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September 18, 2020

Singapore FM warns against bilateral tension build-up over Ionescu case

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said on Tuesday that the Romanian government is aware that bilateral ties with Singapore might be affected if “justice isn’t served” in the case of former diplomat Silviu Ionescu, charged with manslaughter in a hit-and-run, Mediafax reported, quoting ‘Straits Times’ online.

Ionescu, currently held in custody in Romania, is accused of having killed a person and injuring two others in two separate road accidents in December last year in Singapore, while he was acting as charge d’affaires in the country. Ionescu denied the allegations, first claiming that the car involved in the accidents, an Audi owned by the Romanian embassy, had been stolen. But Singapore inquiries, based on eyewitness accounts, concluded that Ionescu was in fact at the wheel when the accidents occurred.

In a speech to the Singapore Parliament, Yeo gave assurances that both countries are taking steps to ensure that justice is served on suspended diplomat Ionescu.

Romania’s criminal proceedings against Ionescu entered a new stage earlier this month, when the former charge d’affaires was put under arrest for a period of 29 days. “We understand that this phase, known in Romanian law as ‘criminal action’, means that the Prosecutor has sufficient basis to link Ionescu to the offences being investigated,” said Yeo. An extension can be sought by the Romanian prosecutors when the 29 days are up, he added. Meanwhile, Singapore is sending a special envoy and officials from the Attorney-General’s Chambers to Romania this week to understand the Romanian system better and render assistance to the government.

Yeo also took questions from two Singapore MPs, Irene Ng and Michael Palmer. Palmer had asked if the Foreign Affairs Ministry would consider severing diplomatic ties in Romania given a lack of progress in Ionescu’s prosecution. Ng too had asked if stern measures could be taken against Romania to register Singapore’s strong protest over how the case was handled in Bucharest.

Assuring Parliament that the ‘wheels of justice are grinding forward’, Yeo said: “As I have said before, although we are all impatient to see justice done, now that the Romanian authorities have initiated criminal action against Ionescu, we must allow them reasonable time to go through their own legal processes.” He added that the Romanian government is aware that bilateral ties would be affected if justice is not done or seen to be done.

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