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December 9, 2021
POLITICS

‘Gala Bute’ case blows up: DNA prosecutors indict former Ministers Elena Udrea, Ion Ariton for abuse of power and graft, retain Rudel Obreja

The National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) on Monday asked the Parliament to allow it to prosecute ex-Tourism and Regional Development Minister Elena Udrea and ex-Economy Minister Ion Ariton, in the ‘Gala Bute’ case where searches were conducted in Bucharest and four counties in the morning, about transactions between state institutions and private companies participating in the organisation of ‘Gala Bute’, a sportive event organised by the company of the former President of the Romanian Boxing Federation, Rudel Obreja, and which benefited from an important financial support from the state.

Head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi sent Romania’s Prosecutor-general the papers needed for the notification of the Chamber of Deputies in connection with the request for the start of the prosecution of deputy Elena Udrea, who, at the time when the suspected crimes were perpetrated, was filling the position of Minister of Regional Development and Tourism.

According to a DNA release sent on Monday to Agerpres, the request for the start of prosecution proceedings zeroes in on the crimes of abuse of power and drawing of undue benefits for self or others, the attempt to use fake documents, the submission of inaccurate, incomplete or false statements for unduly accessing funding from the EU budget and graft.

The deeds under the spotlight are connected to the supposedly illegal award and use, between 2010 – 2012, of funds under the management of the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism.

“On June 24, 2011, the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism awarded a contract worth 10,175,168.44 lei under which company SC Europlus Computers SRL [owned by then head of the Romanian Boxing Federation Rudel Obreja] was to provide services for Romania’s promotion in the events that were to accompany the International Professional Boxing Gala organised by the Romanian Boxing Federation. The contract was awarded without negotiation and without the publication of an advertisement, and the amount was to be repaid from European funds. Under this contract, on February 1, 2012, the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism paid 8,116,800 lei for the promotion services. The public funds were used in a manner that is prohibited by law, specifically for the financing of a sports event organized by a trading company and the amount transferred under the contract represents in its entirety a loss to the Ministry’s assets,” the release reads.

DNA shows that the real purpose of the contract’s conclusion was that of ensuring the necessary funds for the organization of the said boxing gala and the procurement of advertising services was actually just a formal smokescreen, because Ministry did not really need such services and the sole purpose of such actions was to give all these moves the appearance of legality. The anti-corruption body holds that Elena Udrea was actually after electoral benefits, seeking to link her name to that of high-profile boxer Lucian Bute, who was to be the top attraction of the gala. The contract was pushed through under the umbrella of the project “Promoting Romania’s tourism brand” that was supposed to get funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Yet, the prosecutors note that “the contract was allegedly awarded in breach of legal public procurement procedures and the services acquired are not included in the categories of expenditures that are eligible for European funding programs. These circumstances entailed the refusal of the managing authority of European funds to settle the amount, so that, because of the public servants’ faulty on-the-job acting, the said amounts were fully covered from the state budget. The criminal investigations conducted so far revealed that then Minister of Regional Development and Tourism Elena Udrea had the most important contribution to the perpetration of these deeds and the final outcome.”

The cited source underscores that Elena Udrea decided to have the gala organised following informal talks with Rudel Obreja, that she pressed for the passage of the regulatory acts that defined the legal framework for the financing of the event, repeatedly asked the public servants reporting to her to meet Rudel Obreja to identify solutions for the contract’s conclusion and directly participated in the establishment of the budget the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism was to assign outside the regulated public procurement procedure.

The existing evidence also shows that Elena Udrea used her influence as a Minister and Deputy Chairperson of the party at rule on a bank decision-maker and the Ministry’s Secretary-general to elicit the fast-track grant, to S.C. Europlus Computers S.R.L, of a bank loan under more favorable than usual terms, reports Agerpres.

 

DNA: Ex-Economy Minister Ion Ariton put pressure on state-owned companies to sponsor Bute Boxing Gala

 

Head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi on Monday also sent Romania’s Prosecutor-general the papers required for the notification of the Senate in connection with the request for the start of the prosecution of Senator Ion Ariton, a former Minister of Economy between September 2010 – February 2012, on counts of facilitating abuse of power and graft in the Bute Boxing Gala case.

As regards the crime of facilitating abuse of power, a DNA release sent to Agerpres on Monday shows that in his capacity as Minister of Economy, Ion Ariton has determined the representatives of 10 companies under the authority of the Ministry he was heading (Hidroelectrica, Transelectrica SA, Nuclearelectrica SA, Transgaz SA, the Turceni Energy Complex, the Rovinari Energy Complex SA, Romgaz SA, Oil Terminal, IAR Ghimbav SA and the National Society of Mineral Waters SA) to sponsor with a total of 1,742,830 lei the organization of the international professional boxing gala organized in Bucharest on July 9, 2011, featuring notorious power-puncher Lucian Bute as the main attraction.

The prosecutors argue that given that the event was organized by the privately-owned company SC Europlus Computers SRL, which was the real beneficiary of the sponsorship, the sponsorship of the boxing gala was actually prohibited by Law No. 32/1994.

