His release comes after one year and four months of preventive detentionVoicu’s return will not change the power vs. opposition balance of power in the Senate, politicians say.
After almost 16 months of preventive detention, PSD Senator Catalin Voicu was released from the Rahova Penitentiary on Monday night, following a decision of the Supreme Court.
The Senator was arrested on March 30, 2010, as a suspect in a case of influence peddling and forged documents, related to acts of corruption. As he left the penitentiary, Voicu was greeted by his wife and by fellow PSD politician Serban Nicolae, who is also his lawyer in the case. “I am completely innocent,” Voicu said as he was leaving the prison.
The 5-judge panel of the Supreme Court upheld the verdict pronounced by the criminal section of the court, which decided to set Voicu free during the remainder of the probe, but prevented him to leave the locality. Voicu’s lawyers told magistrates that prosecutors questioned all witnesses and the only thing that remains to be done is the indicting document. Before Monday, the Criminal Section of the High Court of Cassation and Justice issued four verdicts on setting Voicu free, but prosecutors were able to overturn three of them in the 5-judge panel. On Monday, the 5-judge panel rejected the appeal filed by prosecutors and set Voicu free.
Other suspects in the case are Florin Costiniu, former head of the Civil and Intellectual Property Section of ICCJ, who is accused of complicity to influence peddling, and businessmen Marius Locic and Costel Casuneanu, for buying influence and using forged papers in view of committing acts of corruption, and crimes against the law of accountancy. They, too, were arrested preventively, but were set free on April 13, 2010.
According to prosecutors, during July – September 2009, Catalin Voicu “used the prerogatives deriving from his position of senator” and received from Casuneanu the sums of RON 250,000 (the equivalent of EUR 60,000) and EUR 200,000 against the promise to convince Florin Costiniu to give a verdict favourable to a company controlled by the businessman. Also in August 2009, Voicu allegedly asked and received from Marius Locic a sum of RON 119,000 in exchange of his promise that he will convince Police to give a favourable solution to a case in which the businessman was probed for criminal offences.
Senate Speaker Mircea Geoana said that, even with Voicu back in Parliament, the balance of power between ruling coalition and opposition in the Senate will remain unchanged, as only his “formal transfer” to another party would change things.
On the other hand, the leader of PNL senators, Puiu Hasotti believes this is another step towards “leveling the odds in the Senate,” where power and opposition are separated by just one vote. In his turn, PDL spokesman Sever Voinescu said Voicu’s presence will not have a major impact upon the voting process, as success further depends on how successful political groups will be at mobilising their members, because the gap between power and opposition is minimal and relative. PSD leader Victor Ponta did not want to comment the decision to set Voicu free and said this case belongs in a court. “As long as he has troubles with Justice, Senator Voicu is outside PSD,” Ponta told realitatea.net.