ministerul Afacerilor Externe din Singapore – Esential". HotNews.ro. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "AGC levels 13 charges against Ionescu". TODAYonline. 2 April 2010. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  17. ^ Ong Dai Lin (14 April 2010). "Romania seizes one of Silviu Ionescu's properties in Bucharest". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  18. ^ Chin, Goh (3 January 2010). "Online petition". The Straits Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  19. ^ "Romanian diplomat to be tried over Singapore road death in Romania". AsiaOne News. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "Singapore hit-and-run case: Ionescu found guilty, given 3 years' jail". The Straits Times. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "3-year prison sentence for ex-Romanian diplomat". Associated Press. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "Singapore welcomes verdict on Ionescu case: MFA". AsiaOne News. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  23. ^ "Ex-Romanian diplomat Ionescu gets second postponement to jail appeal". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "Heavier jail term for Romania ex-diplomat Ionescu for deadly accident in Singapore". Agence France Presse. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "Former Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu, convicted for Singapore hit-and-run accident, dies". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 

Coordinates: 1°22′35.1″N 103°46′23.8″E / 1.376417°N 103.773278°E / 1.376417; 103.773278