Romania has started criminal action: Yeo
by Esther Ng
05:55 AM May 19, 2010
SINGAPORE - The wheels of justice in the prosecution of former Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu are grinding forward, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said in Parliament yesterday.
On May 7, the Romanian prosecutor's office announced that it had initiated the "next phase in criminal proceedings" against Dr Ionescu.
"We understand that this phase, known in Romanian law as criminal action, means that the prosecutor has sufficient basis to link Dr Ionescu to the offences being investigated. Dr Ionescu has been formally identified as a defendant," said Mr Yeo.
In addition, the prosecutor has placed Dr Ionescu under arrest and has obtained a court order to have Dr Ionescu remanded for an initial period of 29 days.
"Dr Ionescu's appeal against this has been dismissed and the 29-day detention remains enforced. We understand that it's possible for the prosecutor to seek an extension when the 29 days are up," said Mr Yeo.
"It would be wrong to conclude that there's no progress in the prosecution of former Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu."
Mr Yeo was responding to questions from Members of Parliament Michael Palmer and Irene Ng.
To understand Romania's legal system better, Singapore's special envoy and officials from the Attorney-General's Chambers will be visiting Romania.
However, Mr Yeo stressed that the appointment of Singapore's special envoy to visit Bucharest is "not a substitute" for a visit to Singapore by the Romanian team in the Joint Technical Working Group.
Noting that Romania has yet to send its legal experts to Singapore to review the evidence, Ms Ng wondered whether the Romanian authorities did not see this as a "necessity" and lacked "urgency".
Mr Yeo told the House that the Romanian authorities had to get clearance "on their side" before they could send their legal team to Singapore and that they had processes to follow.
By this week, however, the Singapore party will be in Romania, he said. "Whether that constitutes a first meeting of the technical committee remains to be seen, but (Romania) has been very helpful in facilitating this visit," Mr Yeo said.
The case against Dr Ionescu is "strictly" a bilateral matter between the Republic and Romania, but as Romania is a member state of the European Union, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has "periodically" been updating the EU Ambassador to Singapore - the Spanish ambassador to Singapore due to Spain's EU presidency - on developments of the case.
"If justice is not done and seen to be done, bilateral relations are bound to be affected. We have the usual range of diplomatic options at our disposal, but it would not be appropriate at this stage for me to discuss them in detail," said Mr Yeo.