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October 4, 2022

New raids in Constanta harbour

The head of the Interior Ministry’s intelligence department, the Constanta office was the latest to roll in the harbour corruption case.

In the context of the customs corruption scandal and as high-ranking officials’ involvement in customs affairs comes to light, inspections in the Constanta Sud Agigea Harbour continue. 120 police officers embarked on a raid, yesterday, checking the freight containers come from China, as well as the customs inspectors’ offices. “This is an action in which several structures of the Interior Ministry and workers of the National Customs Authority are taking part. The action will continue through next week. It is aimed at counteracting illicit activities and tax evasion,” Fabian Badila, spokesman for the Border Police, stated, for Realitatea TV. The Interior Minister, Traian Igas, announced, in turn, yesterday, that the ministry’s structures would continue the raids. “We will continue our action in the customs and checkpoints because we have a responsibility to ensure a clean business environment and to firmly oppose tax evasion,” Igas argued, in a press release.

The checks in the Constanta Harbour were conducted based on intelligence supplied by the central structure of the General Direction for Intelligence and Internal Protection (DGIPI – the Interior Ministry’s intelligence department).
The action takes place four days after the searches conducted by the investigators in the Constanta Customs, following which arrest wardens were issued for 29 people, including the former secretary general of the Interior Ministry and heads of the Constanta Harbour Authority, on charges of setting up an organized crime group, smuggling and tax evasion.

DGIPI dismantlement rumours

The next head to roll in the investigation which targets, among others, Laurentiu Mironescu, the ex-secretary general of MAI, was, on Wednesday night, the head of the chief of Constanta County’s Intelligence and Internal Protection Service (SIPI) office, chief inspector George Popa. The Interior Minister, Traian Igas, had Popa dismissed, offering, as the official motivation, “a poor management of specialized skills at the territorial unit level”. Translated into the unofficial lingo, the dismissal comes as a consequence of the Mironescu case and is, in fact, taking to task the head of SIPI Constanta for failing to warn the ministry of Mironescu’s possible involvement in this corruption case.

The minister’s disgruntlement seems to run even deeper, targeting the central structure itself, that is, the General Direction for Intelligence and Internal Protection. Sources in the ministry, quoted by “Romania Libera”, argue that DGIPI may be dismantled, as it did not prevent Laurentiu Mironescu’s appointment in the secretary general office. As a consequence of the lack of professionalism, passivity or, possibly, complicity of some DGIPI officers with the organized crime group, the minister Traian Igas and the prime-minister Emil Boc, who had appointed Mironescu in office, came in for criticism. Igas initiated checks at DGIPI, which “will result in the direction’s being dismantled,” the same sources argued. In the past years, DGIPI was the site of highly-publicized scandals, from the arrest, on charges of corruption, of no less than the former head of the service, Corneliu Serban, to charges of protecting organized crime groups, often co-involving local police chiefs, as was the case of the colonel Soric, the ex-chief of the Neamt County Police.

Basescu: everyone should be made accountable for their deeds

The president Traian Basescu also voiced his opinion on this case, yesterday, on the public radio. When asked who should be made accountable for Laurentiu Mironescu’s appointment in the office of secretary general of MAI, the president replied: “We’ve grown used that someone should be made accountable for somebody else. Everyone should be made accountable for their own deeds”. The head of state added that this was the more valid as far as illegal actions are concerned. “I am told the secretary general of MAI was given the green light by the National Registry Office for Classified Information (ORNISS). If there was anything to reveal, it should have been revealed in January,” the head of state further said. In this context, the president argued that politically-motivated appointments should be restricted to ministers and state secretaries. This statement was not random, as politically-motivated appointments seem to have gone beyond the second echelon in the ministries’ organizational. Laurentiu Mironescu-himself stated, in court, during the hearings which preceded his preventive arrest, that all the decision-making positions in the harbour had been divided between the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) and the National Union for Romanian Progress (UNPR).

EUR 2 bln-tax evasion last year

The National Anti-Cor­ruption Directorate (DNA) investigators who are looking into the Constanta case argue that every container going through the Constanta Harbour had to pay a “tax” ranging between EUR 1,000 and 7,000. According to official figures, 353,711 containers went through the harbour in 2010. The journalists at “Evenimentul zilei” did the maths, which amounted, at an average bribe of EUR 4,000 for one in three containers, to a total EUR 500 M. As “commissions” account, in general, for 20-25 pc of the value of taxes they dodge, the average tax evasion caused, via the Constanta Harbour, in 2010, amounts to approx. EUR 2 bln.

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