The Senate voted on Wednesday on the requests made by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) for the lifting of immunity in view of detaining and arresting ex-Ministers Darius Valcov and Dan Sova.
Darius Valcov: ‘My request to you today is to vote <Yes>’
In the case of the former Finance Minister, Darius Valcov, out of the total of 150 votes expressed, 97 were in favour, 48 opposed and five were annulled. In his case, DNA’s request was granted.
Before the vote, Valcov asked his colleagues to vote for lifting his immunity. ‘Today is the Annunciation, we receive good news: the Fiscal Code and the Code of Fiscal Procedure will be approved by the Government today and will come to us, here in the Senate. This is what we are supposed to do. Please let Justice decide if I should be arrested or not. My request to you today is to vote <Yes>. Being also my birthday, I have one extra request: Please do not put me in the situation of resigning Senate in order to appear in Court’, Valcov told his colleagues in the Senate.
DNA requested the approval of the Senate in order to retain and to order preventive arrest of Darius Valcov based on charges of abuse of office, after allegedly assigning contracts to a businessman, in return for an alleged bribe of 20 per cent of the attributed sums.
The prosecutors said that former Slatina mayor had received ‘from 2010 to 2013 approximately EUR 2 M, partly directly in cash and the rest of RON 2.48 M via companies’.
On March 13, DNA prosecutors presented Darius Valcov the charges of abuse of office, based on the crime committed while he was the Mayor of the Municipality of Slatina. Valcov pleaded innocent and claimed he had requested no bribe for intervening for a businessman.
In the criminal investigation documents, the prosecutors state that Darius Valcov’s criminal activity began six years ago.
Both before and after the vote, the former minister appeared before the DNA investigators. He was taken out of the main offices of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) in handcuffs and moved to the Bucharest Police lockup as a 24-hour detention warrant was issued on his name for influence peddling.
“We are moving forward,” Valcov told journalists before being driven away in a Police car.
Dan Sova: ‘I guarantee to you that, a few years from now, you will realise you have not made a mistake’
DNA’s request for the approval of the detention and arrest in the case of ex-Transport Minister Dan Sova was not approved by the Senate on Wednesday, when 79 MPs were in favour, 67 opposed and five abstained. It would have required 85 votes in favour in order to pass.
PSD Senator Dan Sova is accused on three counts of being an accessory to malfeasance in office. Investigators took this action in the case concerning the contracts that Sova’s law firm signed with the Turceni and Rovinari energy centres. Prosecutors have data and evidence according to which Sova filed to the case handled by the DNA several false documents in an attempt to prove his innocence. Moreover, he ordered the destruction of all hard drives in his law firm in order to hide the email correspondence between the law firm and the leaderships of the two energy centres. According to a communiqué issued by anticorruption prosecutors, the criminal investigation reveals that in 2007-2009 Dan Sova signed several contracts and addenda between the “Sova & Associates” law firm and the Rovinari Energy Centre (CER) and Turceni Energy Centre (CET). Likewise, prosecutors concluded that as “coordinating lawyer” – a title explicitly mentioned in all those contracts – Sova took part in several talks concerning the goal of the said documents, went to the headquarters of CER and CET and of other institutions, effectively contributing to the closing of these contracts and addenda. Moreover, he also offered legal consulting services on the basis of these contracts and addenda.
PSD Senator Dan Sova said in the Senate, before the vote on his preventive arrest, on Wednesday, that he had started his day in a very pleasant way, at the praying group, and said to his colleagues: ‘May God be with each of us and may His will be done’. ‘It is the Annunciation, so, first of all, I would like to wish you something: May God be with each of us and may His will be done. I have always been honoured to speak from this rostrum and I am also today, although it is a delicate moment for me, since there is a request for detention and arrest for an alleged offence of moral complicity to abuse of office’, he said.
According to Sova, ‘moral complicity, in the opinion of the investigators, is the fact that in 2007 he assumingly convinced two Rovinari and Turceni managers to sign legal assistance agreements with the law firm in which he was a partner’.
