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Awdi brothers charged with defrauding CFR Mesagerie

Lebanese born US citizens Hassan and Mehdi Awdi, along with two more people, were charged yesterday by prosecutors with the Organised Crime and Terrorism Investigation Department (DIICOT) with embezzlement tax evasion and money laundering. The Awdi brothers are also investigated for defrauding the Rodipet press distributor of more than EUR 35.5 M.According to the DIICOT prosecutors, the Awdi brothers sought to bankrupt the SC CFR Mesagerie S.A. by transferring its assets to companies owned by them, against the provisions of the privatization contract of the company, and “also in order to obtain some substantial financial benefits”. The Awdi brothers registered bogus services performance contracts which resulted in sham accounting records and damages to the state budget, along with the illegal transfer of assets to the companies to which the payments were made. “The four defendants allegedly appropriated nearly RON 4.4 M, over EUR 1 M, from the asset fund of SC “CFR Mesagerie” SA and incurred substantial loss to the state budget,” Mediafax quoted the DIICOT press release as saying.Turning to the Rodipet case, DIICOT prosecutors said that the company administrators, “taking advantage of  non-existent post-privatization control, lack of financial audits and their dominant position in the General Administrative Assembly,” carried out a policy aimed at bringing the company into bankruptcy by entering loan, consultancy, representation, sales and performance services agreements to the company’s disadvantage.Prosecutors say nine people overall have been charged, who, by means of several trade enterprises <close to 70> committed the crimes of embezzlement, setting up an organised criminal group and money laundering, causing damage to the Romanian state. Investigations began in 2009 and resulted in a protective asset restraint order involving several mobile and fixed assets consisting in 25 buildings and 156 motor vehicles and equipment.CFR Mesagerie was the money-losing courier service of rail operator CFR Calatori before it was bought by the Awdi-owned Monalisa Investments for LEI 7 bln, for close to EUR 200,000. The previous year, 2003, Rodipet Bucuresti went to Otopeni-based Magnar System Com for EUR 6 M. Three years later, the Romanian state bought back 45 pc of the Rodipet shares via a re-RON 17 M debt re-conversion process, only to then sell it to Magnar Two, <former Magnar System Com>, a member company of the Awdi Group. The transaction led to Magnar Two becoming the holder of a 83.9 pc state in the press distributor. The remaining shares are held by the company Your Hotels, 15.9 pc, and a private individual, Bassam Raymond Istanbouly, 0.2 pc – who is being investigated by the DIICOT in connection with CFR Mesagerie case file. When Rodipet went private, the Romanian state gave tax incentives worth RON 48.46 M.

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