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February 7, 2023

Lukoil Affair heats the spirits

President Traian Basescu on Thursday accused Judge Horatius Dumbrava of ‘lying’ and noted that he maintained the statement he had made when he green-lighted the prosecution of five ex-ministers in its integrity. ‘There seems to be magistrates who insist on engaging in politics and are actually doing politics worse than we, politicians, do it. A magistrate thought that, in my press conference, I had affected justice and that I had disclosed acts from the case. I am sorry, but the magistrate is lying. I am maintaining the statement I made when I approved the criminal investigations against five ex-ministers in integrity’, Basescu said.
President Traian Basescu said, on Thursday, that he wanted to send the CSM member who had reported on him a piece of information for which he asked that he should ‘not rush to CSM’ – ‘in the EADS case there are nine companies and individuals who also appear in the Microsoft case’.
‘I am giving the magistrate a piece of information for which I am asking him not to rush to CSM. In our analysis, in the EADS case there are nine companies and individuals who also appear in Microsoft, and not from among the people to whom statues are built in the Microsoft case’, Traian Basescu said.
The president added that ‘the information was not present in any criminal case’.
‘If Lukoil wants laws like in Moscow, let them go there’
Regarding the Lukoil scandal, Traian Basescu said the conduct of the Romanian side in relation with Lukoil must be ‘to the understanding of the Russian’ and warned that the company must make a decision: either it complies with the laws of the Romanian state and stays or ‘if it wants the laws in Moscow, it will go there’.
‘Our conduct must be to the understanding of the Russian. We will have to behave in the same way. The Russian cannot say <I am closing down the refinery because I want to>. Lukoil will have to think about leaving the Romanian market altogether if that’s their approach. They also have a whole retail chain here’, the president said.
The head of state added that Romania is a country of the rule of law and that the law equally applies to all. He added that the exercise of pressure seemed to him ‘a Putin-like approach’ and that ‘this is what Putin does in his country, not in an EU state’.
‘Lukoil should make up their mind: if they want to stay, they must comply with the laws of the Romanian state. If they want the laws in Moscow, let them go there’, Basescu also said.
I call on Government to be ready to take over the refinery if Lukoil does not resume production tomorrow .
The president said the pressure put by the Lukoil official inadmissible and demanded that the Government be ready to take over the refinery in Ploiesti if Lukoil does not resume production tomorrow.
Basescu said that, in the Lukoil matter, he was not going to discuss local approaches, but just the threats and pressure put by a leader of the Lukoil company on prosecutors and the Romanian Government.
‘Such an approach is inadmissible. If tomorrow they decide not to resume production, I am calling on the Government of Romania to be ready to take over the refinery in Ploiesti, because that goes beyond the limits of a company’, Basescu said. ‘When the illegalities committed by Lukoil are finally determined, we can offset the identified fraud with the sums invested by Lukoil in the refinery’, the head of state added.
Dumbrava: Attacks on Justice multiply, CSM must issue a warning
The Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) on Thursday decided to notify the Judicial Inspection on the statements made by Victor Ponta on the Lukoil judicial investigation, on what Traian Basescu had said regarding the Microsoft dossier and by Varujan Vosganian on the conviction of Sorin Rosca Stanescu.
The members of the CSM plenary meeting adopted the three proposals for the notification of the Judicial Inspection on statements regarding Justice made by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, President Traian Basescu and Senator Varujan Vosganian.
The Judicial Inspection will look into the situation and present its conclusions in a single report on the defence of the independence of Justice which will be presented to the plenary CSM meeting. The analysis of the statements made by Premier Victor Ponta on October 6 on the Petrotel Lukoil investigation conducted by the Prosecutors of the Ploiesti Court of Appeal was on the agenda of CSM on Thursday. The other two proposals to notify the Judicial Inspection were made during the meeting of CSM, by Judge Horatius Dumbrava and CSM Vice-President, Prosecutor Gheorghe Muscalu.
In the context of the debates on the need to notify the Judicial Inspection regarding PM Victor Ponta’s statements, Horatiu Dumbrava pointed out that the Judicial Inspection should be alerted also in the case of what President Traian Basescu had said on October 3, when he issued the opinions permitting the prosecution of ex-ministers in the Microsoft case. Dumbrava also said that unfounded attacks on Justice by politicians had multiplied lately and noted that, in the context, the members of the Superior Council of Magistracy, should issue a clear warning to politicians, finding that a mere notification of the Judicial Inspection was not enough.
