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France's top diplomat recalled over wine theft

world Updated: Dec 01, 2010 12:47 IST

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France's top diplomat in Hong Kong was suspended and recalled to Paris after allegedly stealing two expensive bottles of wine, a news report said Wednesday.

Marc Fonbaustier, 46, was recalled after he was reportedly caught on security cameras taking bottles of Bordeaux from the elite Hong Kong Country Club, the South China Hong Kongreported.

Beijing officials sought his removal after security video showed him slipping a bottle of wine into his jacket at the prestigious club in early November, according to the newspaper.

An investigation was under way into the theft when Fonbaustier allegedly took a second bottle of wine from the same club, which invites top diplomats to enjoy its facilities, the Post said.

Fonbaustier, who was formerly second counsellor at the French embassy in New Delhi, was recalled days later Nov 22.

A separate report in the Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper said the stolen bottles of wine were worth thousands of US dollars.

Sources quoted by the Post said Fonbaustier enjoyed an "active lifestyle" in Hong Kong and speculated that officials in Paris "may have decided enough was enough".

The French consulate in Hong Kong declined to comment on the reasons for Fonbaustier's suspension or the alleged wine theft. He has been replaced by his deputy Agnes Humruzian.

A French foreign ministry official in Paris said after Fonbaustier was recalled that he had been suspended over conduct "likely not to meet the requirements of professional conduct for a French diplomat".