Prosecutors with the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) on Thursday have sent Prime Minister Victor Ponta to court over criminal offences in the Rovinari-Turceni case.
Ponta is investigated by the DNA in the Rovinari-Turceni case for forgery in documents under private signature, complicity to continued tax evasion and money laundering, in his capacity as lawyer, in a case where also prosecuted is former minister Dan Sova, accused of forgery in documents under private signature, continued tax evasion and money laundering.
DNA prosecutors are asking the Supreme Court where the case where PM Victor Ponta and Senator Dan Sova are charged will be heard, to order the seizure of over 3.7 million lei (approximately 840,000 euro) from them, arguing that, by the end of their investigation, CE Oltenia had not filed a civil claim, according to Mediafax.
The charges against him refer to benefiting from a large part of the sums remitted to the Law Office ‘Sova and Associates’ by the Turceni and Rovinari energy complexes, although Ponta allegedly did not conduct any professional activity as part of the agreement between the two attorney’s firms.
On September 3, Ponta has filed a request to the prosecutor to separate his case from a wider criminal investigation on legal counselling for the two energy companies. He mentioned he wants his situation to be cleared faster.
According to the DNA, as regards the case of Victor Ponta, the damage resulting from his complicity in tax evasion amounts to over 51,300 lei, and to recover this amount of money the court has put lien on an apartment belonging to the premier.
Sova’s law firm provided legal counselling to the state-owned energy companies of Turceni and Rovinari and had an open-ended collaboration agreement with Ponta’s law firm in 2007, for a monthly fee of 2,000 euros to be invoiced monthly by the latter, the prosecutors detailed in June, upon extending the investigation to include Ponta. The sum later increased to 3,000 euros per month, and the collaboration ended in December 2008, when Ponta became Prime Minister. By then, he had issued 17 invoices to Sova for 181.439,98 lei, copying the model used by Sova’s firm.
The prosecutors allege that Ponta’s legal practice never actually rendered any services to Sova’s, who used most of the money from the two energy companies for himself and his acquaintances.
Ponta used some of the money from Sova to buy two luxury apartments in Bucharest, and also received other benefits, including the free use of a car, for which the leasing instalments were still paid by Sova’s firm until 2009. It was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 specifically asked by Ponta, and he eventually took over the leasing contract without ever returning nearly 80,000 lei already paid for it by Sova & Associates.
In 2011, fiscal inspections began at Sova and Associates, and Sova allegedly agreed with Ponta to forge legal counselling reports to justify the payments to Ponta’s individual legal practice.
Ponta was referred to court alongside Senator Dan Sova (on three counts of complicity in abuse of power and obtaining undue benefits for another, forgery of documents (17 offences), tax evasion and money laundering. Sova is currently subject to a probation order. The other co-defenders are Laurenţiu-Dan Ciurel, General Manager of SC Complexul Energetic Rovinari SA (CER) at the time when the offences were allegedly committed, charged with three crimes of abuse of power obtaining undue benefits for another person, one of them in continued form, Dumitru Cristea, General Manager of Complexul Energetic Turceni (CET), charged with five offences of abuse of power obtaining undue benefits for another person, one in continued form, and Laurenţiu-Octavian Graure, Economic Director of CET, charged with abuse of power obtaining undue benefits for another person.
PM Ponta: Romania’s only problem is “the obsession of a totally unprofessional prosecutor”
Prime-Minister Victor Ponta has posted a short comment on Facebook where, paradoxically, he mentions the repayment of Romania’s debt to the IMF, without a word on the fact that he had been brought to trial.
‘What I have said is now being confirmed by the IMF representatives – thanks to the effort of all the citizens of this country, we have repaid the Government’s share of money aberrantly borrowed and spent by Basescu – Boc – Predoiu. The effort of Securitate people and Basescu’s friends (the Tapalaga kind) to hide these realities only shows that they want to escape responsibility!’ the premier wrote on his account.
Later on, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said also on Facebook that Romania has a growing economy, and the country’s only problem is “the obsession of a totally unprofessional prosecutor.”
The head of Government thus commented the criminal case opened against him by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
“In three years, Romania will economically surpass several European countries – says the International Monetary Fund! I strongly believe that this is achievable, through the work of the Romanian people and an efficient governance (and then, in 2018, we’ll think the times were not bad when the economy was growing, the salaries and pensions too, we were absorbing European funds and helping [the Republic of] Moldova, and the country’s only problem was the obsession of a totally unprofessional prosecutor eager to prove himself in his profession, by making up and imagining untrue facts and circumstances of 10 years ago,” the prime minister wrote on his Facebook account
President Iohannis says situation increasingly difficult after PM Ponta’s indictment
President Iohannis said, after PM Victor Ponta’s case had been referred to court, on Thursday, that ‘the image of Romania is being massively hurt’ and that, from his point of view, the solution to the problem was the one he had also suggested in June, when he asked the PM to step down.
