Premier Victor Ponta denied on Monday evening having ever done anything illegal, stating confidently that he will prove his innocence in the case where he is being probed by anti-corruption prosecutors.
“I can tell the 5.2 million people who voted for me, as well as to those who didn’t vote for me – because I equally stand accountable to all of them – that I have never done anything illegal and that if I have the opportunity to prove my innocence, I’ll do it just like an ordinary man,” Ponta said at the Antena 3 private broadcaster.
He also voiced hopes that he will be remembered by the public for the good things he achieved while at governing, and not for the corruption charges he is facing.
Ponta brushed off accusations of having collected some 2,000 euros a month eight years ago, while still a lawyer, for feigned legal services, as a pretext to force him resign, and adamantly professed his innocence.
The prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) ordered a distraint on Premier Ponta’s movable and immovable assets in the case where he is being indicted for forgery of private documents and for being repeatedly complicit in tax evasion and money laundering.
Victor Ponta was summoned on Monday to the DNA headquarters, where he was notified that an auditing expert’s report was ordered in the case.
Also, DNA changed Ponta’s situation in the case from suspect to defendant, while the Premier used his right to remain silent and made no statement to the prosecutor.
“The prosecutors ordered the protective measure of distraint on the movable and immovable assets belonging to defendant Victor-Viorel Ponta. The defendant was also informed what party he is in the case, according to Art. 309 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” reads a Monday DNA release, according to Agerpres.
“Of course my institutional cooperation with President Iohannis will continue”
Prime Minister Victor Ponta announced on Monday that he will continue institutional cooperation with President Klaus Iohannis, since this is an obligation of his to the citizens.
“Of course I’ll further cooperate institutionally with President Iohannis. It’s normal, it is my duty towards the citizens of this country, and it’s his duty too,” Ponta said on air, at the Antena 3 TV broadcaster.
The Prime Minister added that as part of this institutional cooperation, he expects the head of state to pronounce on the new holder of the office of Transport Minister, which remained vacant after the resignation of Ioan Rus on June 11.
“I am convinced that when he returns (…) he will appoint me a Transport Minister. You know that Mr. Rus tendered his resignation back then, but he is still a minister,” Ponta noted, adding that this is “an unprecedented case when somebody no longer wants to be a minister but the President doesn’t sign his resignation. So obviously we’ll keep cooperating.”
Ponta also explained that his relationship with President Klaus Iohannis has changed after the latter asked him to resign, describing the situation as a “cold war.”
“It’s categorically [a cold war]. Until June 5 at noon I had the most normal, civilized and constructive relationship with Mr. President Iohannis. (…) On June 5, after I was summoned to the anti-corruption authority’s headquarters, Mr. President said I should resign. That second, Mr. Iohannis was not the President of Romania,” Ponta said, reproaching Iohannis a partisan attitude and bias towards the National Liberal Party (PNL). “Not to this day have I understood why he took off the coat of President of Romania, putting on the coat of PNL chairman instead. (…) We are not at war, but we no longer have the normal relationship to Romania’s service we used to have,” Victor Ponta commented.
Ponta on mosque being built in Bucharest: The idea was discussed by former; current President
Prime Minister Victor Ponta stated, on Monday evening, that the idea to grant a plot of land for building a mosque in Bucharest was discussed with representatives of the Turkish state by former President Traian Basescu, as well as current President Klaus Iohannis.
Ponta also said, during a televised broadcast at private broadcaster Antena 3, that the attacks launched by Traian Basescu on the topic have no justification, being only the application of an agreement between two partner states.
“He [Basescu] negotiated a good thing for Romania (…), namely that the Turkish state will give a plot of land that has already been identified for a Romanian church or a place for Romanian pilgrims, and the Romanian state will give in exchange a plot in order to build [a mosque], but it will not give it to Turkey, but to the Muslim community in Romania (…) So an agreement between two states, two states who have a strategic partnership. (…) I did nothing but apply an agreement between the Romanian state and the Turkish state, agreement discussed by former President Traian Basescu and rediscussed by the current President and which seems like a good deal for Romania. (…) I believe Mr. Basescu, in his well-known style, had no issue with the mosque, nor with Turkey, nor with anything. But being a little ignored by everyone (…), irresponsibly, as is characteristic of his persona, he attacked things that he himself has done, and, believe it or not, has done them well for Romania,” said Ponta.
The Prime Minister also rejected the statements made by Basescu referring to plans to build, beside the mosque in Bucharest, a Muslim university for 6,000 students.
“The figure is made up by Mr. Basescu, there is no such thing. In the Muslim tradition, attached to every mosque is a school (…) for the children who go there. That’s it,” said Victor Ponta.
Former President Traian Basescu said, on July 6, that the idea of building in Bucharest the biggest mosque in Europe and a Muslim university for 6,000 students is a risk for national security.
“As Islam is spreading toward the Balkans (…), our Prime Minister (…) decides to approve the building of Europe’s largest mosque beside which a university for 6,000 students would also operate. There is no greater national security threat than bringing Muslims to Romania only to export them elsewhere in Europe (…) I believe such decisions are, to say the least, unthoughtful if not anti-national,” Basescu said in a speech delivered to a meeting of Sud Muntenia regional leaders of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), held at Budeasa, Arges County.
