Appeals court doubles Ionescu's sentence

Madam Yenny Young, who had been married to Mr Tong Kok Wai for just three weeks when he died, has moved on after the 2009 tragedy. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF YENNY YOUNG
Madam Yenny Young, who had been married to Mr Tong Kok Wai for just three weeks when he died, has moved on after the 2009 tragedy. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF YENNY YOUNG
Mr Haris, 22, had to give up rowing because of his injuries, but he picked up a new hobby - street photography. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MUHAMMAD HARIS ABU TALIB
Mr Haris, 22, had to give up rowing because of his injuries, but he picked up a new hobby - street photography. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF MUHAMMAD HARIS ABU TALIB
Ionescu, seen here in 2011, was arrested the day after the court gave its decision. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Ionescu, seen here in 2011, was arrested the day after the court gave its decision. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Romanian court ups jail term to six years; previous sentence 'too lenient'

This article was first published on Feb 15, 2014

Romanian police have arrested former diplomat Silviu Ionescu after a Court of Appeal doubled his sentence from three to six years' jail for manslaughter in a 2009 hit-and-run case in Singapore.

Ionescu, 52, continued to protest his innocence as police picked him up early yesterday in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, in the first step before his permanent transfer to jail after the surprise appeals court decision on Thursday.

He told journalists that he was "not prepared" for the "far too heavy" sentence, and that he "does not consider himself culpable".

"Still, at least we all live in Romania," he added, in yet another attempt to attract national sympathy for his often-repeated claim that he could not expect "real justice" in Singapore.

Asked by journalists whether he would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the only legal recourse theoretically still available to him, Ionescu expressed "doubts" about his chances of "seeing justice done".

Nearly a year ago, a Romanian court found him guilty of hitting three pedestrians, killing one of them, in 2009 while at the wheel of a car belonging to the Romanian mission. He fled Singapore but was arrested and tried in his home country.

The unusual decision by the Court of Appeal to double his punishment carries additional authority because it was made by some of Romania's leading judges. Senior judge Ion Tudoran rose to fame a decade ago for his involvement in a celebrated case which resulted in the jailing of a former Romanian prime minister on corruption charges, while Mr Dorel Matei, the other judge, was promoted to the Appeals Bench only last year, but is widely regarded as a high-flier who came top of his legal cohort.

In rejecting Ionescu's denials as "a convoluted web of lies" and ruling that his previous sentence was "too lenient", the judges attached particular significance to the fact that his behaviour as charge d'affaires in Singapore "deformed and harmed Romania's international reputation".

The judges also accepted the State Prosecution's claims that the accused "showed no remorse whatsoever" for his crimes, another factor counting against him.

His sentence was therefore increased to six years' jail for manslaughter with aggravated circumstances, 21/2 years for grievous bodily harm with aggravated circumstances, and four years for fleeing the site of an accident.

Since the sentences run concurrently, Ionescu will only have to serve the heaviest one of six years.

In a response to queries on the decision, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the Government "welcomes the decision by the Bucharest Court of Appeal to uphold Ionescu's convictions as well as to enhance his sentence".

Jonathan.eyal@gmail.com