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Belgian envoy’s wife to avoid punishment for alleged assaults



Blurred surveillance footage, obtained by Yonhap News TV on Tuesday from the family of one of the accusers, appears to show the scene at a Seoul clothing store where the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier allegedly assaulted two employees. (Yonhap)
Blurred surveillance footage, obtained by Yonhap News TV on Tuesday from the family of one of the accusers, appears to show the scene at a Seoul clothing store where the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier allegedly assaulted two employees. (Yonhap)
The wife of the Belgian ambassador to South Korea, who was booked on charges of assaulting two clothing store clerks in April, is to avoid punishment on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

“We confirmed that the Belgian ambassador side would not give up the immunity in connection with the assault case of the ambassador’s wife,” the police said Monday. “We will decide not to send the case (to the prosecution) as usual.”

According to the police, the Belgian Embassy sent them a letter on Thursday conveying its intention to “maintain” diplomatic immunity.

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier’s Chinese wife, Xiang Xueqiu, was booked in Seoul on April 9 on charges of hitting an employee in the back of the head and hitting another staff member on the cheek.

Xiang was accused of doing so after the staffers asked her if she had paid for the clothes she was wearing, because the shop sold similar apparel.

As controversy grew in Korea, the Belgian Embassy in Seoul issued an apology in the ambassador’s name on April 22.

“The Ambassador of Belgium sincerely regrets the incident involving his wife which happened on April 9 and wants to apologize on her behalf,” the Belgian Embassy said in a statement posted on its website and on Facebook.

“No matter the circumstances, the way she reacted is unacceptable.”

Since the incident, Xiang had been hospitalized and was discharged April 23. Lescouhier officially conveyed his position to the Korean government that his wife would undergo a police investigation. She was questioned as a suspect at Yongsan Police Station on May 6, about a month after the alleged assaults.

But because the embassy had expressed its intention not to waive immunity, punishment is unlikely. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats and their families are granted the privilege of being exempt from criminal punishment procedures in the host country.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)



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