The Tribunal of Bucharest placed city’s mayor Sorin Oprescu under preventive arrest for 30 days, in a late Sunday night decision in a bribery case prosecuted by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
The decision was enforced immediately, but is subject to appeals.
EUR 25,000 bribe
Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu was arrested by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) on Saturday night, for bribe taking, after having received EUR 25,000 from four denunciators. The Mayor allegedly received the EUR 25,000 on Saturday from the manager of an institution in the Mayoralty, who has acted as an intermediary of the bribe.
The mayor was presented on Sunday to the Bucharest Tribunal, with a proposal for preventive arrest for 30 days.
“During 2013-2015, a well organized group, that also included defendant Oprescu Sorin Mircea, has founded in the local administration of Bucharest a system by which economical operators who wished to receive contracts from behalf of public institutions reporting to the Mayor had to pay a share of the gross profit they earned from completing the respective contracts as bribe, to decision makers inside the apparatus of the Mayor of the Municipality of Bucharest”, the ordinance of arrest, issued by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors points out.
According to the quoted document, the contract signer kept for himself from 30 to 33 per cent of the gross profit and the difference was paid to civil servants of the apparatus of the Bucharest Mayoralty, as a bribe. A share of ten per cent of the contract value was demanded for Sorin Oprescu.
“Actually, the members of the group, persons in top positions inside two public institutions reporting to the Mayor of the Bucharest Mayoralty facilitated the attributing of the contract, discussed with subordinated employees to accept the attributing documents as well as to approve and order the making of the payment of the invoices issued by the respective companies, shortly after they were issued, while demanding sums of money for persons in top positions in the apparatus of the Bucharest Municipality Mayor, as well as for the Mayor himself”, investigators pointed out.
According to Anti-Corruption prosecutors, on Saturday, based on an initial agreement with the Head of a public institution reporting to the Mayoralty and a trusted collaborator of the Mayor, Oprescu allegedly received from the respective person EUR 25,000, from the total sum of EUR 60,000 demanded by the two of them from four persons who have denounced Oprescu.
Sorin Oprescu, born in 1951, has become the Mayor of Bucharest in June 2008. He has graduated the General Medicine University of Bucharest, and has the specialty of surgeon. A member of PDSR, and later of PSD, he has become the President of PSD Bucharest in July 2006. He has resigned this position a few months later, after having lost the competition for presidency of the party to Mircea Geoana.
In April 2008, he left PSD to run as an independent for the position of General Mayor of the Municipality of Bucharest and, since June 2008, he is the General Mayor of Bucharest.
Last year, DNA has investigated both the Mayor’s personal adviser and a manager of the Bucharest Mayoralty.
On June 26, the personal adviser of Mayor Sorin Oprescu, Solomon Wigler was tried in the file he was accused of receiving a bribe of EUR 204,000 for interventions for the approval of Regional Town Plans required for the building of three supermarkets.
DNA searches at Oprescu’s home and three public institutions
DNA prosecutors have completed searches on Sunday at the homes of several persons involved in the case of Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu. Searches have started at 6 a. m. and were performed at the Mayor’s home as well as at the homes of other people and three public institutions: the Mayoralty of Bucharest, the Administration of Graveyards and the Brancoveanu Palaces Cultural Centre.
DNA official: “Prosecutors of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate – the Corruption Combatting Section – are performing searches in a criminal case based on suspicions of committing corruption crimes committed during 2013 – 2015. On September 6, 2015, as a result of legal authorisations issued by the responsible Court, home searches were performed at 13 locations in the Municipality of Bucharest, as well as Bacau, Calarasi and Ilfov Counties. Three of them are the headquarters of public institutions, and the rest are headquarters of public institution and the homes of private persons.”
Some of the money Oprescu received Saturday night, found on him in traffic, the rest – at his Ciolpani home
Some of the 25,000 euro Sorin Oprescu allegedly received as bribe Saturday night was found on him, in his car, in traffic, and the rest at his home in Ciolpani.
The quoted sources explain that Sorin Oprescu received the marked money while being monitored by the prosecutors who were unable to act on the spot because in the same place there were also people who were not supposed to know about Oprescu’s case as they might have disclosed information to other suspects. Oprescu left there with the money, but was always under investigators’ surveillance.