‘Not only there is no evidence on file to suggest such thing, but everything actually suggests the opposite’, the PSD senator added.
‘He noted that it was not a corruption offence, but something related to his work, not as a senator, party leader or former minister, but as a lawyer.
‘I am telling you with all responsibility – there were three agreements. In two of them Rovinari and Turceni were being sued by the mine closing company over very big debts. The risk was bankruptcy and losing thousands of jobs. I was not at all involved in that suit, my colleagues in the firm obtained a genuine success which is visible with the two complexes today. Nothing of what happened contained a shadow of illegality’, Sova also said.
PSD Senator Dan Sova also said in Parliament on Wednesday that one of the legal assistance contacts of his law firm was for the collection of a debt of RON 48 M owed to Turceni by Electrica, the latter company being represented by Alina Gorghiu’s law firm.
‘My colleagues represented Turceni and obtained the sum. Electrica was represented by Mrs. Alina Gorghiu’s law firm, It is very hard for me to believe that Alina Gorghiu cannot accurately remember that this transaction between Turceni and Electrica contained absolutely nothing illegal, but on the contrary, the law was observed from top to bottom’, Sova said.
In his address, Dan Sova asked for the rejection of DNA’s request, telling his colleagues that he was just asking for an opportunity to defend himself ‘as a free man’.
‘I am not going to complain before you about a very clear reality – that, ever since this case was started, I have never stopped running from place to place trying to demonstrate my innocence, which is not all right as you all know it – they have the burden of proof. I choose to take on the burden of proof myself. I choose to subject myself also to this unnatural thing’, Sova said. ‘But, please – and I say this with dignity – please give me the opportunity, through your vote, rejecting DNA’s request, to defend myself as a free man. And I guarantee to you that, a few years from now, two o three years from now, when we have the final ruling in this case, you will realise you have not made a mistake’, he added.
Replying to Sova’s assertions, PNL Co-president Alina Gorghiu told Mediafax on Wednesday that, by what he had said about her, Sova was just trying to ‘capture the benevolence of the Liberal senators’ and noted that she had told her colleagues not to be bullied by the PSD senator’s statements.
‘I have told all senators again to show how they vote and not to allow themselves to be bullied by the use of my name by Senator Sova’, A. Gorghiu said. The PNL co-president also said, ‘for the correct information of the press, that, on 17.07.2007 she quit the law firm, which can be checked with the Bucharest Bar Association at any time’.
‘I therefore also inform Senator Sova that I signed absolutely no contract and I represented no company in the case he mentioned’, Gorghiu said.
Dan Sova said, after the vote, that he was waiting for his case to be referred to Court so that he could defend himself in front of the judges.
Liberal Theodor Niculescu may be arrested
After the senators voted on DNA’s request for the arrest of Dan Sova and Darius Valcov, it was the deputies’ turn to decide on whether to grant or not the request for the arrest of Liberal Theodor Niculescu. The Legal Committee on Monday issued a positive opinion in the matter. ‘Although we do it with a heavy heart, we, the Liberals, will vote for approving DNA’s request’, PNL MP Ludovic Orban stated in plenary session. ‘Whilst I consider the request to be excessive, the PNL political group remains consistent with its position – to not hamper the carriage of justice in any way in Parliament’.
Liberal MP Theodor Nicolescu is prosecuted in the case concerning illegal restitutions, a case in which Horia Georgescu has been arrested. The Liberal is accused of passive bribery and three counts of severe malfeasance in office.
US, UK and Dutch Embassies react to vote
The US Embassy, on Mediafax.ro request, notes that parliamentary immunity should not be abused in order to avoid bringing people to justice and that the investigation of corruption cases must be allowed and the law must be enforced.
