The High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) magistrates rejected on Thursday the appeal submitted by Elena Udrea to the decision to supplement the 30-day preventive arrest in the “Gala Bute” file. Lawyer Marius Striblea declared on Wednesday for Romania TV that he hoped “the abuse of preventive arrest” would be ceased. The demand by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) to supplement preventive arrest in the case of former Minister Elena Udrea by 30 days was admitted on March 23.
Former Minister Elena Udrea has been kept under preventive arrest since February 25 in the “Gala Bute” file, accused of abuse of office related to the organization of the event by the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism and also of bribe-taking in connection with the financing of several contracts by the same ministry.
In the same file, ICCJ had on their Thursday agenda trying the appeals filed by Rudel Obreja and Tudor Breazu, both under preventive arrest, as well as the appeal filed by Gheorghe Nastasia, who is under house arrest.
The Court report regarding the decision to keep Udrea under preventive arrest mentions that, while the Government she belonged to appealed to the necessity of austerity, she was sharing contracts worth hundreds of millions of euro.
The High Court Judges think that Elena Udrea must be kept under preventive arrest as she kept part of the money while wages and pensions were cut, as she was still unable to understand the damage she has caused and as the informants against her had told the truth. In response, the former Regional Development Minister declared that she was a victim of the TV viewers’ thirst for blood, of Codruta Kovesi’s popularity and of lies told by her former close friends.
The report of the judges who decided to prolong by 30 more days Elena Udrea’s preventive arrest shows that the Court appreciates as aggravating the fact that, while the Government she had belonged to was continuously bringing up the necessity of austerity, Elena Udrea was sharing contracts worth hundreds of millions of euro.
“At questioning the Court whether Elena Udrea was to blame for such political measure adopted by the Government at that time, the representative of the Prosecutors’ Office pointed out that Elena Udrea, as a member of the Government agreed on one hand with the austerity measures while, on the other hand, from the budget of the country, she kept assigning overrated contracts she was paid bribe for”, the Court report shows, as quoted by Romania TV.
In her defence, Elena Udrea referred to the DNA hunger of image, the powerful media ascension by Codruta Kovesi, but also the hidden desire of an obscure force to demonize the electoral campaign that helped Traian Basescu get reelected as a President.
“Defendant Udrea Elena, who had the last word (…) had expressed her opinion that, unfortunately, there was a strong image-related struggle in the action assumed by DNA, that affects the proper evolution of the investigation and, at the same time, the prosecutors’ claims of impartiality as justice has started to mean less fair decisions by judges and more handcuffed appearances from DNA headquarters in prime time. Precisely due to the terrible pressure generated by public opinion, used to await terribly drastic sanctions against persons who, at a certain time, should still benefit of the presumption of innocence, as in this case, more and more lawyers avoid providing legal assistance to cases of highly-publicized persons and some judges are afraid to issue verdicts according to their own conscience.
She showed that, although it was possible in theory that the legal pursuit against her should result in a favourable procedure solution, she appreciated that it was practically impossible, because there were opinion polls in justice showing that DNA prosecutors and, obviously, the Head of DNA, Laura Codruta Kovesi, have an increasingly positive image, while the image of persons under inquiry is more and more terrible”, the report also shows.
Moreover, Elena Udrea “pointed out that the only argument presented by the Prosecutors Office in keeping her under preventive arrest for another month is that DNA wished to investigate what happened at PNL during electoral campaign.”
“She also explained that, obviously, DNA would conduct another case related to the electoral campaign, especially because it is related to Elena Udrea. Yet, she has to consider that all parties, not only PDL Bucharest, had a digital guerrilla consisting of students paid for this campaign”, the report also showed.
While waiting the verdict related to the appeal for prolonging the arrest warrant, magistrates noted that Elena Udrea failed to understand so far what she had got involved in and what she had done, and that she blamed anyone else besides her.
“This aspect placed an emphasis on the fact that Ana Maria Topoliceanu was protected by DNA, that, otherwise, only assumed the measure of legal control against her. Also, she mentioned that prosecutors avoided all questions referring to Ana Maria Topoliceanu, as well as other persons who had negociated their freedom at DNA. Moreover, the defendant mentioned that she was unable to understand how a person who claimed to be her friend accused her with such incisiveness, yet it was possible that the respective person was demanded to choose between losing her freedom and filing a denounce and chose the second option, although this denounce was filed someone who had granted her a position once and it included false, fraudulent information”, the report also shows.
Moreover, judges stated that, at the time being, Elena Udrea is “unable to comprehend the illegal activity she had caused”.
“Defendant Udrea Elena Gabriela provides no explanation to combat the fact that both her friend, defendant Topoliceanu Ana Maria, as well as defendants Nastasia Gheorghe and Lungu Ştefan are blaming her.(…) Her offensive activity is wide and complex, yet, at the time being, the defendant is unable to acknowledge the illegal activity she had caused”, the judges pointed out.