‘The situation, in my opinion, is growingly problematic for the prime-minister, Government and PSD. But we have to admit that the image of Romania is being massively hurt as a result of this matter. I hope the situation is analysed with due responsibility and that those who are able to will come up with solutions’, said the president.
Iohannis pointed out that he was still standing by the solution he had proposed back in June, when he asked the PM to resign.
‘My opinion has not changed. The simplest solution would definitely be the one that I also proposed in June’, Klaus Iohannis noted.
Defence based on ECJ case law
Prime-Minister Victor Ponta went to DNA on Tuesday to submit some documents in the ‘Turceni – Rovinari’ case where he was under investigation for forgery of documents, complicity in tax evasion and money laundering, allegedly committed as a lawyer.
Ponta said he had submitted a ruling by the European Court of Justice of 3 September ‘which explains what happens with agreements for the provision of services’. ‘I say I performed the activity, the prosecutors alleges I did not, the European Court of Justice told us both to mind our own business because, as long as taxes were paid, everything is all right. From the point of view of the European Court of Justice which, of course, is binding on all European Union Member States, there is no case here’, PM Victor Ponta said after his visit to DNA.
Ponta also said that, as far as he was concerned, as long as we are a Member State of the EU, the ECJ ruling should apply.
Lawyer Daniel Fenechiu said on Realitatea TV on Thursday that the ECJ decision takes precedence in this case.
‘Ever since it had started, I have looked at the Ponta case somewhat reservedly. He has been brought to trial because the prosecutors believe some invoices do not reflect services provided. Ponta and the lawyers say it was a consultancy agreement under which he was making his expertise available to Sova should he need it. I believe that the decision of the European Court of Justice gives an advantage to Ponta, because the ruling is also binding on Romania. Although the Bulgarian case is not similar, the ruling is binding on all EU Member States’, Daniel Fenechiu said.
Liberal co-leader calls on ruling coalition heads to withdraw political support for PM Ponta
National Liberal Party (PNL, in opposition) co-president Alina Gorghiu on Thursday called on the ruling coalition leaders – Gabriel Oprea, heading the National Union for Romania’s Progress (UNPR) and Liviu Dragnea, the Social Democrats’ (PSD) interim head respectively – to distance themselves from “a prime minister indicted for corruption deeds” and withdraw the political support for Victor Ponta.
“I call today on Messrs Oprea and Dragnea to distance themselves from a prime minister indicted for corruption deeds and withdraw the political support that keeps him in that position. Each passing day without Victor Ponta’s resignation from Government head as asked by the opposition is the exclusive responsibility of the two coalition leaders”, Gorghiu said in a release to Agerpres.
According to her, it is high time the leaders of the parties backing the Victor Ponta Government “made a firm option by which the public interest should be placed above the party interest”.
“For more than a hundred days, UNPR president Gabriel Oprea and PSD president Liviu Dragnea have been pretending that Mr. Ponta’s penal issues do not affect us in any way, either with respect to the Romanian business climate or with the honest citizens who believe in the principles and values of the rule-of-law state or in our relation with the international partners”, Gorghiu added.
Catalin Predoiu: ‘Ponta must go home’
PNL First Vice-President Catalin Predoiu, but also Raluca Turcan, PNL Vice-President, have reacted to DNA’s announcement that Prime-Minister Victor Ponta had been sent to court.
‘Starting today and until Ponta walks out through the door of Victoria Palace to go home for good, the door of the Romanian Government to the civilised world will stay locked. In order not to add to the cost already being paid by the citizens of this country, Ponta must go home. For now, this is the only thing he can still do for the better of this country. As of today, once can no longer be both in the Iohannis Project and loyal to Premier Ponta’, PNL’s shadow PM Catalin Predoiu states on Facebook.
After DNA’s announcement, PNL Vice-President Raluca Turcan made a call, on her social media page, on the interim leader of PSD, Liviu Dragnea.
‘Mr. Dragnea, please withdraw Victor Ponta’s political support! Romania needs credibility and predictability, both for the country and for abroad. Those cannot be obtained with a prime-minister on trial, a prime-minister who loves the double language more than he loves truth. For these reasons, Mr. Dragnea, rise above party interests and withdraw PM Ponta’s political support!’