Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Singapore stirred by Romanian diplomat hit-and-run case

When foreign embassy officials break the law in their host country, diplomatic immunity ensures that they hardly ever face charges for their crimes. This protection is an essential one for the conduct of diplomacy.

But it invariably irks the local population, especially if the crime in question is particularly egregious.

So it is little wonder that many Singaporeans are angry that the police allowed Silviu Ionescu, the Romanian charge d'affaires, to leave Singapore after a fatal hit-and-run incident involving his official car.

Ionescu claimed that his car had been stolen when the incident took place, at 3.10am on December 15.

However the Singapore police have concluded that he was in fact behind the wheel when his Audi A6 hit two men who were crossing the road, one of whom later died of his injuries. Rather than stop to help, Singapore prosecutors allege that Ionescu then sped off, hitting another man, before reporting his car stolen 30 minutes later.

Three days after the incident, Ionescu left Singapore, claiming that he was seeking medical treatment abroad. Some Singaporeans are unhappy with the police and foreign ministry for failing to stop him leaving. But, diplomatic conventions mean there was little they could do without the express permission of the Romanian government.

Most Singaporeans understand the concept of diplomatic immunity but the Ionescu case has tapped into a deeper bed of resentment about the way justice is meted out in Singapore.

There is a widespread perception that the authorities are soft on well-off Western expats who break the law while cracking the whip when it comes to your average Singaporean.

As I've mentioned before, there are few countries in the world where the scales of justice are not, for one reason or another, loaded in favour of the rich.

But in Singapore, there is a feeling that the government panders to Western expats in particular (even when they're not that wealthy) because of some sort of inferiority complex.

Singaporeans are routinely jailed for petty thefts or camping without a permit. Meanwhile, the likes of Alexander Montefiore, a 28-year-old British stockbroker who admitted to two counts of stealing S$2,000 and forging an employment letter, escape with just a fine.


  1. hate it wen foreign journalists write like as though they noe sporeans so well -"sporeans feeling tt govt panders to western expats". BS. perhaps its wat expats like to think

  2. I'm a Singaporean and I do feel that the Singaporean gov is soft on foreigners. I thought the article was well written and reflected how things are in Singapore. Seriously if it was a Singaporean who did what the romanian diplomat did, he/she would have been in REAL trouble. But hey, if you're a foreigner, you can just knock down a few people and just claim ignorance...and the Singaporean gov takes that?

  3. No. The Romanian was a diplomat and diplomats are entitled, flawed or not, to diplomatic immunity. Same thing would have happened if the diplomat was Japanese, Malaysian or Thai. However, if this had been done by a foreigner who would be arrested, passport confiscated, and left to fend for himself with no family support. All friends would drop him as he is no longer in working circles. Get your facts straight before spouting out one's petty jealousies.