- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

A top official at the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington fled the United States with his family during the weekend, just days after being arrested in Virginia on charges of soliciting sex from an undercover detective posing as a 13-year-old girl.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz said that he knew a request to the UAE to waive diplomatic immunity in the case was “a difficult one,” but that he was “frustrated” that embassy officials did not show “good faith” in rendering a decision — and instead turned Salem Al-Mazrooei into “an international fugitive cloaked in diplomatic immunity.”

“We were not naive. We made what I would call a good faith effort to resolve this matter,” Mr. Krantz said. “If there ever was a case that called for the waiver of diplomatic immunity, this was it.”

Mr. Al-Mazrooei, 40, who lived in Vienna, Va., was arrested Feb. 23 by the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department’s “Operation Blue Ridge Thunder” cybercrimes task force near a parking lot in Forest, Va., where he had arranged to meet the “teenager.” He is director of the embassy’s Abu Dhabi Scholarship Program Office.

Mr. Krantz said there was no doubt about Mr. Al-Mazrooei’s intentions when he took the four-hour drive to Bedford County to meet with the “teenager,” noting that in one e-mail he said, “I know what I’m doing is illegal, I know that it is wrong,” and in another, “If you’ve got a friend, maybe we could have a threesome. I could take you back to school.”

He said the diplomat also had a MapQuest printout of the meeting location and a tube of KY Jelly, a sexual lubricant in his sport utility vehicle .

“I see sexual exploitation cases all the time and not much embarrasses me anymore,” Mr. Krantz said. “But I would have been embarrassed reading some of his e-mails in mixed company.”

Officials at the UAE Embassy did not return calls for comment.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday that U.S. officials learned that Mr. Al-Mazrooei and his family had returned to the UAE when they went to the embassy earlier this week to request that his diplomatic immunity be waived.

“We were informed at the time of presenting that request that the diplomat in question and his family members had departed the country,” Mr. Ereli said. “We have, as a result, requested that U.S. law-enforcement officials issue an arrest warrant for” Mr. Al-Mazrooei.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown said Mr. Al-Mazrooei was detained, handcuffed and taken to the sheriff’s office, but released after his claim of diplomatic immunity was verified. Mr. Al-Mazrooei has since been charged with five felony counts of sexual solicitation of a child by computer and one felony charge of attempted indecent liberties with a child. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Once the warrant was issued, Mr. Al-Mazrooei’s name was entered into U.S. visa and immigration watch lists to prevent his return to the United States.

Mr. Ereli said the State Department asked the government of the United Arab Emirates to investigate the charges against Mr. Al-Mazrooei to see whether there is any way he could be prosecuted under UAE law.

A senior State Department official, speaking about the case on background, declined to criticize the United Arab Emirates’ handling of the case, but said, “We do think that the alleged crime is serious enough here that we ought to apply the law to the full extent we can.”

The official said international law gives a diplomat broad legal immunity, adding, “Our options in these cases are very limited.”

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said he was “disappointed” that UAE Embassy officials “deemed it acceptable to allow their employee and citizen to leave in the midst of negotiations on how to proceed with this matter.”

“This fleeing strikes me as an inappropriate use of the international laws governing diplomatic immunity,” Mr. Allen said.

Sheriff Brown said Mr. Al-Mazrooei exchanged sexually explicit e-mails with an undercover task force detective for a month before arranging a meeting in Bedford County. The sheriff said the UAE official traveled from his home in Vienna to a meeting spot near Forest, Va., where he was arrested by four task force detectives.

The sheriff said a task force investigator posing online as a 13-year-old girl was contacted by Mr. Al-Mazrooei and the two exchanged several e-mails. He said the UAE official eventually arranged for the meeting, at which he was arrested. The sheriff said Mr. Al-Mazrooei immediately claimed diplomatic immunity and that he was released after the claim was verified.

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