Lower House Speaker Dragnea prosecuted for forming crime syndicate, abuse of office, financial improprieties. PSD leader defends himself: “I categorically reject the accusations. The stake is the takeover of PSD”. OLAF: Investigation against Dragnea – perfect example of positive cooperation with national authorities–UPDATE

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Dragnea’s new dossier sparks different reactions among politicians

 

Lower House Speaker and national leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea is currently being prosecuted by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) over the establishment of a criminal organisation, abuse of office and financial improprieties while he was chairman of the Teleorman County Council, according to the DNA.

According to a DNA press statement, Dragnea, Chairman of the Teleorman County Council at the time when the guilty acts were committed, is being investigated over the establishment of an organised crime group, two criminal offences of use or presentation in bad faith of misleading, inaccurate or incomplete statements or documents when the end result of offence is the obtaining of undue European funds, and two criminal offences of abuse of office with the obtainment of ill-gotten benefits for self or others.

Also investigated in the same case are eight more people.

The DNA says that the case was opened on a complaint from OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) sent on 30 September 2016 on the suspicion of several offences, including the illegal obtainment, based on misinterpretations, of European funds for county road repair works.

“Suspect Liviu Dragnea, chairman of CJ Teleorman, has initiated an organised crime group that is even currently operating and that has consisted of civil servants and business people. The main purpose of the group established in 2001 is to fraudulently obtain important amounts from publicly funded contracts (national and European) by abuse of office, financial improprieties involving European funds, tax evasion, money laundering and the use of classified information or allowing unauthorised access to such information,” according to the DNA.

Lower House Speaker Liviu Dragnea on Monday went to the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), being summoned by prosecutors in relation to a corruption case. At the end of the hearings, he left the DNA headquarters being applauded by his supporters and members of the political party he leads.

Tens of people – among whom Deputy Prime Minister Paul Stanescu, Social Democratic Party (PSD) Secretary General Marian Neacsu, MPs Claudiu Manda and Andreea Cosma – came to the DNA HQ to show support for the Social Democrat leader.

Dragnea did not talk to journalists.

He refused to say whether he is subject of a criminal investigation and over what crime.

The place was full of gendarmes – who were standing both at the entrance of the institution, where the journalists were waiting – and on the opposite side, where Dragnea’s supporters were standing.

Dragnea himself was flanked by gendarmes both when entering and exiting the institution, so journalists could not get too close to him to ask questions.

Later on, one of the journalists was asked for ID by a gendarme, who said he only acted according to the law.

 

Dragnea’s new dossier sparks different reactions among politicians

 

Tariceanu on Dragnea’s new dossier: An attempt to overturn the current coalition and the Gov’t

 

ALDE President Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated on Monday that the DNA’s decision to indict PSD President Liviu Dragnea in a new corruption dossier is part of the recent overtures which point to an attempt to overturn the current ruling coalition and the Government.

“My point of view is that of reaffirming what I have said before too. Until a court ruling is made, any person called before investigative institutions is innocent. Moreover, considering the numerous precedents seen lately, which clearly show an attempt to overturn the current coalition, the current majority, and the Government, by various means, I have nothing to add. I will be able to make more comments as new developments occur in this dossier,” Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated.

 

Orban on Dragnea at the DNA: It’s not normal for him to come surrounded by bodyguards or for pressure groups to be formed

 

National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Ludovic Orban stated on Monday that PSD President Liviu Dragnea, on whose name the DNA has opened a criminal dossier, should step down from the office of Lower House Speaker stating that he is rendering Parliament and its image fragile.

Orban also commented on the Social Democrats’ presence at the DNA during the time Dragnea was heard, stating it is not normal for him to show up accompanied by bodyguards and for pressure groups to be created at the DNA.

“Each time, I showed up at the DNA and in court alone, accompanied, it’s true, by lawyers. I condemn any form of pressure placed on the judiciary. I don’t find it normal for a man, regardless of his office, to show up surrounded by bodyguards, or to create pressure groups that would influence – one way or another – the activity of the courts or of prosecutors,” Ludovic Orban stated when journalists asked for his comment on the Social Democrats’ presence at the DNA while Dragnea was heard there.

The PNL leader also said that Lower House Speaker Dragnea, on whose name the DNA opened a criminal dossier, should resign.

“He should have stepped down long ago but, unfortunately, Dragnea and PSD do not understand that in the rule of law, in a democracy, persons like him should take a step back from politics,” the PNL President stated.

Ludovic Orban made these statements at the High Court of Cassation and Justice, where he showed up on Monday for the trial in which he is indicted for using influence to obtain undue benefits. He was acquitted in the court of first instance. He said he postponed his departure for the U.S. in order to show up in court.

