Ionescu calls for key hit-and-run witness

BUCHAREST - A former Romanian diplomat charged with manslaughter after a deadly 2009 car crash in Singapore called on Wednesday for a key witness not yet heard in court to testify.

“The Singaporean authorities who made a national hero out of this witness and, at the beginning, accused Romanian authorities of not cooperating in the case should encourage him to testify in court", Silviu Ionescu told AFP.

Ionescu was speaking before a new hearing in his trial in Romania, which was set to resume later on Wednesday.

According to Ionescu, this witness told the police in Singapore that he tried to stop the car that caused the fatal accident in the night of December 15, 2009.

The witness said he had stopped the car after the accident, spoken to the driver and had claimed that Ionescu was at the wheel. But he has so far refused to testify in court and is not obliged to do so under Singapore law, Ionescu added.

Ionescu, who fled the country shortly after the hit-and-run accident, has repeatedly denied he was the driver and says the car was stolen.

A former Romanian charge d’affaires in the city state, he denies charges of manslaughter, causing physical injuries and making false statements.

Ionescu is alleged to have hit three pedestrians in two separate incidents along Bukit Panjang Road, while driving an Audi A6 car belonging to the Romanian mission.

Mr Tong Kok Wai, 30, an assistant manager at a hotel, suffered head injuries and fractures, and died on Dec 25, 2009. Two others were also hurt, but have since been discharged from hospital. The Audi A6 involved in the accidents was later traced to the Romanian Embassy, and found abandoned in Sungei Kadut.

Ionescu left Singapore on Dec 18 that year. He said then that he had returned home to seek treatment for health problems. Several Singapore and Malaysian witnesses have so far testified at his trial, which started in October 2010 in Bucharest.

Singapore's Special Envoy to Romania flew to the country to attend the trial, reported The Straits Times. Ambassador Anil Kumar Nayar, who is based in Brussels, is also scheduled to attend a hearing tomorrow.

In response to Ionescu's comments, an MFA spokesperson said: "We are aware of Dr Silviu Ionescu's comments to the media. Singapore respects the judicial process in Romania. As such, we have refrained from making any public statements about the case or the trial, while it is being heard in the Romanian courts.

"The Singapore authorities have also rendered all assistance permissible under our laws requested by the Romanian authorities in connection with the trial of Dr Ionescu. They will continue to do so. The outcome of the case is important to Singapore. It is in the interest of both Singapore and Romania to see that justice is served in this case."

Hit-and-run involving Romanian diplomat's car
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: BT, Internet, Shin Min Daily News, ST, TNP)

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