‘We do not comment on individual cases, however we believe that one basic principle of democracy is the fact that all people are equal before the law. Parliamentary immunity should not be abused in order to avoid bringing people to justice and that the investigation of corruption cases must be allowed and the law must be enforced’, reads the answer of the diplomatic mission, after the Senate declined the request to lift Senator Dan Sova’s immunity.
The British Embassy to Bucharest has announced that it was monitoring justice developments, including the decisions of Parliament on parliamentary immunity. ‘The British Embassy is monitoring developments in the field of justice, including Parliament’s decisions on parliamentary immunity. The most recent European Commission report on Romania’s progress in the framework of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism notes that Romania has become more effective in fighting top-level corruption. The document also notes with concern that the National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) has had limited success in convincing Parliament to give a positive answer to its requests for lifting the immunity of certain members of Parliament, in order to permit the beginning of investigations and enforcement of the preventive arrest measure’, says the British Embassy.
The Dutch Embassy noted on Wednesday, on mediafax.ro request, that it was following ‘with concern and surprise’ developments regarding the removal of the immunity of members of Parliament, especially in the context where political parties have made a commitment to fight against corruption. ‘The Embassy of the Netherlands follows with concern and surprise’ developments regarding the removal of the immunity of members of Parliament, especially in the context where political parties have made a commitment to fight against corruption. We strongly believe that the law applies to everyone in the same way’, reads the answer offered by the Dutch diplomatic mission.
PNL’s Gorghiu: PNL demands an early election to give Romania a new parliament
The National Liberal Party (PNL) is demanding an early election that will give the country a new parliament, PNL co-chair Alina Gorghiu said Wednesday in the context of Senate’s vote the same day on Senator Dan Sova.
“What has happened today is defiance against Romanians, justice and the rule of law. Today, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and [PSD national leader] Victor Ponta have orchestrated a new play of procedural nature with the same intention: to block justice, and did so in full contempt of the Romanian citizens. This is another lesson used by Ponta to show us that neither us, nor the Romanians will be PSD’s equals,” Gorghiu said in a press statement released on Wednesday.
She added that the main difference between the vote on Sova and the vote on Darius Valcov is the latter has chosen a dignified path.
“By the vote of the PSD senators, Ponta is shattering the credibility of an entire country so that they do not lose power, the Government. Today’s vote confirms what we have been saying for some time now: PSD is the corruption umbrella and Victor Ponta the handle to which all those facing legal issues cling. PSD’s integrity is making believe it has just internal regulations, when in fact they are still the same old foes of the rule of law,” said Gorghiu.
The PNL co-chair showed that for equality before the law to exist between politicians and common people, the only solution would be for Romanians to pass judgement in an early election.
“PNL is demanding an early election to give the country a new parliament with a new legitimacy and a restart the relationship between the political class and citizens, something similar to what happened in November 2014,” says Gorghiu.
She mentioned that PNL will seek a solution and the levers to challenge the vote on Sova with the Constitutional Court, namely the interpretation of the number of votes needed to strip the PSD senator of immunity.
“We have in mind the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court that has established that the decisions of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are approved by a majority of the attending MPs,” Gorghiu concluded.
The leader of the PSD political group in the Senate, Ilie Sarbu, states in an interview to gandul.ro that the vote was normal. ‘They voted normally. It is very complicated when a vote is taken on these measures to control and anticipate things. There is a party line which says that we will approve this in all cases. That was not respected. It probably wouldn’t have happened in Valcov’s case either if he had not requested it himself. Many friends of his, I’m not saying colleagues, senators, because there’s a difference, would have voted against the request’, Sarbu said.
PM Ponta: My position and that of PSD is not to block the actions of Justice
Victor Ponta stated in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, before the Parliament vote on three preventive arrest requests submitted by DNA, that the vote in these cases was detoured by PNL and the “Basescu propaganda” into a political battle, as Liberals are attempting to seize the idea of justice and use it in their own interest.
“I see with great disappointment that today’s votes in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies were completely detoured by PNL and by the Basescu propaganda into a purely political battle (as the idea of justice is completely seized by a few PNL leaders, and is used merely politically and demagogically, as they are completely ignoring the case of PNL Deputy Nicolescu and are referring only to the Senate”, the PSD President wrote.