 

Badalau on Dragnea’s new dossier: There are some suspicions; we can’t know until a court ruling is made

 

PSD Executive Chairman Nicolae Badalau stated on Monday that the DNA prosecutors’ charges against Liviu Dragnea are “some suspicions,” and the court will establish whether they are true. Badalau added that “in many areas” there is displeasure that a pragmatic policy is currently being carried out in Romania.

Asked whether the Social Democrats feel “harassed,” Badalau said: “In PSD there is a feeling of this type, bearing in mind that extremely numerous verifications of this type have occurred, especially targeting the president of our party, and especially since the press anticipated some of them.”

PSD’s Executive Chairman said that the governance platform contains correct solutions for the Romanian people. “A pragmatic policy is currently being carried out and we feel it, it’s clear that many people or areas are displeased with this policy. But we committed to reforming Romania and to building a strong Romania. That is the commitment we took and we will surely do it,” he added.

Asked whether reforming Romania means it should be ruled by people with criminal problems, the PSD leader replied: “No, it means not having abuses, Romanians living better, and Romania being recognised on the map of Europe.”

In what concerns the charges brought against Liviu Dragnea, Nicolae Badalau said: “There are some suspicions, until a court makes a ruling we can’t know. (…) The DNA informs what suspicions it has, the court decides whether they are real or not. At least that’s how it should be in a democratic state.”

He reiterated that, in PSD’s opinion, the conviction ruled against Liviu Dragnea in the ‘Referendum’ case is “political.”

 

Iordache on Dragnea’s new dossier: Romanian legislation must be clarified; this or next week we’ll settle the abuse of office

 

Lower House Deputy Speaker Florin Iordache stated on Monday, shortly after Liviu Dragnea was arraigned by the DNA, that the Romanian criminal legislation is open to too many interpretations and must be clarified, pointing out that the crime of abuse of office will be modified this week or next week at the latest, within the committee he chairs.

“I believe very many explanations must be included in laws so that interpretations would not take place,” Florin Iordache stated in reaction to PSD President Liviu Dragnea being criminally probed for establishing an organised crime group, using with ill-faith false, inaccurate or incomplete documents or statements, and abuse of office.

Asked whether he claims Dragnea is innocent and the new criminal dossier is based only on the DNA prosecutors’ erroneous interpretation of the law, Florin Iordache answered: “Undoubtedly.”

“If you read last year’s European Union Directive 334, innocence exists until a final ruling is made against a person. I believe this principle of innocence must be stipulated very well in Romanian legislation,” he said.

“We can’t talk about someone who is indicted and we can’t publicly present him until we have a final ruling. When we have a final ruling we can talk,” Iordache added.

 

Iordache on PSD leaders who backed Dragnea at DNA: An act of solidarity, you can support a colleague in a difficult moment

 

Lower House Deputy Speaker Florin Iordache stated on Monday that the PSD leaders who were present at the DNA on Monday morning to back Liviu Dragnea went there as a sign of solidarity, adding that he does not find normal the way certain dossiers are handled in rapid-fire mode.

“It was an act of solidarity. The way we behave at one point, I believe it’s a normal act. You can back a colleague in some difficult moments and, I repeat, the way certain dossiers are being handled one after another, I don’t think that is all right,” Florin Iordache stated.

 

Mihai Tudose’s honorary adviser: Why isn’t Mr Dragnea resigning? We have other things to do too

 

Lawyer Gheorghe Piperea, Premier Mihai Tudose’s honorary adviser, wrote on his Facebook page that Romanians have other things to do than to follow “Mr Dragnea’s endless judiciary saga,” and wondered why the Lower House Speaker is not resigning.

“How long will the personal problems of a single man – now hunted down by the system that protected him and that was his partner until recently – will continue to pollute the public agenda? Why isn’t Mr Dragnea resigning, to be able to prove his innocence and, moreover, to gloriously prove that the presumption of innocence deserves to be rescued even in the politicians’ case? For no reason but that we are like in a birdcage. For too long,” Gheorghe Piperea, Premier Mihai Tudose’s honorary adviser, wrote.

He then returned to his posting and pointed out: “the thing about the presumption of innocence is sarcasm targeting Iohannis; the thing about the resignation is not sarcasm; we really do have something else to do than to follow Mr Dragnea’s endless judiciary saga,” after which the lawyer referred to the euro’s new record-high compared to the national currency.

Gheorghe Piperea also referred to the office he holds, stating that “to the attention of IYI (intellectuals yet idiots) who shared [the posting] with surprised or ironic comments aiming at my capacity as someone’s adviser. Guys, the fact that I temporarily enjoy this honorific title does not make me dependent on anyone. And in no way less confident in my principles. What was there unclear in the word ‘honorary’?”

Lawyer Gheorghe Piperea was appointed the Premier’s honorary adviser on issues of taxation, banking, capital market and insolvency, via a decision published in the Official Journal on 20 July 2017.

