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May 19, 2022

Transport Minister Fenechiu given five-year prison term in ‘Transformer’ file

The liberal resigned from the Ministry of Transport. The interim will be assured by PM Victor Ponta.

Minister of Transport Relu Fenechiu was handed down on Friday a five-year term in prison in the ‘Transformer’ case tried before the High Court of Cassation and Justice, for aggravated abuse of office. It is for the first time that an incumbent minister is being handed down a prison sentence.
The minister’s brother Lucian Fenechiu was sentenced to five years in prison in the same case for being an accomplice to aggravated abuse of office and also a five-year sentence got Mihai Bogdan Damian, a single associate and administrator of Iasi-based company Europlus SRL. Furthermore, Ioan Turbatu and Ioan Marghidan, both managing directors at electric power supplier SISEE Moldova, were each sentenced to six years in prison for aggravated abuse of office and Petru Andronache, a commercial manager at grid Electrica Moldova was handed down a seven year sentence. The court forced the accused to all pay RON 6,327,390 in material damages to SISEE Moldova.
The judges also ruled to maintain a seizure of the accused persons’ assets, in Relu Fenechiu’s case these being a BMW X6 vehicle and three pieces of real estate in the eastern city of Iasi.
The accused must each pay another RON 25,000 in judicial expenditure to the Romanian state. The ruling is not final and it can be appealed. The National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), in last June, prosecuted Ioan Turbatu, a SISEE Moldova managing director from 2002-2004, for abuse of office, Ioan Marghidan, a SISEE Moldova managing director from 2004-2005, for abuse of office and abuse of office against the public interests, Petru Andronache, a SISEE Moldova commercial director from 2002-2005 for abuse of office and abuse of office against the public interests.
Also prosecuted in this file for abuse of office and abuse of office against the public interests were then-Liberal MP Relu Fenechiu, who at the time that the deeds were committed was either a shareholder and/or administrator at companies SC FENE Grup SA, SC La Rocca SRL Iasi, SC Tehnorom SRL Iasi.

Lucian Fenechiu, also as a shareholder and/or administrator at the same companies and Mihai Bogdan Damian, who was the only associate and administrator of SC Europlus SRL Iasi and a SC FENE Grup SA shareholder.
The anti-corruption prosecutors say that SISEE Moldova, over 2002-2005, procured old used transformers and switches made in the 1970s-1980s from the four above-mentioned companies, without observing the public procurement laws and by choosing these companies over others; the old equipment was purchased at new-equipment prices.
Most of such equipment has remained in the SISEE Moldova stock and never been used, since being too old.
On Friday, the Prime Minister told Agerpres that he signed the resignation of Minister of Transport Relu Fenechiu .
Also on Friday President Traian Basescu signed the decree for Fenechiu’s revocation as Transport minister and the decree appointing Ponta as interim minister.
Ponta said that he would take over as interim at the helm of the Ministry of Transport until the National Liberal Party (PNL) makes a new proposition for this portfolio.
At the time when Fenechiu was being investigated for having sold the Moldova Maintenance and Electricity Services Branch, through his companies, obsolete and used transformers and switches overpriced as new equipment, Ponta had declared that he would remove Fenechiu from office if there is a first instance decision convicting him. Ponta also said on July 1 that he does not shut out the possibility that he takes over as acting Minister of Transport if Fenechiu gets sentenced in court.
Crin Antonescu: I do not regret naming Fenechiu as minister; it’s a tough day for PNL
The President of the National Liberal Party (PNL, in USL alliance, at rule) Crin Antonescu said, on Friday, he did not regret naming Relu Fenechiu in Ponta II Cabinet and stressed that both the Liberals and the Premier have avoided commenting on a possible verdict in the ‘’Transformer’’ case file.
‘’ I think it’s a tough day for all those who believe that we need competent ministers. The fact that a minister who proved competent is, now, following the verdict, even if it is not final, forced to withdraw politically I think it’s not a happy thing. In any case, it’s a tough day for PNL’’, Antonescu said in an intervention for Realitatea TV.
He stressed that there is no question that PNL gives up the Transport portfolio, but avoided to hint who might succeed at the helm of this ministry’’. ‘There is no question of a renouncement to this portfolio. I can not speculate on names. (…) PNL has solutions, undoubtedly the National Standing Bureau set to meet early next week, on Monday or Tuesday, will make a proposal to Prime Minister Ponta’’, Antonescu added.
Antonescu said Ovidiu Silaghi is one of the options taken into consideration for this portfolio.
Victor Ponta: I’m sorry for losing efficient and very good minister
Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Friday expressed his regret at Minister Relu Fenechiu’s sentencing, adding that he is waiting for the National Liberal Party (PNL) to make a new nomination for the Transports portfolio.
‘’I’m sorry I am losing an efficient and very good Minister. I didn’t speak to [PNL leader] Mr. Antonescu, I only talked with Relu Fenechiu and deputy Premier Chitoiu, who is responsible for coordinating government activities. The PNL leadership will meet on Monday or Tuesday and submit to me a new proposition for Transport Minister,’’ Ponta said in a call-in at the RTV broadcaster.
He said the sentencing of the Minister of Transport does not create an image issue for the Government.
‘’This does not create us an image issue, this is not the case at all. Mr. Fenechiu was charged for a crime committed 10 years ago. This is not related whatsoever to his work as minister,’’ Ponta said.
The head of the government added that he does not regret having appointed Fenechiu and explained the case in the docket had been the reason for his reluctance to appoint him as Minister of Transport.
‘’I don’t regret it. When I did hesitate, back in December, this was precisely because I knew of that old case. (…) He has been one of the most efficient ministers and I will always publicly thank him for this,’’ concluded Ponta.
PM Ponta also said he talked on the phone two times with Relu Fenechiu, right after the sentence but also before, and the former said each time that he would resign.

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