Monday, 13 June 2011

Mabalozi wetu na aibu na uroho wao

The wife of a Congolese diplomat in Serbia has been detained in neighbouring Romania for alleged cigarette smuggling, prosecutors said on Monday.

Esther Pascaline Bombeto was arrested during the night soon after crossing the Serbian border.

Police found some 18,500 cigarette packages concealed in her car.

According to local media, the woman and her driver refused to leave the car or open the doors, arguing they benefited from diplomatic immunity.

The police had to break the window in order to search the vehicle bearing diplomatic licence plates.

The husband, Marc Marius Itela Elombola, second counselor of the Republic of Congo's embassy in Belgrade, has also been charged with smuggling. He is currently in Serbia.

"The authorities did what they had to, detaining a person suspected of contraband," a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office told AFP.

"The issue of diplomatic immunity will be probably raised before the judge is called upon to deliver an arrest warrant," she added, stressing that it was not clear what the woman's diplomatic status was.

"Before the arrest we consulted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to make sure we did not violate any law," prosecutor Mircea Andres, who is in charge of the investigation, told journalists.

He said that according to the Vienna Convention diplomats committing a felony in a country other than that to which they are accredited are not covered by immunity.

Andres added that the Congolese couple had been monitored for three months.

They used to cross into Romania once or twice a week, and, availing themselves of their diplomatic passports in order to avoid customs controls, smuggled large amounts of Albanian cigarettes into the country, he said.

Three Serb nationals, including Bombeto's driver, and three Romanians have also been arrested.

Source: Daily Nation.

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