Piperea is one of the signatories of the giving in payment law. According to the decision signed by PM Mihai Tudose, Gheorghe Piperea’s activity is not paid.

 

Dragnea’s first statements after DNA indictment: I categorically reject the accusations. The stake is the takeover of PSD. Tariceanu called me and asked me to stay

 

PSD Chairman Liviu Dragnea stated on Monday that he categorically rejects all accusations levelled by the DNA, after prosecutors notified him he is criminally prosecuted for five counts in a dossier that concerns Tel Drum.

“I must admit it’s a long story. I categorically reject the accusations. What I’ve been saying for years, that I have no ties with that society, I maintain. Let’s see what these statements are based on. A part of the things stated today were investigated once. I don’t believe – but maybe I don’t know – that OLAF investigated in 2001. I understood that, in 2001, I formed a crime syndicate with myself,” Liviu Dragnea stated.

“Let’s see what syndicate I formed 16 years ago. (…) Yesterday I backed Gabi Petrea being president of TSD… another crime syndicate,” Dragnea pointed out.

 

” It’s a violent attack; the stake is the takeover of PSD”

 

PSD Chairman stated that the opening of dossiers against Social Democratic leaders represents “a violent attack” whose stake is the “takeover” of the party, referring to Daniel Dragomir’s statements according to which criminal dossiers are being prepared against top PSD members.

Asked for his comment on the statements made by the former Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) lieutenant colonel, according to which several criminal dossiers are being prepared against important PSD ministers and leaders, Liviu Dragnea answered: “Unfortunately, I too have heard this rumour. For me and for most of my colleagues, it’s a violent attack. The stake is the takeover of PSD.”

The leader of the Social Democrats expressed his hope that this plan would not be carried through. “I hope not, I hope it stops,” Dragnea said, adding that his new dossier has “a political stake.”

The PSD President said he is waiting to go before the judge to see what evidence the prosecution has. “I know we have televised-justice, I know people are condemned before they get before the prosecutor, but we must have evidence too,” Liviu Dragnea concluded.

 

Dragnea: Tariceanu called me and asked me to stay. The coalition is not affected, I am

 

After he was indicted by the DNA on Monday, PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated he was called by ALDE President Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who asked him to stay, and that he received similar messages from mayors and MPs too.

“I had a talk with Mr Tariceanu. He called me after I arrived at the Lower House and asked me to continue holding my ground and that we should continue our coalition,” Liviu Dragnea said.

Asked whether the ruling coalition is currently affected by his criminal problems, Dragnea pointed out: “I believe it’s not. I’m affected. It’s a risk I took in 2015, when I accepted running for the office of PSD chair. I’m willing to see it through to the end.”

The PSD leader  pointed out he received messages of support from both his party colleagues and MPs. “They told me we should go forward and implement the governance platform,” Dragnea said.

 

“If organising a meeting of support for governance platform is desired, I’ll no longer stop anyone”

 

Dragnea added on Monday that he does not want a meeting for his support, but if party members want to organise a demonstration of support for the governance platform he will no longer stop them.

“A meeting for my support… no. I appreciate the gesture of the colleagues who were there (at the DNA – editor’s note) this morning, but I won’t ask for and I’ll never want a meeting for my support. On the other hand, if organising a meeting for the support of the governance platform or anything else is desired, I will no longer stop anyone because I received a lot of reproaches this year for the fact that we indeed blocked, on several occasions, some PSD members’ – in fact all PSD members’ – desire to demonstrate, not necessarily to protest,” Liviu Dragnea stated.

 

EU anti-fraud watchdog says investigation against Dragnea – perfect example of positive cooperation with national authorities

 

The probe against leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Liviu Dragnea is “a perfect example of the positive cooperation between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and national authorities,” OLAF Acting Director-General Nicholas Ilett said on Monday after the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced having indicted Dragnea in the ‘Tel Drum’ case for creating an organised criminal group, misusing his position for personal gain and funds defrauding, in his former capacity as president of the Teleorman County Council.

“OLAF conducted thorough investigations that we hope will have a strong deterrent effect,” Nicholas Ilett said, as cited in a release on the OLAF website.

The contribution of the EU anti-fraud watchdog to this outcome has been emphasized by the DNA. The DNA has explained that their case comes as a result of two investigations conducted by the OLAF into projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund for road construction in Romania, which were concluded in May and September 2016, the release informs.

OLAF found evidence suggesting collusion between the beneficiary of the funds, public officials and the contractor, including falsification of documents during the procurement procedure. Some of these documents were also used in support of the claim which the beneficiary submitted to the Managing Authority, resulting in the payment of EUR 21 million from European Union funds, the release further states.

“OLAF’s investigations were concluded with a financial recommendation to the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, to recover the full 21 million euro, and with judicial recommendations to the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate to initiate judicial actions into the matter,” the release concludes.