BUSINESS POLITICS

Prosecutors uncover EUR 22 M bank fraud

DIICOT, with SRI support, yesterday questioned 100 persons in a case about illegally obtaining financing for projects from the Ministry of Economy, based on forged documents, using companies controlled by the leaders of the group.

The Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), with the technical and intelligence support provided by SRI, yesterday questioned 100 persons, including ministry employees, in a case of bank fraud that led to an estimated loss of EUR 22 M; the homes of 50 suspects were raided, along with a number of companies they control, headquartered in Bucharest, Ilfov, Calarasi and Giurgiu. Yesterday morning, police searched 15 locations in Calarasi plus 35 in Bucharest, and rounded 50 employees of three banks, which were taken to the DIICOT HQ, where prosecutors were expected to decide whether they will issue arrest warrants. According to preliminary information, a number of bank managers and other employees allegedly were involved in a criminal ring dealing in illegal loans. The bank managers served to obtain the loans, then the money were split among the members of the group, and never reached the bank again. The case started from complaints filed by officials of banking institutions, which noticed the existence of too many bad loans, according to libertatea.ro. The employees were kept under surveillance for 7 months. In a separate move, the Control Body of the Ministry of Economy launched its own probe into the case, based on the existing information.DIICOT also informs that the suspects allegedly obtained from the Ministry of Economy, Commerce

and Business Environment, using forged documents, financing for the acquisition of farming machines, via companies controlled by the leaders of the group, Mediafax reports. The criminal activity was supported by suspects Aurel Saramet, the president of the National Guaranteeing Fund for SMEs, Cercel-Duca Alexandru Claudiu, vice-president of a banking unit, Mihai Grigoroiu, Rosu Catalin Ionut and Atanasiu Andrei, employees of the Ministry of Economy, Commerce and Business Environment (all being fired) and Diaconescu Florian Dragos. According to the source, during 2010-2012 the members of the criminal group coordinated by leader Daniel Ruse obtained substantial financial benefits by making bank frauds, i.e. by obtaining or trying to obtain 40 loans from 16 bank units located on Romanian territory, by using forged documents. Saramet was suspended from office shortly after prosecutors named him a suspect in the bank fraud probe.In a press release sent to Nine O’Clock, BRD mentioned that the activity of the bank is not affected by the DIICOT investigation on possible cases of bank fraud, although the name of the deputy CEO of the bank, Claudiu Cercel, appears in the probe; the representatives of the bank mentioned that they will provide authorities with any piece of information necessary. “According to the DIICOT press release, the investigation is under way and the deeds will be analysed in light of art. 66C criminal procedure referring to the presumption of innocence,” reads the communiqué.Another important aspect of this case is that Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR) reported to DIICOT, during Q2, the existence of fake entries in the credit files of four companies from Calarasi, Oltenita and Bucharest, and shows that the activity of the bank continues in normal conditions. “The few bank employees involved in this case were fired. The bank filed criminal complaints against them and others outside the bank. (…) The possible losses will be recovered after the completion of the investigation. BCR succeeded in preventing new frauds in this case as it has complex anti-fraud procedures and specialised personnel,” reads the BCR press release. On the same occasion, BCR praises the efforts of DIICOT, with which it had a very good collaboration during the probe, in order to elucidate the case, since May 2012.

BNR appeals to prudence and balance

The reactions of analysts were not late to appear. Economic analysts consider that the fake guarantees and easily extended loans can affect the entire banking system of Romania. “This also happened in the ‘90s, when many banks went bankrupt with much ado,” they believe. “To me, institutions are more important than persons. (…) The fact that institutions are involved tells me that we are witnessing a large-scale robbery. Even if nobody hit a strongbox and left with the money, it is still robbery. For the bank and for the institutions involved in this robbery,” said George Vulcanescu, economic analyst, money.ro informs.Meanwhile, Central Bank (BNR) officials launch appeals to prudence and equilibrium. “Let’s wait for the results of the investigation,” said Mugur Stet, BNR spokesman. Lawyer Cristian Dutescu added: “The bureaucracy of banks is meant to avoid such cases of fraud. Because the formalism of procedures helps avoiding fraud, but things are completely different if there are forged papers and guarantees. (…) The bankruptcy of Bancorex occurred because loans were extended without guarantees, same as in the cases of Banca Albina or Banca Internationala a Religiilor.”

 

A suspect’s profile

The head of the National Guaranteeing Fund for SMEs (FNGCIMM), Aurel Saramet – a suspect in this case – owns lands and houses in Bucharest and Snagov, has jewels, paintings and a coin collection worth EUR 97,000, and has granted to other persons loans worth EUR 59,000 and RON 200,000, plus two deposits in RON opened with ATE Bank and Alpha Bank in year 2000, worth a total RON 2,270,600. He also has shares in Oncomed Clinic SA and Socet SA. Saramet has shares worth RON 40,706 in Fondul Proprietatea and RON 5,546 in Prospectiuni SA, plus a debt of EUR 105,000 to SC Beton Construct, maturing in 2014, Mediafax reports.Mihai Grigoroiu had been recently appointed deputy director of the Management Authority of the Operational Sectorial Programme Increase of Economic Competitiveness, in the Ministry of Economy. According to a wealth statement he made public on 29 October 2012, Mihai Grigoroiu and his wife own a 50 sq.m. apartment in Sector 1 of Bucharest, which they purchased this year, and a Volkswagen dating since 2003. In 2012, he took from BRD two loans worth RON 28,000 and EUR 51,300, which will reach maturity in 2017 and 2042, respectively. In 2010 he owned a plot of farmland with a surface of 7,200 sq.m., in Giurgiu.Another employee of the Ministry of Economy involved in this case is Catalin Ionut Rosu, auditor. According to his wealth statement made public on March 27, he has a Volkswagen dating from year 2000. He also mentions a BCR loan of RON 37,000 which he took in 2010 and must repay until 2040. The previous wealth statement which he had posted in 2011 also included a 40 sq.m. apartment that is not mentioned by the latest statement, nor is there any mention to having sold it. Andrei Atanasiu, working as expert with the Ministry of Economy, has his domicile in the Ileana commune, Calarasi County, and a completely blank wealth statement.

 

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