On Saturday night, the mayor left to another suspect in the same case, to give him some of the bribe, the sources also say.
At the moment, the investigators thought it was opportune to arrest the mayor and pulled him over, not far from his home in Ciolpani.
According to the quoted sources, some of the money Sorin Oprescu received was found on him and some at his home. All the marked banknotes were found and retrieved by the authorities. At the end of eight hours of domiciliary search, the prosecutors removed the mayor of Bucharest from his Ciolpani home in handcuffs and took him to the Bucharest Police lockup facilities where he remained until the Bucharest Tribunal was to rule on the request to have him arrested for a period of 30 days.
Sorin Oprescu was driven to the Police arrest facilities in a Gendarmerie van. Halfway between Ciolpani and Bucharest, the official was transferred from the Bucharest Police van to a Gendarmerie van. He did not make any statement.
The domiciliary searches at Sorin Oprescu’s home lasted eight hours. The investigators left there with two boxes containing documents, a bag and one or two paintings wrapped up in paper.
Under the law, the suspect must be present during a domiciliary search or must have an appointed representative present to accompany the investigators when they look for paperwork or other items that could help with the investigation.
Oprescu’s lawyer: On first analysis of case I can say DNA charges unfounded
Alexandru Chiciu, lawyer of Bucharest City Mayor Sorin Oprescu, states the charges tabled by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) are unfounded and based on “assumptions” of some persons.
At the same time, he emphasizes that the National Anticorruption Directorate should’ve better clarified Oprescu’s case.
“It is premature to make statements at this moment. Please understand that we lawyers are trying to treat this case with balance and not fall in the trap of unfounded statements. Upon first analysis of the case, I can say that the DNA accusations are unfounded. They are based on ‘assumptions’ of some persons, an unacceptable fact in such a situation. My client mandated me to tell you he never requested money, directly or indirectly, through intermediaries, from no one. The money was not received from denouncers, and Mr. Oprescu did not know its provenance. It was the DNA’s duty to better clarify this case, not throw a man in arrest based on what other defendants said”, said Chiciu to the press.
Key people under investigation, Oprescu’s subordinates, questioned by DNA
Four of Mayor Sorin Oprescu’s subordinates went before the DNA investigators on Sunday. One of them left after a few hours.
The prosecutors believe those people might be key-elements to the investigation. The witnesses were reluctant to making statements to the press. They just said they didn’t know anything about any bribe at the Municipality.
On the other hand, Sorin Oprescu has not been interviewed by the prosecutors yet, as he refused to give a deposition without his lawyer being present. The lawyer is out of the country right now, but three lawyers on his team are taking care of Oprescu’s case.
Bucharest mayor’s asset disclosure: A villa, an apartment and EUR 91,000 worth of luxury goods
The Mayor of Bucharest. Sorin Oprescu, owns, according to his asset disclosure form, two plots of land – one in Ciolpani and one in Predeal – , a villa and an apartment, as well as works of art, worship and jewellery worth a total of EUR 91,000. The mayor also has approximately RON 156,000 and EUR 33,000 in bank accounts.
Sorin Oprescu owns a plot in Ciolpani, Ilfov County, wit a total area of 1,000 sq m, and one in Predeal, with an area of 500 sq m. In Ciolpani, he also has a 480 sq m house. Sorin Oprescu owns a 172 sq m apartment in Bucharest.
According to his financial disclosure form, the general mayor of the capital city owns works of art worth EUR 57,000, religious warship items worth EUR 9,000, as well as jewellery, watches and electronics worth EUR 25,000.
In bank accounts, Oprescu has EON 156,671 and USD 32,800. The financial disclosure also includes two concession agreements, one worth RON 8,000 and one worth RON 597,400 and EUR 20,500.
Deputy Bucharest Mayor Pieptea: Oprescu’s mandate is suspended if preventive arrest is approved
The mandate of Bucharest’s General Mayor Sorin Oprescu will be suspended if the measure of preventive arrest is disposed in his case, said on Sunday for Agerpres Deputy Mayor of Bucharest Cornel Pieptea.
“The General Mayor, Sorin Oprescu, was remanded for 24 hours, after these 24 hours the judiciary will have a decision. The judiciary must be left to work independently. If the mayor is released and he will be able to exercise his work prerogatives he will return to the City Hall. In case preventive arrest is disposed, in accordance with Law no. 215/2001, the Law for local public administration, the mayor’s mandate is suspended,” said Cornel Pieptea.
