The Chamber of Deputies approved on Monday the prosecution of Elena Udrea in the Gala Bute case with 170 votes in favour and 118 opposed, but, according to her lawyers, the result is interpretable. According to the Chamber Regulation, Udrea may be arrested, as the plenary approved the DNA’s request with the vote of the majority of the present MPs. On the other hand, the Statute of the Members of Parliament says that DNA’s request for arrest may only be approved by the vote of the majority of the members of the concerned chamber, which means that the prosecutors’ request was actually declined.
Parliament decision challenged by Udrea’s lawyers
Since the number of those who voted was not the majority of the total number of MPs in the Chamber of Deputies, Elena Udrea’s lawyers consider challenging the result. ‘I believe there will be a very interesting debate on the voting in the plenary session which, in my opinion, does not comply with the legal requirements – section 24, paragraph 4 of Law No. 96/2006 on the Statute of Members of Parliament. The majority required by the law was not fulfilled yesterday. Section 24 requires a majority of half plus one of the members of the Chamber. Yesterday, there were just 170 votes in favour out of the 199 minimum necessary for granting the request’, Marius Striblea said. ‘I don’t know if we will directly challenge this for now, we will claim that the decision was not to approve the request because, as long as there was no majority under the law, any other decision was a decision against the request. We will go with this argument in front of both prosecutors and the court’, the lawyer also said.
The Statute section cited by Striblea describes the procedure for the detention, arrest or search of a member of Parliament. Those actions must have the approval of the chamber of the MP in question, following a request made by the prosecutors through the minister of justice. Paragraphs 3 and 4 describe the stage where the plenary meeting decides.
‘The justice minister’s request accompanied by the Legal Committee report are submitted for debate and adoption by the plenary session of the chamber the MP is a member of, within 5 days of the submission of the report. The Chamber decides on the request by secret vote of the majority of its members. The decision of the Chamber is immediately communicated to the minister of justice and published in the Official Journal of Romania, Part I, within three days. The date of communication to the minister of justice is the date when the decision becomes effective’, the Statute reads.
The Chamber of Deputies currently has 396 members, 199 representing half plus one, more than the 170 votes supporting DNA’s request. Under the Statute, Striblea has a point.
On the other hand, the Regulation of the Chamber of Deputies, also with a rank of law, contains different provisions on the necessary number of MPs. Section 195, paragraph 8, says only the majority of present MPs is enough for approving the request for the arrest of an MP. ‘The Chamber of Deputies shall decide on the measure within 20 days of notification, by the vote of the majority of the present members’.
In this context, Elena Udrea’s lawyers could speculate on the fact that two documents contain contradictory provisions. The interpretation dispute cannot be solved by the Constitution as it makes no reference to the quorum for needed for approving an arrest request. ‘The members of Parliament may be investigated and prosecuted for offences that are not connected with their vote or political opinions expressed in the exercise of their mandate, but may not be searched, detained or arrested without the consent of their Chamber, after hearing them’, Section 72, paragraph 2 of the Constitution states.
The Constitution, at Section 76, paragraph 2, also states that ‘the adoption of the laws and decision of Parliament – ordinary laws and decisions – are adopted by the vote of the majority of present members of each Chamber’.
The vote in the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on Monday therefore puts the magistrates dealing with the Gala Bute case in a difficult situation, as the prosecutor may not operate the preventive arrest of the MP without the Parliament’s prior approval and the judge who would grant such request might be accused of illegal deprivation of freedom of a citizen.
Lawyer Marius Striblea: ‘A preventive arrest proposal will probably be made’
Elena Udrea’s lawyer, Marius Striblea, after the hearing of his client by DNA, said he expected a preventive arrest proposal, but noted again that the approval of the former PMP president’s arrest was not legal.
‘A proposal for \preventive arrest will be probably made, we have been called here for the information of the MP on the new charges. The approval obtained from the Chamber of Deputies yesterday is backed by an illegal vote, since the law says that the majority of the members of the Chambers must vote in favour. It means that 199 out of the total of the 296 MPs should have voted in favour. Only 170 did. It is therefore a decision that rejected the arrest request’, Striblea said. He reiterated the fact that the Gala Bute case was built on denunciations and that there was no evidence.
Elena Udrea: ‘I will continue to make denunciations against Coldea until someone takes them seriously’
Elena Udrea said, after five hours with the DNA prosecutors, that she had been informed on the new charges and added that she could see that all those who had paid bribe were getting away with it by making denunciations.
‘I was informed on my new charges, I see that all those who paid bribe or did something illegal need to do to be left alone is to say they passed the bribe on to someone else. This denunciation technique helps those who use it get away with everything. The only person still arrested in the Gala Bute case is Rudel Obreja, who refused to do that. I will continue to make denunciations against Coldea until someone takes them seriously’, Elena Udrea said.
On the denunciation made by her ex-husband, Dorin Cocos, who said that Udrea knew about the bribes received in the Microsoft case in which she is now on house arrest, she said: ‘If that helped him be free, I wish him well. After three month on remand, you probably say just about anything they ask you to say just to get out’.
Tudor Breazu and Ana Maria Topoliceanu, questioned by DNA
In the Gala Bute case, Tudor Breazu, the manager of Elena Udrea’s Nana farm, and Ana Maria Topoliceanu, former head of the National Investment Company, were questioned by DNA Monday night to complete previous depositions with new information in the case, according to judicial sources.
During her address to Parliament before the vote Monday night, Udrea attacked her ‘friend’, Ana Maria Topoliceanu, who – she said – had made a denunciation against her. Udrea said the request for her arrest in that case was exclusively based on denunciations, one made by her own friend, ‘who has decided she can only stay free if she reports on other people, and not just anyway, but also putting pressure on other parties to the case’. The ex-minister noted that, if she could be arrested based on denouncements, the same could happen to any other MP. ‘Eve the arrest request today is based on denunciations, one made by my own friend, who has decided the only way she could remain free was to report on people and not just anyway, but by also putting pressure on other parties to the case. That is proven by how a person ends up being charged. If I could be arrested for a week based on denunciations, the same thing could happen to any of you’, Elena Udrea told her colleagues in Parliament.
PNL accuses PSD of trying to keep Udrea off prison
PNL’s political group in the Chamber of Deputies accuses PSD of having mobilized its MPs trying to block the prosecutors’ request for the approval of the preventive arrest of Elena Udrea, suspended from PMP.
‘The vote given yesterday on DNA’s request for the preventive arrest of MP Elena Udrea – 170 in favour and 118 opposed – proved to us the PSD-patented dual character, demagogy and lies, a party that mobilized its MPs trying to block the justice request’, PNL group spokesperson Cristina Pocora stated in a release on Tuesday.
‘PSD and its friends voted against the justice request or stayed in their chairs and did not vote’, she further says.
Pocora stresses the PNL MPs had voted ‘in plain sight’ to grant the prosecutors’ request for the prosecution and arrest of the former Minister of Regional Development and Tourism, Elena Udrea.
ICCJ to decide on Elena Udrea’s arrest
On Tuesday, the DNA prosecutors sent a new request for arresting Elena Udrea to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ). The case will be addressed on Wednesday from 8 am. The MP will appear in Court to see if she will be arrested again, this time in the Gala Bute case where she ahs been prosecuted for taking bribe and using her influence for obtaining undue benefits.