The former Head of the People’s Movement Party (PMP) Elena Udrea was present at High Court on Friday, for the first hearing in the Gala Bute file. Udrea pleaded innocent in front of the judges, while other four defendants admitted to having committed the crimes as charged. At the arrival to the headquarters of the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ), Elena Udrea mentioned that defendants caught taking bribe in the file must “stand in trial to prove that I took that money”.
Asked whether she would demand the Court to be tried by simplified procedure, which means being able to benefit of the cut of the sentence by one third, as other defendants in the “Gala Bute” file intend to do, former Regional Development and Tourism Minister Elena Udrea said she could not choose the option of simplified process, and in case of demands from her former collaborators, she would oppose the simplified procedure.
“I cannot choose the option of simplified procedure. In this case I can talk about in a relaxed manner today, there are three former collaborators of mine who ended up in the situation of having been caught of bribe taking and having ended up admitting, sooner or later, by admitting they took it. This way, anyone caught making a mistake or taking a bribe and claiming they gave it to their boss has the advantage of keeping their liberty and benefiting of penalty cuts according to the Criminal Code. Therefore, I am in no position to choose the option of simplified procedure”, Elena Udrea declared at the entrance to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ).
The judge panel of the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) has read on Friday the report on the Gala Bute File and informed defendants on their rights during the process. The Court showed that, if defendants admitted to their deeds in totality, the prison time would be reduced by one third.
Elena Udrea denied all accusations in front of High County judges and kept pleading innocent. Udrea showed she did not intend to follow simplified procedure and that she would submit new evidence to the file proving her innocence.
Udrea pointed out in front of the Court that she understood the accusations brought against her by the prosecutors, yet she opted for the path of normal trial and wants to give declarations while the case is judged. Udrea pointed out that if other defendants in the file admit to being guilty and demand trial by simplified procedure, saying ‘I gave my boss the money’, they have the advantage of being released.
Former President of the Romanian Boxing Federation Rudel Obreja, Tudor Breazu and ex-Minister Ion Ariton also explained in Court that they wanted to be tried by normal procedure.
Instead, Stefan Lungu, Elena Udrea’s former adviser, Gheorghe Nastasia, former Secretary General in the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism (MDRT), Ana Maria Topoliceanu, former manager of the National Company of Investments and Dragos Botoroaga admitted to all accusations in the Gala Bute file. The four of them demanded to be tried by simplified procedure so that they could benefit of the cut of sentences by one third.
Stefan Lungu told magistrates he admitted to having helped businessmann Adrian Gardean, accused of having paid a bribe of 10 per cent of all contracts he had had with the Ministry of Development while it was led by Elena Udrea.
The Court established it would interview the defendants who chose simplified procedure.
At the end of the trial on Friday, a new hearing was set on November 11. The simplified procedure chosen by the four people who admitted their crimes is still to be set.
Prosecutors say that businessman Adrian Gardean had given a bag of euros to Elena Udrea inside Ministry headquarters.
“It is the first hearing and, probably, procedures will not last too long. There is no way I could choose simplified procedure as this file I can talk about today is a file where three of my former collaborators ended up in the situation of being caught that they have taken bribe and attempted to solve it by pretending that they have indeed taken bribe but that they gave it to their boss Elena Udrea. This way, anyone caught making a mistake, receiving a bribe may say they gave it to their boss and has the advantage of being released and benefiting of a cut of the punishment, according to the Criminal Code”, Elena Udrea declared at her arrival to the High Court. Asked whether the other defendants in the file were to choose simplified procedure as well, the former Head of PMP replied:
“They will do as they see fit. We will obviously oppose such thing because they have to stay with me along the trial, so that the truth of their statements could be proved. I was arrested for 72 days, because a few people caught receiving money said they have taken it for Elena Udrea. I think they should stay in trial and prove I have taken that money”, the former Head of PMP declared.
