The Senate’s Standing Bureau is expected today to consider a second request for preventive detention of senator Darius Valcov.
Chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi on Tuesday asked for approval to start the criminal prosecution, remanding and preventive detention of Valcov over offences committed as senator and minister over the past four years.
“Since 2011, defendant Valcov Bogdan Darius has conducted financial or commercial operations incompatible with the offices he held – mayor, senator, minister – by using inside information obtained by virtue of office in connection with a cadaster company, an accounting company and a law firm, all companies personally owned by him that he run via third parties,” according to a DNA press release.
The request and a report of the Judiciary Committee will be put up for debates in a plenary session of the Senate, which will vote on the request.
Anti-graft prosecutors find Valcov’s new treasure: The 101 paintings to undergo expert assessment, might next go on display
Former Finance Minister Darius Valcov was interrogated on Friday morning at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) after prosecutors made several seaches on Thursday, both in Bucharest and Slatina, and seized 101 paintings that allegedly belonged to Valcov. According to his lawyers, Valcov intended to open an art gallery in Bucharest.
Valcov is being investigated under house arrest for allegedly having received 2 million euros in bribe money while serving as Slatina mayor from 2004 to 2012 for helping a local company win several works contracts.
The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) confirmed having identified 101 paintings former Finance Minister Darius Valcov had acquired via go-betweens; the works of art will undergo expert assessment and will be further placed in the custody of a specialist institution that will be able to put them on display.
According to a DNA release to Agerpres, following the approval by the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ), the prosecutors conducted house searches at six locations (one in Bucharest, four in the city of Slatina and another one in Olt County), to identify paintings suspected to have been bought by Darius Valcov through go-betweens, with ill-gotten money.
The searches identified 101 works bearing the signature of famous painters such as Pablo Picasso (two engravings and a charcoal drawing), Andy Warhol, Nicolae Tonitza, Stefan Luchian, Gheorghe Petrascu, Constantin Piliuta, Corneliu Baba, Horia Bernea, Octav Bancila.
“Evidence exists that most of these paintings were purchased from famous auction houses. A procedure was initiated to have the paintings identified and authenticated, with a team of expert museographers and other figurative art experts working on it. After the expert assessment, the artworks will be placed in the custody of a specialized institution which will also decide whether to put them on display until the criminal proceeding is finalised and their legal situation is established,” says DNA.
The investigators say that Valcov was not an art connoisseur, but deemed art acquisition as a way to conceal the shady source of bribe money which would have been whitewashed, had he succeeded in opening an art gallery.
To achieve this purpose, Valcov had bought a space in Bucharest and had started designing it, but after prosecutors started the inquiry, he immediately initiated actions of depositing the paintings and hiding them at four trusted friends.
The rush in hiding the paintings was also proved by the fact that they were found in improper places, under beds, in closets and hidden inside walls.
The most paintings were bought for Valcov by Lucian Petrut Susala (Valcov’s former driver and manager of SC Imobiliare Consloc SRL, a company managed by the Slatina Mayoralty.
Most paintings included in the art collection owned by former Finance Minister Darius Valcov were purchased at the world’s greatest auction house, Christie’s. By example, the work “Victor Hugo” by painter Andy Warhol (1928- 1987) was purchased at USD 30,000.
These works of art add up to the goods previously found in a safe and attributed to Valcov, too: USD 90,000, RON 1.3 million, three gold bars of a total weight of 3 kg, a painting signed “Renoir”, a painting signed “Jean Cocteau” and a painting on wood signed “Aurel Acasandrei”.
We must mention that the magistrates of the High Court of Cassation and Justice had decided on Thursday to investigate former Finance Minister Darius Valcov under house arrest in a file he is accused of influence peddling.
According to DNA, in 2009, Theodor Berna, the manager of the company Tehnologica Radion, sought Darius Valcov, who had held at that time the position of Mayor of the Municipality of Slatina, in Olt County, and had suggested to him that, in return for granting help in influencing decision makers so that Berna’s company would win auctions for public works related to objectives located in the Municipality of Slatina and the cities Scornicesti, Piatra Olt and Draganesti, Berna would pay Valcov 20 per cent of the cashed sums (no VAT added).
As a result of these agreements, Valcov received, during 2010 – 2013, approximately EUR million. A part of this sum was cashed directly, cash, and the remaining RON 2,480,000 was obtained through a few companies.
