The Senate on Wednesday voted on a new National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) detention and arrest request for ex-Finance Minister Darius Valcov, this time in the case where the prosecutors found, among other things, over 100 paintings by famous artists, gold bars and important amounts in cash hidden by the ex-minister or friends.
The senators granted the prosecutors’ request to expand the criminal investigation with 120 votes in favour, 18 against and one vote annulled. 139 of the 168 existing senators were present for the vote.
Regarding the detention and preventive arrest of Darius Valcov, the request was also granted with 106 votes in favour to 28 votes against and one vote annulled. 135 senators were present in the hall during the vote on the arrest request, fewer than for the previous request.
The Senate therefore allowed DNA to ask the Court to have Darius Valcov arrested, as the simple majority – the majority of attending senators – was fulfilled. The Regulation of the Senate was amended following the scandal caused by the vote in Senator Dan Sova’s case.
Calin Popescu-Tăriceanu: MPs Statute overrides Regulation
Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu said in plenary session on Wednesday that the decision on Darius Valcov’s preventive arrest would be made under Law 96/2006 on the Statute of Senators and Deputies which, according to him, ‘overrides’ the Senate Regulation.
For the vote in the D. Valcov case, the qualified majority was considered instead of the simple majority, meaning the majority of existing senators rather than the majority of attending senators.
‘I am bringing to your attention that fact that Law 96/2006 is stronger than the Regulation’, Tariceanu said on the legal framework considered for the request regarding Darius Valcov’s preventive arrest. He also noted that a constitutionality claim had never been raised in connection with the law, which meant that it was in force and applicable.
Tariceanu said that, although the Senate had changed the Senate Regulation on the simple majority voting in the case of decisions, by that bringing it in agreement with the Constitution, Law 96/2006 on the Statute of Senators and Deputies was still in force.
Tariceanu also said that, whilst the law might be also amended by the merged plenary sitting on Wednesday, until then it would remain in force and applicable.
‘I cannot anticipate the outcome of the vote, but I want us to stay within the boundaries of the law. There is also the notification of the Constitutional Court, but, in the meantime, Law 96/2006 which we also used for the previous vote is in force’, the head of the Senate stressed.
The PNL senators responded by urging Tariceanu to resign and even brought a written resignation letter, asking that a vote should be taken on it.
Decision made with simple rather than qualified majority
‘I’ll give you the opportunity to decide’, Tariceanu said from the rostrum of he Senate, noting that there was ‘an open legal dispute on the matter, the Constitutional Court having been also notified’.
‘In order for the dispute not to be settled – as some have tried to argue – by the speaker, although I have not, I’ll give you the opportunity to express yourselves’, Calin Popescu Tariceanu said.
In addition, the Senate speaker also asked for the position of the Legal Committee chairman in the matter.
The Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, Senator Catalin Boboc, took the floor and said that, whilst there were several legal texts concurrently in force, there was a decision of the Constitutional Court and ‘the will of the Senate expressed yesterday through the vote given on amending the Regulation’.
‘We have a Constitution, a Regulation and the will expressed in this respect yesterday. The constitutional text supersedes the rest’, Boboc said.
Calin Popescu Tariceanu said he would ask the plenary of the Senate to vote on the fact that the decision of the Senate would be made based on the provisions of section 173 of the Regulation of the Senate, amended on Tuesday by Decision No. 25, already published by the Official Journal of Romania.
Seventy-six senators were in favour, four abstained and none voted against the motion, the plenary decision being that the result of the vote on the request for the arrest of Darius Valcov would be interpreted considering the simple, rather than the qualified majority.
The Senate Regulation was amended on Tuesday regarding the number of votes needed for approving the detention o arrest of a senator, on DNA’s request. The measure was taken after the vote on the prosecutors’ arrest request in the case of Senator Dan Sova.
Concretely, a request made by the anti-corruption prosecutors on the arrest or detention of a senator will be possible to grant by he vote of the majority of senators present in plenary session at the time of the vote and not the majority of all senators as it happened in Sova’s case.
On 25 March, Dan Sova was saved from remand by his colleagues who voted against DNA’s request. In his case, out of a total of 151 votes, 79 were in favour of the DNA request, 67 against the request and 5 were annulled. The required majority of 86 votes was not fulfilled, therefore the Senate declined the request for the arrest of the Social-Democrat.
That caused the protests of the opposition and civil society, including street protests, the argument being that, under the Constitution, a decision of that kind must be made by the majority of attending MPs in each of the Chambers of Parliament at the time of the vote.
Former minister probed into under house arrest
Last Tuesday, DNA requested the Senate’s consent to the arrest of Darius Valcov, suspected of having used various information sourced during his terms as a mayor, senator and minister for supporting companies controlled by him via other persons. Darius Valcov allegedly received, among other things, three gold bars with a total weight of 3 kilos, a gold tone frame painting signed Renoir, a painting signed Jean Coteau and a painting on wood signed Aurel Acasandrei, all stored in a safebox, together with USD 90,000 and RON 1.3 M cash.
In the meantime, DNA has discovered that Darius Valcov was hiding 101 paintings signed by famous painters, which he intended to use for opening an art gallery. According to Agerpres, the senator allegedly paid RON 1 M to a person in 2013 to buy the paintings for him.
The DNA prosecutors have also reportedly discovered 29 paintings in the building where Valcov was going to open his art gallery, in the Dorobanti area of Bucharest. Among those there were works by Pablo Picasso, Victor Brauner, Andy Warhol, Stefan Luchian, Nicolae Vermont, Nicolae Darascu, Mircea Mihail Ciobanu, Rudolf Negely, Iosif Iser and Nicolae Tonitza.
The works of art seemingly purchased with ‘black’ funds will now be tested by experts and certified, and given into the custody of a specialized institution which may also decide to exhibit them to the general public.
Former Minister of Finance Darius Valcov has decided to surrender other 40 paintings to the authorities. Sources close to the investigation are quoted by news channels as saying that the paintings the PSD senator consented to handing over will undergo specialist appraisals. The total number of Darius Valcov’s paintings has come to over 1 40, after the investigators had previously discovered 101 pieces during searches.