According to him, this administrative act is issued by the Prefect of the City of Bucharest. “After that the General Council will choose from one of the two deputy mayors currently in office to take over the prerogatives of the general mayor. If the decision is to release him and the mayor is considered innocent, he will return and will resume the position he has currently,” said the Deputy Mayor of the Capital.
In his opinion, Sorin Oprescu no longer has the legitimacy to occupy the position of Bucharest General Mayor. “I believe the general mayor once remanded for 24 hours no longer has the legitimacy to occupy this representative position of Bucharest and no longer has the strength to lead such a big City Hall. Let us not forget that the Bucharest City Hall, which has a budget of nearly 1 billion euro, serves 2 million residents,” Pieptea added.
Reactions to Sorin Oprescu’s remand for bribe taking
Sorin Oprescu’s arrest on Sunday morning surprised everybody and was the breaking news that overwhelmed the public opinion. As anyone could expect, the subject, one of the most important events of the last months, has stirred prompt reactions from behalf of politicians.
PNL: Resignation is a must!
The National Liberal Party urges the resignation of Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu, taken into Police custody on corruption charges Saturday night.
‘If the Court confirms Sorin Oprescu’s arrest warrant today, it’s obvious that his resignation of office is compulsory. The appropriate solution after today is resignation – a gesture of honour Mr. Oprescu could make, beyond the existing benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for the people of Bucharest, the second most important office, from an electoral point of view, in Romania has been badly compromised’, said PNL’s spokesman Ionut Stroe, according to a release to Agerpres on Sunday.
He points out that the Liberals reaffirm their commitment ‘to fight for an administration in which the citizens regain trust’. ‘The right solution for the future is a new, clean and Liberal administration. We need to look ahead and this is also what we are asking the mayor of Bucharest to do, not to stain even further the image of the institution he has been heading for such a long time’, Ionut Stroe warns. The spokesman of the party notes that PNL supports the benefit of the doubt, ‘but not as a currency of blackmail in relation with the public opinion, as does Prime-Minister Victor Ponta – defendant and prosecuted in cases of corruption, but who keeps his office’.
“If the Court confirms, Oprescu must resign!”
“General Mayor Sorin Oprescu should resign his position is judges confirm his arrest,” said MEP Cristian Busoi, Co-President of PNL District 1 and PNL candidate to the Mayoralty of Bucharest. “I find it very hard to understand that, in the circumstances that there are many visible results achieved by DNA, and DNA keeps scanning and cleaning the Romanian society, and your own adviser was arrested, you would resort to such things”, the PNL leader declared for stiripesurse.ro. “If the Court confirms Mr. Oprescu’s arrest, I think that he must resign at once from his position as General Mayor of Bucharest”, Cristian Busoi concluded.
Iohannis: It’s a sad event, but it represents a signal that anticorruption fight continues at full speed
President Klaus Iohannis said in Mioveni, on Sunday, that the taking into custody of Mayor Sorin Oprescu was a sad event, yet one standing for a signal that the anticorruption fight was continuing at full speed.
‘It is a very sad event, but, on the other hand, to me it is a signal that the fight against corruption continues at full speed and that’s a good thing’, Iohannis said.
PMP: DNA cleans society of another servant
“The General Mayor’s arrest confirms the greedy reflexes that have dominated the political class during transition. USL Mayor Sorin Oprescu was so self-confident that he had the impression of being allowed to do anything he wanted with the resources of Bucharest. It is increasingly obvious that the DNA guillotine is determined to crash this horrible reflex of transition from the roots. A Mayor should only bear responsibility to the community that elected him, not to groups of interests that turn him into a servant”, PMP President Eugen Tomac declared exclusively for stiripesurse.ro.
Cristian Preda: PSD and PNL should apologize for having supported him
MEP Cristian Preda suggests that parties who had supported Oprescu in ascending to his present position should apologize. “One more Mayor was caught being bribed: Sorin Oprescu, supported lately both by PSD and PNL. We will not hear any of these parties apologizing. They are busy seeking candidates for the Mayoralties”, Preda wrote on Facebook.