Norway’s Foreign Ministry claims it’s following up on a police report that a Russian diplomat was driving under the influence of alcohol when he collided two weeks ago with a parked car in Oslo’s Frogner district. Frogner is home to many foreign embassies, but may not be so for long for the diplomat involved.
Oslo police were called to the scene of the accident late at night during the last weekend in September. Newspaper VG reported on Monday that a car with CD (Corps Diplomatique) license plates had crashed into a parked car, and when police arrived, the driver was described as “clearly intoxicated.”
He also reportedly attempted to flee the scene of the accident, but was quickly caught by police. VG reported that he was described as uncooperative and refused to submit to a standard breathalyzer test. The police on patrol who apprehended him also described him as “unsteady” on his feet and smelling of alcohol, even from a distance.
Police confirmed that the Russian, who has been working as an intelligence officer at the Russian Embassy in Oslo, is entitled, however, to diplomatic immunity. Police are therefore stymied in their efforts to arrest and charge him under Norwegian law.
“The incident was registered as a criminal case that normally can’t be followed up because he has diplomatic immunity,” Frode Andreassen of the Oslo Police District told VG. “It’s up to the Foreign Ministry (Utenriksdepartementet, UD) to handle the case in regards to the embassy.”
The ministry has routines for dealing with such cases, which usually involve calling in representatives from the embassy involved to go over the police report together. In most such cases, the errant diplomat’s term of duty in Norway comes to an abrupt end and the diplomat is sent back to his or her homeland.
Officials at the Russian Embassy declined to comment on the case. A spokeswoman at Norway’s foreign ministry issued a statement that “we take violations of the law seriously” and ministry officials would follow up the case in accordance with applicable routines.
There were no known injuries in the Russian case unlike the car crash involving a drunk diplomat from the South African Embassy early last year. He crashed an embassy vehicle into a small car driven by a young Norwegian woman who worked for a local private health care institution and was out attending to an elderly patient. The young woman suffered severe injuries, landed in the hospital and continued to be plagued by the injuries that the diplomat inflicted upon her in the crash.
In that case, South Africa’s ambassador to Norway, Queen Anne Zondo, was summoned to Norway’s foreign ministry, she apologized for the incident and sent flowers to the accident victim. The embassy refused, however, to grant Norwegian officials’ request that the defendant’s diplomatic immunity be rescinded. He was sent back to South Africa but has never had to face charges for his serious offense in Norway, frustrating Norwegian officials and angering the victim when her appeals for compensation went unanswered. Zondo, meanwhile, has gone on to become the dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Norway, a position granted to the ambassador with the longest tenure in the country. She arrived in Norway in February 2013.