Thus, according to Art. 3, Paragraph 2 of the aforementioned law, state-owned trading companies are not allowed to engage in sponsorship activities the beneficiaries of which are privately-owned trading companies.

According to the DNA release, although the real beneficiary of the sponsorships was company SC Europlus Computers SRL (holder of the exclusive rights to organize the event and which entirely collected the gala revenues), the Romanian Boxing Federation was interposed in the scheme so as to bypass the imperative requirements of Law No. 32/1994 and create the appearance that the financial support was directed to a non-profit legal persons.

In this context, the total amount of 1,742,830 lei, which had been provided in sponsorship, represents loss to the aforementioned companies, and at the same time an undue benefit to Europlus Computers manager Rudel Obreja, as the sponsoring of the gala was prohibited by law.

The funds obtained were used to cover the costs of the event’s organization, with Europlus Computers SRL being the sole beneficiary of the gala revenues which were in the end transferred into the accounts of manager Rudel Obreja.

In connection with the crime of graft, DNA shows that, in order to determine the company representatives to bend to his requirements, Ion Ariton used his authority and influence derived from his positions as Minister of Economy, Senator and president of the Sibiu county branch of the party at rule at that time.

“By using authority and influence, Ion Ariton pursued the illegal transfer of 1,742,830 lei into the accounts of SC Europlus Computers SRL,” concludes the DNA release.

 

Elena Udrea: ‘I feel safer while monitored by Police’

 

MP Elena Udrea said on Monday that she trusted’ almost no one’ at that point and that she felt ‘safer while monitored by the Police’, noting that, although she was not a part of the system, she knew how it operates. ‘I trust almost no one at this point’, Udrea said in a statement made at the Parliament Palace. ‘I connect what is happening to me to the things I know about how the system operates. I am not a part of the system’, Udrea added. She also said she was making no accusation against SRI and that ‘a person, namely Coldea, is not an institution’.

‘I am making no accusation against SRI, a person is not an institution. Mr. Coldea is just one person’, Udrea said.

Elena Udrea said the fact that DNA had introduced her in the ‘Gala Bute’ case was caused by her accusations brought against interim SRI chief Florian Coldea and that it was an attempt to bully her and to undermine her credibility.

MP Elena Udrea is accused by DNA of abuse of power and drawing of undue benefits for self or others, the attempt to use fake documents, the submission of inaccurate, incomplete or false statements for unduly accessing funding from the EU budget and graft.

The deeds under the spotlight are connected to the supposedly illegal award and use, between 2010 – 2012, of funds under the management of the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism.

DNA shows that the real purpose of the contract’s conclusion was that of ensuring the necessary funds for the organization of the said boxing gala and the procurement of advertising services was actually just a formal smokescreen, because Ministry did not really need such services and the sole purpose of such actions was to give all these moves the appearance of legality. The anti-corruption body holds that Elena Udrea was actually after electoral benefits, seeking to link her name to that of high-profile boxer Lucian Bute, who was to be the top attraction of the gala.

The contract was pushed through under the umbrella of the project “Promoting Romania’s tourism brand” that was supposed to get funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Yet, the prosecutors note that “the contract was allegedly awarded in breach of legal public procurement procedures and the services acquired are not included in the categories of expenditures that are eligible for European funding programs. These circumstances entailed the refusal of the managing authority of European funds to settle the amount, so that, because of the public servants’ faulty on-the-job acting, the said amounts were fully covered from the state budget. The criminal investigations conducted so far revealed that then Minister of Regional Development and Tourism Elena Udrea had the most important contribution to the perpetration of these deeds and the final outcome.”

The cited source underscores that Elena Udrea decided to have the gala organised following informal talks with Rudel Obreja, that she pressed for the passage of the regulatory acts that defined the legal framework for the financing of the event, repeatedly asked the public servants reporting to her to meet Rudel Obreja to identify solutions for the contract’s conclusion and directly participated in the establishment of the budget the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism was to assign outside the regulated public procurement procedure.

The existing evidence also shows that Elena Udrea used her influence as a Minister and Deputy Chairperson of the party at rule on a bank decision-maker and the Ministry’s Secretary-general to elicit the fast-track grant, to S.C. Europlus Computers S.R.L, of a bank loan under more favourable than usual terms.

 

Ion Ariton, charged with participation to abuse of power: ‘I want this to end as quickly as possible’

 

Senator Ion Ariton, former Minister of Economy, had a first reaction to the request made by DNA to the Senate to lift his immunity in order to prosecute him in the case regarding the organisation of the Bute Gala. Ariton wants the investigation to be definitively concluded, therefore he will ask his colleagues to allow his prosecution. ‘The investigation is following its course. I am not going to ask my colleagues to procrastinate the investigation, on the contrary, I want this to be over as quickly as possible. People have been discussing the Bute Gala for the last four years, I believe it is time this ended. They have already finished the investigation, but now they are starting from the beginning. This one will probably finalise and will probably be resumed again’, Ion Ariton told turnulsfatului.ro.

