Envoys invoke diplomatic immunity to escape scandal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 12:00am

The row surrounding the son of Nigeria's top envoy to Hong Kong is the latest in a series of diplomatic scandals to hit the territory in the past year.

At least two top envoys have found themselves in a brush with the authorities and tried to invoke diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention and Hong Kong's Consular Relations Ordinance.

Last March Vietnam's Consul-General, Nguyen Viet Hung, invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution after the police picked him up for allegedly groping a woman in Causeway Bay.

He was detained by police on January 18 last year near the Sogo department store. Mr Hung gave a statement to Wan Chai police but was later released after his diplomatic status was revealed.

Amid protests from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry in Hanoi, which claimed the allegation was politically motivated - and Mr Hung's insistence that it was a misunderstanding - a police report was sent to the Department of Justice.

The SAR Government decided not to take the case forward 'having regard to its circumstances and all the relevant factors'.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented wrangle between a top diplomat and his maid over whether the envoy should enjoy consular immunity from action for his alleged sacking of her because she was pregnant has been transferred to the District Court.

In May last year Hungary's Consul-General, Laszlo Vizi, was taken to a Labour Tribunal hearing by Nanette Cajayon, 40 - who was eight months pregnant at the time - over claims she was sacked because of her condition.

The case was transferred to the District Court by Principal Presiding Officer Michael Wong, who said there were important legal points at stake after Mr Vizi, who denied her claims, wrote to the tribunal to say he was seeking diplomatic immunity. The case has still not been heard and it is understood lawyers for both parties have discussed a possible out-of-court settlement.

Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats are entitled to immunity from arrest or detention pending trial except in the case of a 'grave crime', defined in the Hong Kong Consular Relations Ordinance as one attracting a jail term of five or more years.