By Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Nine Australians detained by police for stripping down to their underwear at Sunday’s Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix must face the consequences of their “foolish prank,” Australia’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Photos and videos of the group drinking beer from their shoes while wearing underwear emblazoned with the Malaysian flag at Sunday’s race drew an outcry on social media and in the Malaysian press, with many calling it a sign of disrespect.
The case has also drawn attention in Australia, prompting debate over the country’s tolerance of uncouth behaviour by its citizens abroad.
“There’s no excuse in saying this is just Aussie behaviour, that this is just a prank that would be seen as a minor matter in Australia, you have to respect the laws of the country you’re visiting,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Australia’s Channel Nine.
Bishop said the Australian government is providing consular support to the men, one of whom works for Australian defence industry minister Christopher Pyne.
The nine men were being held on remand pending investigations for public indecency and provocation, state news agency Bernama has reported, quoting local police.
The group were celebrating after Australian Daniel Ricciardo claimed his maiden Formula One win of the season, imitating the driver’s famous “shoey” manoeuvre by drinking from their footwear.
Malaysia’s deputy home minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told reporters on Tuesday that police would investigate before recommending charges to the attorney-general.
Bishop said it was unlikely the matter will be considered a “lapse of judgment”.
“It was clearly premeditated, they were wearing the budgie smugglers and had bought them in Australia,” she said, referring to the type of brief swimwear or underwear the men were wearing.
In June 2015, four Western tourists were fined and deported from Malaysia after posing naked on the peak of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, angering locals who consider the mountain sacred.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)