Some of Valcov’s collection appears at Miss Universe Romania
Several of Valcov’s paintings hidden in safes and walls appear on the website of an art gallery. By example, the work “The Fairy”, painted by Pablo Picasso, found by prosecutors, is presented on the website of the Raphael Gallery. On the same website, one may find the work “Fight of the Centaurs”, another work by Pablo Picasso, estimated at several thousands of euro, according to Romania TV.
The manager of the gallery is Miss Universe Romania 2011, Larisa Popa, who is based in Slatina, the same city Darius Valcov had led as a Mayor. Larisa Popa refused to explain how she managed to take pictures of the paintings seized from Valcov for her gallery, paintings allegedly purchased on bribe money.
Based on certain clues, prosecutors continued to seek Valcov’s treasures in the Slatina graveyard as well.
Investigators are to open two tombs pointed out by informants as allegedly hiding extremely expensive art works.
Pavel Susara, art critic: Darius Valcov was a poor investor, a strange investor
Former Head of Romania’s Finances was allegedly a poor investor, that paid for the paintings and sketches hidden in walls and under beds more than he would gain by selling them now, said critic and art historian Pavel Susara for TV station digi24.ro, after examining the “hidden treasure”. Pavel Susara us a researcher of the Romanian Academy Institute of Art History and the President of the Art Experts and Evaluators Association.
“He was a poor investor. Because, if he had been a good investor, he would have created a collection. A collection of such level is affordable even to someone who purchases art from their own resources, without the suspicion of attempting to camouflage income from shady sources. In this situation, the works would have been keot on the walls, not inside walls and not in tombs. There is a Gothic flavour to this whole story, something from Agatha Christie and from Dracula, with all these visits in the cemetery and wanderings in the tombs, and similar stories of this nature, that introduce art works in a pretty unfamiliar area. So, he is a bizarre investor, a slightly morbid investor”, art critic Pavel Susara declared, as quoted by digi24.ro.
“There is one thing I can tell you for sure. If he purchased them during 2009 – 2011, he paid a whole lot more than the sum he could obtain for selling them now. These are medium-level works, all of them are medium-level works. And some of the works, realized at an excellent artistic level – Eustatiu Stoenescu or Bernea’s “Soldier flag” (Horia Bernea, editor’s note) – are not relevant works; they are minor works. They are minor works, which means they are stages to a much more consistent final masterpiece”, the art critic emphasized.
PNL deputy asks for Ponta’s resignation: He protected Valcov.
PNL Deputy Ovidiu Raețchi asked for PM Victor Ponta’s resignation, accusing him of having protected Darius Valcov despite of the fact that the latter had been investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA).
“What we are witnessing in the last few days proves the absolute inequality in front of the law, promoted by the Socialist Ponta Government. The Socialist Finance Minister was protecting and hiding, from the top of the Government, his shady millions why ANAF was bravely fighting with small shops and neighbourhood restaurants. We heard that a businessman in Suceava was forced to close his shop for 30 days due to the fact that RON 50 were missing from his cash mashine, a restaurant was suspended for RON 3 that were not declared and another one in Timisoara was closed for RON 15. These are but a few examples. The struggle against tax evasion is an essential objective for Romania and it is an utmost priority, but it seems today a struggle of rich and corrupt people against small entrepreneurs that lack support”, Raetchi declared in a press release, quoted by stiripesurse.ro.
Raetchi outlined that, when the investigation conducted by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate against Valcov started, Ponta kept him in the Government, nevertheless. He also said that, in any normal state, a PM found defending offenders would immediately resign.
“According to DNA, Valcov had started hiding his treasure when the legal pursuit started against him, while he was a member of the Government and was battling ferociously against evasion. Moreover, if you remember, he was maintained in the Government until prosecutors demanded his arrest. The PM has no authority and credibility to discuss the diminishing of tax evasion under the circumstances that he was protecting “Minister Picasso”. In any normal state, a Prime Minister who appointed a Minister with a history of such flagrant offences – despite being informed by national security institutions that something was fishy about him – should submit his resignation immediately. The Prime Minister is granted the freedom to make his own team – even by defying to warnings of services – but is expected to assume moral and political responsibility for his choices”.