“I’ve said it publicly countless times – Don’t pay bribes, file complaints at DNA”
When leaving the High Court, where she was heard in the “Bute Boxing Gala” case, Elena Udrea pointed out that she stated publicly countless of times that businessmen may be asked for bribes when signing contracts with the Tourism and Rural Development Ministry (MDRT) and asked them to file complaints at the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
Udrea told journalists that she remains steadfast in order to prove that the other defendants’ accusations against her are lies.
“When you are an experienced judge you immediately see a person’s behaviour, how sincere and argued his statements are. Apart from these statements there is absolutely nothing against me, and I spent time in jail because of these statements,” Udrea said.
Udrea also said that these statements are in fact a way of not admitting to anything: “They have admitted their crimes, it’s just that, you see, it’s as if you’re saying “I admit the crime, but in fact I don’t. I admit I took a bag of cash, I did not look inside it, I handed it over to the minister, I don’t know what it contained.” This is not an admission, it’s a way of trying to get away by stating that that is how things went but it was done for someone else.”
She also pointed that she publicly stated at press conferences that businessmen know that the payment of 10 per cent of the value of their contracts with MDRT is being demanded, advising them: “Don’t pay bribes. Go and file complaints at the DNA if you are asked for bribes within this ministry.”
The file passed the preliminary chamber, where both at the first trial and at the appeal by the panel of the judges, the Court established that the criminal inquiry was done according to the law and that the trial may start.
Of all sixteen requests and exceptions submitted by Elena Udrea’s defence, the judges admitted none. There are eight defendants in this file: Elena Udrea, Ion Ariton, Rudel Obreja, Tudor Breazu, Stefan Lungu, Gheorghe Nastasia, Ana Maria Topoliceanu and Marius Botoroaga.
The former Head of PMP is charged with three accounts of bribe taking, as well as abuse of office and attempt to use forged, inexact or incomplete documents or declarations to unjustly gain European funds.
Moreover, in a note posted on Facebook, Elena Udrea explains that she would use all weapons to defend herself in this trial.
“From now on, the file I have been arrested in for 72 days is public. Incorrectly and unfairly named Bute Gala (unfair to Champion Lucian Bute), in reality it should be named the Elena Udrea File, as it is a file where prosecutors have rushed to hoard various accusations at my expense, with the undoubted target of arresting me.
There is abuse of office under the circumstances that they fail to show what I had done wrong, or what I omitted to do although I was supposed to, concerning the involvement of MDRT in Bute Gala. Three bribe taking charges, with the sole proof of declarations, given easily or sometimes hardly by my former collaborators, confronted with their own proof and threatened of arrest, who end up by admitting that they received that money, but, obviously, they did not do it for themselves, but for Elena Udrea. What brought their release brought my arrest, and for them, instead of a full sentence, successive reductions of it!
I will give you an example you may understand easier: if a medical nurse working for a great professor is caught receiving money from a patient and has to choose between being arrested and condemned or saying that she actually gave that money to the professor, thus keeping her freedom and eventually perhaps a reduced sentence that might not be executed in the end, what do you think she would do?
From now on, I can openly discuss this file, accusations, proof and pressures made by prosecutors to obtain declarations against me, which still continues at this time.
You may be sure that I will use all weapons to defend myself, not because I think I am a politician who had made no mistakes, but because this file is an exhibit of this new fashion of justice, where giving somebody in is enough to accuse and arrest that person”, Elena Udrea wrote on her Facebook page on Friday.
Elena Udrea was charged on April 21 in the Bute Gala file, on three accounts of bribe taking, abuse of office and attempted use of forged, inexact or incomplete documents or declarations in order to unjustly gain European funds.
Elena Udrea is at this time released on probation since June 16, when the High Court decided to replace the measure of house arrest. Udrea has been placed under house arrest during May 7 – June 16. During February 25 – April 30, Udrea was imprisoned at the Central Arrest of the Bucharest Police Department, and afterwards, she was transferred to Targsor Penitentiary.