Head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi sent Romania’s Prosecutor-general the papers required for the notification of the Senate in connection with the request for the start of the prosecution of Senator Ion Ariton, a former Minister of Economy between September 2010 – February 2012, on counts of facilitating abuse of power and graft in the Bute Boxing Gala case.

As regards the crime of facilitating abuse of power, a DNA release shows that in his capacity as Minister of Economy, Ion Ariton has determined the representatives of 10 companies under the authority of the Ministry he was heading (Hidroelectrica, Transelectrica SA, Nuclearelectrica SA, Transgaz SA, the Turceni Energy Complex, the Rovinari Energy Complex SA, Romgaz SA, Oil Terminal, IAR Ghimbav SA and the National Society of Mineral Waters SA) to sponsor with a total of 1,742,830 lei the organization of the international professional boxing gala organized in Bucharest on July 9, 2011, featuring notorious power-puncher Lucian Bute as the main attraction.

The prosecutors argue that given that the event was organized by the privately-owned company SC Europlus Computers SRL, which was the real beneficiary of the sponsorship, the sponsorship of the boxing gala was actually prohibited by Law No. 32/1994.

Thus, according to Art. 3, Paragraph 2 of the aforementioned law, state-owned trading companies are not allowed to engage in sponsorship activities the beneficiaries of which are privately-owned trading companies.

According to the DNA release, although the real beneficiary of the sponsorships was company SC Europlus Computers SRL (holder of the exclusive rights to organize the event and which entirely collected the gala revenues), the Romanian Boxing Federation was interposed in the scheme so as to bypass the imperative requirements of Law No. 32/1994 and create the appearance that the financial support was directed to a non-profit legal persons.

In this context, the total amount of 1,742,830 lei, which had been provided in sponsorship, represents loss to the aforementioned companies, and at the same time an undue benefit to Europlus Computers manager Rudel Obreja, as the sponsoring of the gala was prohibited by law.

The funds obtained were used to cover the costs of the event’s organization, with Europlus Computers SRL being the sole beneficiary of the gala revenues which were in the end transferred into the accounts of manager Rudel Obreja.

In connection with the crime of graft, DNA shows that, in order to determine the company representatives to bend to his requirements, Ion Ariton used his authority and influence derived from his positions as Minister of Economy, Senator and president of the Sibiu county branch of the party at rule at that time.

“By using authority and influence, Ion Ariton pursued the illegal transfer of 1,742,830 lei into the accounts of SC Europlus Computers SRL,” concludes the DNA release according to Agerpres.

 

Avalanche of searches and questionings

 

The DNA prosecutors on Monday conducted searches in the ‘Gala Bute’ case in Bucharest and the counties of Ilfov, Prahova, Hunedoara and Gorj. Targeted was the home of Rudel Obreja, the former President of the Romanian Boxing Federation, initially brought to trial in the case. However, the case was sent back to DNA, after it had become clear that several people had participated in the corruption case.

A number of suspects were brought in for questioning, including Rudel Obreja, Stefan Lungu – Elena Udrea’s former image adviser, and Lupeni Mayor, PSD MP Cornel Resmerita, Gheorghe Nastasia, former Secretary General at the Ministry of Tourism, who allegedly signed in Udrea’s place a ministerial order to expand the scope of eligible expenditures from European funds to include the organisation of the Bute Gala.

Ex-President of Romanian Boxing federation Rudel Obreja was taken by special forces from his home and taken by the van to the DNA headquarters to be questioned in the ‘Gala Bute’ case. When he was taken from his home, Obreja said all the money spent on the organisation of the gala had been legally obtained. However, once he had got to DNA, he anticipated a possible arrest. ‘I will probably be arrested’, said the former boxer before he entered into the building of the National Anti-corruption Department, according to Antena 3 TV.

Judicial sources told Ziare.com Monday morning that the case was about a fraud with Ministry funds which were moved into the patrimony of Rudel Obreja so that he would qualify for a loan from BRD.

 

Obreja retained by anti-graft prosecutors, is Catalin Predoiu next?

 

Rudel Obreja was retained on Monday night by Romania’s anti-graft prosecutors under charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Rudel Obreja’s lawyer said that Catalin Predoiu, the person the Liberal Party wants to appoint as Prime Minister in a new Cabinet, would be questioned by the prosecutors. ‘Mr. Predoiu is on the list for a first time. He will also be called’, lawyer Catalin Dancu told the journalists who were waiting at the DNA door.

 

Ariton, temporarily saved by bureaucracy

 

Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu on Monday said that DNA’s request to lift the immunity of Senator Ion Ariton had been sent back to the prosecutors because of an issue ‘of a strictly bureaucratic nature’.

‘The Parliament services ask, as they have done in previous cases, that the files should be accompanies by a list of items on file, to prevent the risk of important items disappearing’, said the Senate speaker.

‘The paperwork was returned to the prosecutors for a simple operation so that we don’t have any issues afterwards. It is a strictly bureaucratic, technical thing’, Tariceanu said.

Asked if the Parliament might sit in session this week to vote on lifting Ariron’s immunity from prosecution, the speaker of the Senate answered: ‘I don’t know. The first thing the Standing Bureau must do is to allocate the request tot the Legal Affairs Committee’.

 

 

 

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