Victor Ponta stated that his position, as well as that of his party is not to block the actions of justice and pointed out that the three members of the Parliament – Dan Sova, Darius Valcov and Theodor Nicolescu – may be tried on probation as well.
“These are legal facts; the rest is the mere hypocrisy PNL has accustomed us with ever since 2013, when their leaders proposed the amnesty law and later, publicly, they washed their hands like Pontius Pilate! Any interference of the political battle upon legal cases is plain wrong and I firmly refuse to be a part of it”, Victor Ponta continued.
President Iohannis: Parliament will only regain citizens’ trust if it responds promptly to justice requests
President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday said that, in the context in which the Senate has rejected earlier the same day the request regarding the taking into custody and the placement under preventive arrest of Social Democratic Party (PSD) senator Dan Sova, the Parliament will only be able to regain the citizens’ trust when it responds “promptly and correctly” to requests from the judiciary.
“In a rule of law state, no one is above the law. The capacity of a deputy, senator or minister shouldn’t confer immunity before justice. Parliament shouldn’t play court. The judiciary is the only one with a right to decide on such matters while considering, of course, the benefit of the doubt first. Only if the Parliament will stick to firm principles in terms of integrity and it will prove able to respond in a prompt and correct manner to the justice requests, can pretend to win back the trust of the citizens”, said Iohannis, on Wednesday, in Facebook post.
He also said that, in his capacity as guarantor of the observance of the Constitution and principles of the rule of law state, he cannot overlook “the fact that today
Elena Udrea on vote in Sova case: ‘A huge abuse of the heads of the Chamber of Deputies’
Ex-Minister of Regional Development and Tourism Elena Udrea states in a message posted on her personal Facebook account, regarding the Senate’s decision not to approve the arrest of Senator Dan Sova: ‘The Senate decided that Dan Sova may not be arrested because the requirements in the MPs statute had not been fulfilled: half of the total number of senators plus one did not vote in favour of DNA’s request. Seventy-nine of the 85 required for qualified majority voted’, Elena Udrea states on the social media website.
The ex-minister also notes that she was arrested in the Gala Bute case although the necessary conditions had not been met either. ‘We remind that Elena Udrea is under arrest in the Gala Bute case although the Chamber of Deputies had done the same thing as in Dan Sova’s case: there were just 170 votes in favour of the arrest out of necessary of 199 for the qualified majority they now claim. The lawyers raised that issue at the time, but the subject was very easily left behind’, Udrea also said. On the distinct treatment offered to Senator Sova, Elena Udrea also writes that that it is a huge abuse committed by the leaders of the Chamber of Deputies.
‘We have seen a huge abuse committed by the leaders of the Chamber of Deputies, starting with Valeriu Zgonea, and those in the Justice field in the case of the former minister of development. To those whose argument is that the Chamber of Deputies and Senate Regulations are different, we remind that the law supersedes the Regulation’, the former minister also says.
Basescu: Romania TV and Antena 3 TV have launched the diversion ‘Basescu was denounced by Valcov’ in order to conceal the scandal of the vote in Dan Sova’s case
Ex-President Traian Basescu states on Facebook that Romania TV and Antena 3 TV have launched the diversion ‘Basescu was denounced by Valcov’ in order to conceal the scandal of the vote in Dan Sova’s case in the Senate.
‘Romania TV and Antena 3 TV, stations of the informant of the new type Sebastian Ghita and of the old informant Felix, have launched the diversion <Basescu has been denounced by Valcov>. I don’t believe that, but, if it’s true, it would be a lie.
In fact, the two TV stations belonging to new and old informants are trying to hide the scandal caused by the vote for Sova. The two TV stations have beaten the skill of the communist propaganda. Hopefully not its effectiveness, considering that Romanians have come a long way since then’, Basescu said.