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The scandal that followed the unprecedented election of a prosecutor as head of the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) sparked a genuine war between prosecutors and judges that managed to hurt yet again the credibility and image of Romanian justice system. The stake of this new war is huge and Traian Basescu’s presence during the meeting electing the new CSM chief was a very clear statement that the president is by no means willing to let go of the control he has kept so far over the justice system via his people planted in the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office and National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA), as well as through the almost 4,000 magistrates he has appointed to office during his over eight years at Cotroceni so far.
On the preservation of the political influence of Daniel Morar’s people still faithful to the former regime over the corps of magistrates and influencing justice decisions for political purpose depends the keeping of immunity to prosecution for grievous corruption and public fund embezzlement by many of the important figures of the former PDL administration. The best argument supporting such supposition is the total lack of reaction from the acting Prosecutor General and from DNA to the criminal complaints filed by the prime minister’s control body and by the various ministries, agencies and state-owned companies against former democrat liberal ministers and heads of public institutions. Let’s just review some of those cases. The Ponta I Government alerted the Prosecution as early as July to Hidroelectrica’s onerous contracts since the time Adrian Videanu was Minister of Economy, and which allegedly caused the company total damages estimated at several million euros. Also last summer, ex-Tourism Minister Eduard Hellvig published an incendiary report disclosing the extended pillage and severe corruption cases at the Ministry of Tourism and Regional Development under the leadership of his predecessor Elena Udrea. One of the conclusions of Hellvig’s audit showed that the National Investment Company had settled material acquisition bills in 2009 for works that hadn’t even started by 2012 and the value of some of the contracts awarded to companies having sponsored PDL in the various election campaigns was illegally inflated by almost … 50 per cent though additional deeds to the main agreement. DNA and the ‘independent’ prosecutors did not take note or action to this day. Another relevant example is Romanian Lottery. An audit done by the Romanian Court of Auditors identified millions of euro worth of fraud committed during the term of the Cluj PDL institution Chairman and CEO Gheorghe Benea, close to ex-PM Emil Boc. The report forwarded to DNA at the end of last year also revelled the complicity of other state institutions to the company embezzlement, the conclusion being the Lottery had paid for equipment procured 428 per cent more than the actual market value of the goods, which translates to a total damage of over EUR 3.7 M suffered by the company in the procurement department alone. Ex-Transport Minister Anca Boagiu, another PDL heavyweight, currently Vice President of the European People’s Party and someone close to the president, is the object of another criminal complaint filed by the Ponta Government and to which DNA could not be bothered to give an answer. Boagiu and the former chief of the National Agency for Public Procurement, Cristina Traila, (close to Elena Udrea) are accused of having illegally facilitated the award of contracts to Nelu Iordache’s company. The Romstrade boss is currently in custody awaiting trial in a EUR 5.8 M embezzlement case in connection with the construction of the first segment of the Nadlac-Arad motorway, the project being 85 per cent financed by the European Union’s cohesion fund. DNA took action in Iordache’s case after being notified not by Romanian authorities, but by a Portuguese company damaged by Romstrade, which speaks volumes on how Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors actually operate. These are a few examples having at the forefront heavy names in PDL and its circle of interests. To that we can add the case of former ANAF head Sorin Blejnar, a pillar of the former regime turned into an employment agent for PDL member relatives and friends at the Ministry of Finance and Customs. Blejnar was only prosecuted after the fall of the Boc Government, although he had been an object of suspicion since January 2011, when hundreds of customs workers subordinated to him were arrested in the biggest bribery operation organised at Romanian border crossing points. More than that, the Blejnar case is investigated by DIICOT Brasov, not DNA, a thing that should tell us something as well…The prosecutors’ silence and lack of reaction in all these cases definitely demonstrate that the potentate of the former regime were and still are protected by Traian Basescu’s ‘independent’ justice. Needless to say that CSM members never slammed the lack of reaction of the judicial bodies in the case of PDL members, but harshly criticised the press and USL politicians for ‘pressures’ (actually urging prosecutors to act or react to corruption suspicions and accusations), threatening to introduce a law against those who dare criticise a magistrate, even if incompetent or corrupt.In this context, the DemLibs’ allegations (appropriated and multiplied by the propaganda analysts still loyal to the Basescu-Boc regime, including in Brussels) against the USL power they accuse of trying to enslave justice in order to rescue Senator Dan Voiculescu, founder of the Conservative Party, the big ‘mogul’ and Traian Basescu’s foe, do not stand and look more like a pathetic and desperate attempt to hide the size of corruption with which the party had identified itself from 2008 to February last year, when it was unseated. The fact that a precedent has been set with the election of a prosecutor who IS NOT independent as the head of CSM, a body that, under the Constitution, is the guarantor of the independence of Romanian justice, and that Daniel Morar wouldn’t have had the right to vote on the Council, impaired the election which, logically, ought to be cancelled and redone, this time in observance of applicable rules and laws. From this point of view, it s interesting to know the opinion of Georgiana Iorgulescu, former member of the Superior Magistracy Council representing the civil society , who resigned from CSM last year after the council had blocked Mona Pivniceru’s appointment as Minister of Justice. ‘Can a prosecutor be the president of CSM? After a dry reading of article 3 of the Constitution, one would be tempted to say it can. But the Constitution has to be considered in its entirety. For example, article 124, paragraph 2 says judges are independent and only submit themselves to the law, whereas article 132 paragraph 1 says prosecutors perform their activity governed by the principle of legality, impartiality and hierarchic control, under the authority of the minister of justice. So how could a prosecutor president of CSM defend the independence of the justice system and, most of all, of the judiciary to which he/she does not belong? As long as a prosecutor does not enjoy all the benefits of functional independence, how could he/she be a guarantor of other party’s independence?’…Prime Minister Ponta’s statement on the need for prosecutor to be independent and no longer hierarchically subordinated, which would mean that the person of the prosecutor general didn’t matter, sounds like a major blow for Daniel Morar and disables the political stake in future chief-prosecutor appointments.The behind the curtains moves designed to secure political control over CSM and by that save PDL heavyweights from some difficult legal cases can no longer fool the Romanian public and hopefully this time also the Brussels authors of the next CVM reports.