In the opinion of the former head of state, the situation should be discussed by the Supreme Council for Country’s Defence (CSAT).
“If I resign, it means that I am giving the country to those who destroyed it before, it would be betrayal”
Victor Ponta declared on Monday morning that he had considered resigning as Prime Minister, but that gesture would be betrayal to people who have voted for him and, asked to grant an example of a person whom he would support if he wihdrew, he mentioned Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
Ponta was asked in a TV show of the station Antena 3 whether he had considered resigning lately.
“Yes I had, obviously. It is a very concrete manner of thinking, and I thought of it as follows: at the party, PSD, I immediately found a formula by which everyone of those presently in the management – Rovana Plumb, the rest of my colleagues – can lead the party very well politically, especially that, from this autumn, preparation starts for local elections and then for those in the Parliament. In the Government, things are as follows: first of all, it is not that I am irreplaceable, nobody is irreplaceable, but there are some projects I have applied and I have to complete them”, the Prime Minister declared.
“Second (…), I was voted, together with Crin Antonescu, to govern, but we were also voted to prevent that the power ends up in the hands of the people we overturned, such as Ungureanu, Predoiu, Boagiu, Ialomitianu, all this gang. Well, if I resign from the Government, it means that I am giving the country to those who have destroyed it before. And after, what will we do, come back and work another three years and a half to give people back their pensions, salaries, VAT, all the other things… this would be betrayal, definitely, to those who have voted for me”, Victor Ponta also declared.
Being reminded of the evaluation that his eventual resignation would be “betrayal”, Ponta mentioned that he referred to his resignation followed by a Government of those who have led the country before 2012.
Asked whether anyone else could come, Ponta said: “If they were from behalf of USD, I return to what I have told to you about the team; I do not have to be the captain”.
Tariceanu, possible successor
Asked to mention whether he could withdraw from the position of Prime Minister if somebody else from the coalition would be proposed, Ponta mentioned: “I will always support somebody who had run from behalf of USL and who applies what USL has promised.”
Also, Ponta was demanded to give an example of a person he would support under the circumstances that he resigned. “Yes, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, but this is no secret, I have talked about it last year. I do not want speculations on this topic to start, Mr. Tariceanu is the President of the Senate, he is a very good President of the Senate, very honourable for Romania”, Ponta explained.
“Do not imagine that I drew the conclusion that I am the only possible Prime Minister; no, by no means. But giving the country over on a plate to those who have destroyed Romania before 2012 would be, I think, a betrayal to those who have believed in USL and to people who have voted for us. And if people who are now in PNL betrayed, it is their sin, not mine, I have kept my promises”, Ponta further added.
“I am no longer a President of PSD, this is it!”
Referring to his resignation from the position of PSD President, PM Victor Ponta explained, for the same TV station, that he can keep being in the team as a regular member, not necessarily as “the captain” and added that his colleagues would meet on Wednesday to pick an interim President until the Congress.
“The reason is very simple. We had had the Permanent National Bureau on Monday at 11 am, and I was supposed to go to DNA”, Victor Ponta replied, when he was asked about the reasons of his resignation from the position of President of Social-Democrats.
“PSD is a party that had had a few powerful leaders in 25 years, such as Ion Iliescu, Adrian Nastase, and now I am trying to be among them, because I have won elections and lost elections, just like they did. The party will find other good leaders in the future. I am confident that Rovana Plumb and the others may lead the party, supported by me. I have practiced sports throughout these years (…) so I never had the mentality that if I am no longer the captain of the team, it is all over, I get mad and I leave. I can be a regular player of the team, I can sit on the bench, too, the priority is for the team to go on. And this is what will happen with PSD which, regardless of the version and regardless of how demonized it is, keeps representing 35 – 40 per cent of the population of this country”, Ponta continued.
“I am no longer a President of PSD, this is it! My colleagues will meet on Wednesday to pick another interim President until the Congress”, Victor Ponta further declared.
Asked when the Congress of the party is due, Ponta mentioned that, naturally, according to the Status, it should be held in 2017, but it can be organized before at any time.
“The relation with Iohannis is not irremediably ruined”
PM Victor Ponta declared on Monday that the relation with President Klaus Iohannis is not irremediably ruined, as the future collaboration of the Presidency and of the Government would be institutional.
“The relations with the President are not irremediably ruined. I think that he was not fair, and I have expected him to be fair”, the Prime Minister declared on Monday evening for Antena 3.
“Until June 5, at 12 pm, we had the most normal, constructive relationship”, Ponta admitted. “On June 5, Mr. President said that I had to resign. Since that time, he no longer was the President of Romania, but the President of Alina Gorghiu, Predoiu and Blaga. I do not understand why he removed his Presidential clothes”, Victor Ponta declared on his relation with the President.
The Prime Minister further mentioned that President Klaus Iohannis is in some sort of a relationship with the voters, “but as soon as he becomes Traian Basescu, it will cost him a lot.”
The Prime Minister mentioned that he did not have the occasion to talk to the President since he had returned to the country, but they will.