Udrea on Facebook, before the decision by ICCJ: Sending me to the basement is like a form of torture.
Before ICCJ decided whether they would release Udrea from the arrest or not, and before being brought to the headquarters of the High Court of Cassation and Justice on Thursday morning, were her appeal to the 30-day prolonging of preventive arrest in the “Bute Gala” file was tried, Elena Udrea posted, through her communication team, a message on Facebook declaring that “sending me to the basement is like a form of torture”.
“There is absolutely no reason to keep Elena Udrea under preventive arrest. This is why we think and we hope that the High Court would reach a positive decision.
Preventive arrest should be an exceptional measure and be decided in the case of people who represent a concrete danger to society and public order. Elena Udrea can in no way be perceived as social danger.
Unfortunately, this measure of preventive arrest turned, in the hands of certain investigators, into a primary formula of intimidation and pressure against the people it is applied on. Sending them to the basement is like a form of torture applied so that the defendants would say whatever prosecutors wanted to hear. Yet, our belief and hope is that Romania had developed a lot since these practices were defining Justice.
Depriving somebody of their freedom before conviction is not normal in a democratic society and contradicts the spirit of the new Codes that had established there were other measures of prevention as well, such as legal control and house arrest”.
Lawyer Striblea: Ex-minister kept under arrest solely based on press and prosecutors’ fabulation
The court hearing addressing Elena Udrea’s appeal against the extension of her remand measure with 30 days ended at about 12:00. The court recessed without making a decision.
After the court hearing at ICCJ, Elena Udrea’s lawyer Marius Striblea said the ex-minister was being kept behind bars only based on a statement that could not be proved and on ‘fabulation’ of the press and prosecutors.
‘We pointed out that Mrs. Udrea did not pose risk to the public and that there was no legal reason left for the preventive measure to be extended. We argued that the activities proposed by the prosecutors for the continuation of their investigations did not require arrest’.
In E. Udrea’s case, the remand is becoming more and more an anticipated punishment only because this is what the public wants. Elena Udrea was given the last word and, in principle, she said the same things she had said the previous time. She used many legal arguments’, Marius Striblea said.
‘We are in the situation where she has to prove her innocence (…). In this case there is just Nastasia’s testimony. The rest is all fabulation of the press or of the prosecutors’, Marius Striblea added.
At the same time, Elena Udrea’s lawyer said, after the court hearing, that the prosecutes had brought the following argument for keeping his client behind bars: ‘The prosecutors said in support of their report that Mrs. Udrea was the member of a government that cut pensions and salaries, things that we challenged as they were not legal arguments’, Striblea said.
The representative of the former minister of Regional Development and Tourism stressed that the idea that Elena Udrea was a public threat was manipulation. ‘Today even a baby can be seen as a threat for the public, based on the idea that he might turn into a criminal when he is a grown up’, the lawyer said.
Marius Striblea said Elena Udrea was the victim of persecution, under the pressure if the public and without any actual evidence against her. ‘Mrs. Udrea must be under arrest because she was the member of a government that cut pensions and wages. The motivation offered by the judge is one that could be used for any corruption case, a very general one, if you take out Elena Udrea’s name. In addition, the judge had no right to say anything on the substance of the matter and also used inappropriate expressions (…). A criminal case is to be heard based on evidence, not on what the public expects. But judges are also humans and they are subject to pressure’.
Elena Udrea’s lawyer notes that SPP’s answer on Elena Udrea’s agenda the day when she supposedly received the 9 M euro bag from Adrian Gardean via Gheroghe Nastasia, in her office at MDTR, was still not on file. ‘We’ve been waiting for the information to be disclosed for three weeks. DNA, not us, wanted the answer, but the fact that the information is still being kept a secret in my opinion indicates that the report is in Elena Udrea’s favour, as the answer received from the Ministry. The prosecutors cannot demonstrate where Elena Udrea was on 6 October 2011 and count solely on Nastasia’s testimony. We are in the inversed situation here, that the defendant receives the burden of proof, although, since we claim so loudly that we have the rule of law, it is the prosecution who must demonstrate guilt beyond doubt. Or, all they’ve got against Elena Udrea is Nastasia’s testimony on some bag of money. The rest is all press or prosecutors’ fabulation’.
Udrea: One of the judges who heard the appeal was Kovesi’s private advisor
Elena Udrea on Thursday attacked the High Court judges in a new message posted on Facebook by her communication team.
‘Elena Udrea’s freedom battle is being fought against Kovesi’s people’.
One of the judges who heard the ex-minister’s appeal was Laura Codruta Kovesi’s private advisor.
Just as the prosecutors who are dealing with the Gala Bute case are also Kovesi’s advisors.
Practically, both the prosecutors and the judges are or used to be umbilically tied to the chief-prosecutor of DNA’, says Udrea’s communication team in the message they posted on Facebook.