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February 9, 2023

Proceedings in two ‘heavy’ cases kick off in High Court

The magistrates with the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) on Monday started hearings in two ‘heavy’ cases concerning top-ranking politicians charged with corruption offences by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors. These are the Microsoft case and the case regarding the illegal restitutions processed by the National Authority for the Restitution of Properties (ANRP).
In the case of the Microsoft licences, the judges began the hearing of the defendants – ex-Communications Minister Gabriel Sandu, Piatra Neamt suspended Mayor Gheorghe Stefan, as well as the businessmen Dorin Cocos and Nicolae Dumitru, all charged with trafficking in influence and money laundering.
After the hearings, the Court agreed to a simplified procedure for the defendants Dorin Cocos, Nicolae Dumitru and Gabriel Sandu, who will benefit from a reduction of the sentence by one third. The Court set a new term on 3 November.
The Microsoft contract was one of the biggest contracts ever awarded by the Romanian state, spanning over three different governments. Hundreds of million of euros were paid for Microsoft licences that equipped numerous public institutions, but the prosecutors allege the price was inflated.
The Microsoft case comes with an estimated damage of EUR 60 M.

Dumitru Nicolae ‘juggled’ millions of euros

Dumitru Nicolae said, in the Microsoft case: ‘Although at that point I realised that the whole situation had taken a different turn, (…) I accepted to see Serban Mihailescu. I explained the situation to him and I told him that I had paid a million dollars to Bittner and promised 3.8 million dollars. On my own free will, I also paid him 800,000 dollars in order to expedite the deal’. Dumitru Nicolae admitted to the fact that Alexandru Bittner had told him what it was all about from the very beginning. ‘I met with Alexandru Bittner. (…) From the beginning, he suggested that he knew what it was all about. He even told me the decision that only one company should hold the Microsoft licences was not legal. Then he communicated to me that, in order to resolve the matter, he would need to receive 3.8 million dollars. (…) The rest of the sum I paid cash to Alexandru Bittner. I or my driver, Bercu Manuel, would take the money to his office’, he said.
Dumitru Nicolae, charged with mediating the bribe in the Microsoft affair, told the Court that he had paid Senator Serban Mihailescu 800,000 euro, a part of the sum required for joining the illegal licensing game. The total sum was, according to Dumitru Nicolae, 3.8 million euro. The defendant gave details on the meetings he had with Gheorghe Stefan, Gabriel Sandu and Dorin Cocos, at Dinu Pescariu’s home. The bribe was paid in instalments and cash, Dumitru Nicolae said in Court.
Dumitru Nicolae told the judges hat, in the latter half of 2009, Dinu Pescariu had asked him for 1.9 million euro which he was going to pass on to Dorin Cocos in order for him ‘to use his influence with the Government for extending the Microsoft licences’. ‘The amount of 1.9 million euro I personally paid to Dorin Cocos, whom I had known for six-seven years. I was going to get my money back from the Microsoft deal, which actually happened. I got back the entire sum plus a million euro from Dinu Pescariu. The 1.9 million euro I paid to Dorin Cocos in instalments, first 400,000 euro, followed by several instalments up until the end of 2009’, Nicolae said. He also told the Court: ‘I gained one million from Dinu Pescariu’s account, I am no longer certain about the details, it was probably his Swiss account’.

Dorin Cocos pleads guilty to all charges

Businessman Dorin Cocos, Elena Udrea’s ex-husband, told the Court he was pleading guilty to all charges and that the millions of euro, commissions obtained from the Microsoft deal, were used for the election campaign of the Democratic Liberal Party in 2009, according to evz.ro.
‘In 2009, Claudiu Florica and Dinu Pescariu came to me with the proposal that they should sell 80,000 Microsoft licences. I was supposed to talk to the Ministry of Communications and remake the connexion with Minister Sandu. It was a continuation, they told me they were the single distributors and that they had the best price on the market. I didn’t know Sandu, but I did know he was a friend of Gheorghe Stefan, Gheorghe Flutur and Florin Popescu’s. (…) Sandu confirmed the licences were about to expire and new ones were needed, still from Microsoft. Florica made the proposal that we should share the EUR 16 M commission which he collected himself, via an Ireland-based company. Each participant was going to get EUR 4 M’, Cocos explained according to evz.ro. He added that, out of all the money that Dinu Pescariu had cashed in from the Microsoft affair, he was left with 1.2 million euro, ‘representing 700,000 euro a bank loan which appears in my ex-wife’s financial disclosure plus about 550,000, sums paid cash by Dinu Pescariu’, Dorin Cocos also said.