‘The context these days, where statements by the President of Romania, Mr. Traian Basescu, appear, disclosing data and information from criminal cases, or statements by the Prime Minister, Mr. Victor Ponta, who concretely warns prosecutors and tell them how to conduct their investigations, call for CSM to take a stance against any act that undermines the independence of Justice and erodes the trust of the public in Justice. During this period when we see attacks on justice multiply, it is not enough to alert the Judicial Inspection and then wait for weeks for the Inspection to analyse the situation and propose to the Plenum the conclusions of its checks. We need an Appeal or a decisive Warning CSM should send to all politicians’, Dumbrava said.
In what regards the notification of the Judicial Inspection on President Traian Basescu’s statement on October 3, Dumbrava said the criminal investigation is confidential and all the parties involved in the act of justice must observe that privacy.
‘Following the study of cases,–the President says in his statement, the conclusion is that some of the individuals who are under criminal investigation have not taken money, that overseas accounts are frozen, that the testimonies given in the case are not covered by evidence, that some people never actually made denouncements to DNA. The criminal investigation is not public, it is confidential. All actors who contribute to the rendering of justice, including the President of Romania, Senate or Chamber of Deputies, must respect these process coordinates’, Horatiu Dumbrava pointed out.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Vice-President of CSM proposed that the Judicial Inspection should be notified also in the case of the affirmations made by Varujan Vosganian, who, during a TV show on Wednesday, commenting on the conviction of Sorin Rosca Stanescu, had said that ‘a prosecutor asks, a prosecutor renders the judgement… The Court of Appeal is, in fact, an extension of those who accuse. It’s like an execution platoon… The High Court is the most explicit case’.
‘I do not think the TV station or the press is guilty, because this is their role, to inform the public. However, as a politician, as a member of Parliament, you cannot come and say that a prosecutor’s profession is something very low and that all the bad things in this society happen because of a prosecutor’, said Prosecutor Gheorghe Muscalu.
Ponta: “I did not interfere and I don’t interfere in the judiciary”
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said, on Monday, about the Lukoil case, that the prosecutor is sovereign and independent in the investigation of the case, but the Government hoped in a legal solution that should permit the punishment of the guilty persons and recovery of the damage, but also the normal continuation of activity and payment of wages to the employees.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Wednesday he did not interfere and he does not interfere in the judiciary, referring to the Lukoil situation and pointing out that as head of government, he has obligations as regards social effects.
“I did not interfere and I do not interfere in any way in the judiciary. I don’t know the prosecutor handling this case, I have not spoken to anybody, but I tell you this: the prosecutors do the right thing when discovering tax evasion situations, regardless of the head of the respective refinery or the head of any company, they should be imposed criminal sanctions and the damage should be also recovered. That is the part strictly legal. On the other hand, as prime minister and president, but first of all as prime minister, I have obligations as regards social effects and I referred to the fact that the day after tomorrow, 3,500 people who have to pay their bank loans, household expenses, take care of their children, should receive their salaries for their work, and I think this is going to happen. … Thirdly, as for budget collection, not only Lukoil, but any refinery in Romania … gives money on a monthly basis to the consolidated budget, either we talk about excise taxes, taxes, anything else, about one hundred million dollars. Not to mention local taxes,” Ponta told B1 TV private broadcast.
At the same time, the Premier drew attention to the blockages that might affect other companies such as Oltchim, Oil Terminal, Conpet.
“No one wants one hundred million-dollar per month budget hole, because we were forced to cut funds from somewhere else,” Ponta said.
Victor Ponta avoided commenting on the possibility that Lukoil might leave Romania.
“I cannot comment and I don’t want to comment. I heard enough malicious and stupid comments yesterday and today that my intention is to help the Russians. … The one hundred million dollars will get in the Romanian budget, not the budget of other country. I don’t know what it will going to happen. I wish, for any company in Romania, for any employer in Romania, it’s not only a wish, but also my obligation that the employees in no way responsible for the fact their bosses violate the law, be paid their salaries, and the state its taxes, and if there is confirmation that the crime is tax evasion and taxes owed to the state, I want even more the damage to be recovered, because we have famous cases in Romania, I’m not talking about Russian firms, but Romanian companies from which we did not recover a single leu, with these companies still operating and conducting propaganda campaigns against those seeking to collect money for the budget,” Ponta said.

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