Indian diplomat in Britain claims immunity on wife-beating charge

Sunday, January 9, 2011

LONDON/NEW DELHI - A high-ranking Indian diplomat in Britain has escaped charges of assaulting his wife after he claimed immunity due to his diplomatic status, a media report said Sunday. The Indian external affairs ministry in New Delhi said it was “carefully looking” into the incident.

Anil Verma, the third senior-most Indian diplomat and minister (economic), sought immunity from prosecution after being questioned by police over claims that he assaulted his wife at their official residence, the Daily Mail reported.

Verma is alleged to have attacked his wife after a heated argument.

Officers questioned Verma but were powerless to arrest him because of his diplomatic status.

The case has raised an alarm with the police asking the Foreign Office to review diplomatic immunity rules.

“Violent crime is violent crime and British society has enough of it already. I believe the Foreign Office should be reviewing the issue of diplomatic immunity more vigorously,” Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said.

“It is premature to make any further comment at this stage” as it “involves sensitive and personal issues”, the ministry spokesperson added in New Delhi.

The incident occurred last month after neighbours were woken by a woman’s screams. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “At 9.30 a.m. Dec 11, following reports of an assault at an address at Corringham Road, NW11, London a man in his 40s was spoken to by officers. No arrests were made.”

Verma, whose main function is to promote trade between Britain and India, is believed to have been at his position since 2007 and is behind only the high commissioner and deputy high commissioner in terms of seniority.

Verma has not quit his position, nor has he been recalled to Delhi.

“This matter has been brought to our attention. It is now expected that this matter will be resolved between husband and wife to their mutual satisfaction,” an Indian high commission spokesman said.

According to the daily, a source said the British government had asked the Indian authorities to waive Verma’s diplomatic immunity but there had been no response from the Indian high commission.

“We do not tolerate diplomats working in Britain breaking the law. When we are made aware of an offence committed by a diplomat or their family, we will take appropriate action,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

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