Gabriel Sandu’s explanation: ‘I was supposed to bring money to the party’

In Court, ex-Minister Gabriel Sandu noted that, in 2009, he had been appointed as Minister of Communications, when there was ‘a difficult situation with the Microsoft licences’, the ministry owing USD 57 M for the 2006 – 2008 licences. ‘I and Dorin Cocos agreed to finance the 2009 presidential election campaign with EUR 2 M, and I made another financing deal with Gheorghe Stefan – another 2 million for PDL and for the election campaign’, Sandu said at the beginning of his deposition. Later on, he recounted that he had first met with Dorin Cocos, when he was told what he was expected to do – sign the agreement with Microsoft. ‘He told me what it was about, that I was supposed to sign the agreement with Microsoft and see Claudiu Florica, who came to the ministry with the Fujitsu team, then with the Unicredit team, then with the Microsoft team with whom he stayed until the end’, Sandu said.

Sandu accepted he ‘deal’ with the Microsoft licences because he was expected to bring money to the party, he says. He explained that both he and Gheorghe Stefan had ended up in PDL after the merger, coming from PD, and, in that context, were criticised for not contributing to the election campaign. ‘I accepted the deal to ease up the Microsoft agreement as I was expected to bring money to the party. The part I was entitled to, based on my contribution, was going to be redirected to the party. I talked to Gheorghe Stefan and Dorin Cocos and, with Florica only for 2 million euro. Concretely, my criminal activity consisted of the fact that I initiated HG 640/2009 asking for the right to initiate an international tendering procedure and did due diligence to obtain the necessary signatures from the rest of the ministries and so on’, Sandu said. He also noted that he closed the Microsoft licensing deal with Florica’s company on 10 February 2010, when a memorandum was signed under which the payment was to be made after the completion of the consultancy hours. ‘I talked to Caludiu Florica about my part of the commission. I also gave him a list of companies providing election campaign supplies that needed to be paid. I personally received no money. As I have said, the payments were exclusively made for the financing of the party’, said ex-Minister Gabriel Sandu.

ANRP restitution case

The High Court judges on Monday began hearing the case of the illegal property restitutions of ANRP, involving several public figures including former PSD MP Viorel Hrebenciuc and his son, Andrei Hrebenciuc.
Hoping to receive a more lenient sentence, both the former member of Parliament ad his son partly admitted to the commission of the offences in January this year.
Viorel and Andrei Hrebenciuc and the other co-defenders appear in the case where thousands of hectares forest were fraudulently given back to Gheorghe Paltin Sturdza. Ioan Adam also chose to plead guilty. Former MP Ioan Adam was charged with instigation to abuse of power, setting up an organised criminal group and buying influence (three counts).
Ex—Justice Minister Tudor Chiuariu is on trial for setting up an organised criminal group, trafficking in influence and money laundering. Lorand Andras Ordog, Covasna Tribunal judge, Paltin Gheorghe Sturdza (beneficiary of the returned properties), Iosif Kadas, Constantin Bengescu, Sorin Ion Iacob, Janica Poenaru, Ioan Gheorghe Varga, Daniel Constantin Calugar, Ioan Matasel, Gabriela Rodica Zaharia, Anca Roxana Adam (MP Ioan Adam’s wife, a judge at the Brasov Tribunal), Iulian Durlan (Mayor of Căiuți, Bacău County), Adam Crăciunescu (Romsilva General Manager) were also referred to court.
The charges refer to the illegal return of a total of 43,227 hectares of forest in the Bacau County to Paltin Sturdza, taken from Romsilva.
The Court will decide if the cases concerning the defendants who plead guilty would be heard separately.

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