The Vice-Premier and Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea’s dismissal is insistently demanded by an increasing number of politicians and representatives of NGOs as he delays to come out in public and clear out the controversy regarding the death of the policeman leading his official convoy. Prosecutors have initiated an inquiry over this case and are awaiting reports and documents they have demanded from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and President Klaus Iohannis is awaiting explanations.
Sub-Inspector Bogdan Cosmin Gigina (aged 28) from the Bucharest traffic squad died at the hospital on Tuesday evening, after having fallen with his motorcycle into a hollow dug for works at the gas network on Stirbei Voda Street was leading the official convoy of Administration and Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea.
No information on this event was released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and all of it leaked out on sources.
It was just on Thursday, two days after the accident, that the Bucharest Police Department issued a press release confirming that the Traffic Squad officer was opening Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea’s official convoy that, according to released information, had attended “an activity at an institution in the field of security and public order”.
“The policeman was exercising the professional tasks specific to traffic police, according to legal regulations in the field, and was involved in the mobile and fix apparatus creating fluidity in the road traffic in the municipality of Bucharest, granting the safe circulation of the official convoy, as well as of the other attendants to the traffic”, the Traffic Police revealed.
Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea might be investigated by a Parliament Committee, especially founded for the case of the death of the policeman who had led his official convoy on Tuesday evening.
“Check for each day in particular and for each location he has been to if there is any justification, which is the purpose. If they were for private interests or other interests”, Adrian Moraru said. The manager of the Institute for Public Policies also questions the time Gabriel Oprea was the Defence Minister: “He was commuting every day from somewhere outside of Bucharest to the platform near the Ministry of Defence as he was carried in and out by helicopter”, Moraru pointed out as several police officers confessed in the last few days, in anonymity, that Oprea frequently abused the use of official convoys in personal interest, even while going to a restaurant, a wedding or at the hairdresser’s.
While authorities maintain a suspect silence in this case, shocking confessions surface in the press of the abuses committed with increasing frequency by the Internal Affairs Minister who almost blocked the activity of traffic police when attending events organized in the country. Whether there were parties, party meetings, football matches or monasteries in Bukovine, the official convoy and police escort were always at Gabriel Oprea’s disposal, despite of the law that stipulates a right to official column only during official missions.
Disclosures made by Digi 24 TV during the last few days show that the high official had come to use the phrase “national interest” and the word “honour” obsessively in the last few days, while using official convoys and dozens of mission plans for visits made in personal purposes.
The official press release of the Bucharest Police Department, released two days after the accident, mentioned that “immediately after the accident occurred, the official convoy stopped at the scene of the event and measures were ordered for the mobilization of medical teams in order to provide CPR, and afterwards, the policeman was carried to the Emergency University Hospital in Bucharest.”
According to eye witnesses at the scene of the event, though, Oprea did not even stop the car he was seated in after the accident occurred, to see what happened to the policeman and provide him CPR, but continued driving at high speed, a behaviour that brought him the disapproval of public opinion.
While the targeted high official avoided saying as much as one word in public about this accident, his subordinate in the party Eugen Nicolicea was visibly annoyed by reporters’ attempts to find out what had happened on Tuesday evening. UNPR Vice-President Eugen Nicolicea did not even try to hide the fact that he wanted to close the subject as fast as possible.
“I wonder whether these endlessly used phrases, “national interest and honour” are still valid today for the party named UNPR. Where are you, Mr. Oprea? Where is your honour? Hand in your resignation as fast as possible!”, Eugen Tomac, executive President of the Popular Movement declared.
Ponta refused to answer to journalists whether Oprea had the right to be escorted by Traffic Police
Prime Minister Victor Ponta refused to answer journalists’ questions on whether Minister Gabriel Oprea had the legal right to use the escort of Traffic Police, motorcyclists included, in all his travels. Ponta mentioned he was only answering questions on budget adjustment.
At the end of the presentation of the budget adjustment on Friday, at the Government, attending journalists asked Victor Ponta whether the Internal Affairs Minister had the right to use the escort of the Traffic Police in all jos travels, but the Prime Minister refused to answer, claiming that he had previously announced that the topic of the press conference was the budget adjustment and other economical subjects.
“I understand that you are talking so that your bosses can hear you. I have established a few rules with you”, the Prime Minister pointed out visibly annoyed, and afterwards, he added that he would only answer questions referring to the announced topics.
The journalists insisted on the subject, yet Victor Ponta continued to avoid making any references to the topic.
“I have the feeling I am talking in Chinese”, the Prime Minister commented.
Media representatives outlined the fact that the approached topic was an actual one, highly important for the public opinion and therefore, it should not be avoided.
“I do not want to avoid any topic, I just want to establish a few rules. If we do not respect each other, it is very hard afterwards to have an opinion”, Ponta told the journalists present at Palace Victoria.
The Opposition, angered by the attempt to cover up the case
“If Mr. Oprea continues to avoid the subject for the next few hours and if things do not get solved in an investigation that would show us what the police officer was actually doing there and whom he was protecting, why his protection was required and what has actually happened, I will propose my colleagues in PNL to file this request to Defence Committees, that we could interview Mr. Oprea”, PNL Deputy Ovidiu Raetchi declared.
Alina Gorghiu: PNL takes into account submitting a simple motion against Gabriel Oprea
Co-President of the National Liberal Party (PNL) Alina Gorghiu declared on Saturday in Buzau that she was taking into account the submission of a simple motion against Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea, as well as creating an investigation committee that would “clarify a situation Oprea has the duty to explain”.
Alina Gorghiu declared in a press conference that, for four days, Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea gave no explanation regarding the accident that caused the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina, who was accompanying the official convoy of the Vice-Premier, declaring that, when it comes to losses of human lives, the lack of transparency is unacceptable.
In the same circumstances, Gorghiu declared that the required action would be Gabriel Oprea’s resignation or his dismissal by Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
“There are still questions that were not answered by Oprea. And we are talking about four days of silence since police officer Bogdan Gigina lost his life in the mission. It destroys the credibility of institutions, first of all that of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which should be defended at any price, by anyone, the Minister included, but, as we see, he refuses to provide an explanation, a moral compensation, the family deserves all explanations about what happened there. If these explanations are not publicized, a resignation is compulsory, it is a necessary gesture, and if it does not happen, Prime Minister Ponta must dismiss him”, Alina Gorghiu declared.
She added that, on Monday, she intended to propose PNL management and Parliament groups a discussion regarding “parliamentary tools” that can be used to turn on the light in the case of the accident that had led to the decease of police officer Bogdan Gigina, even taking into account the possibility to submit a simple motion against Gabriel Oprea.
“We are talking about parliamentary means: a simple motion against the Internal Affairs Minister, an investigation committee, appeals and any other Parliament means that could stop a situation Mr. Oprea had the duty to clear out. He did not do it, and we are placing public interest above any political interest. On Monday, we will discuss with Parliament groups, we will discuss and choose the parliamentary mean that would be most efficient. We may appeal various institutions, we may call the Minister to face the Parliament, there are plenty of means we will analyse and we will present you the decision reached by Parliament groups”, Gorghiu declared.
PNL’s Predoiu demands Oprea’s resignation, and were he to refuse, his dismissal by Ponta
Prime Vice-President of the National Liberal Party (PNL) Catalin Predoiu demanded Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea to resign on Saturday, pointing out that if he does not do it, Prime Minister Ponta has the duty to dismiss him, “in order to stop moral confusion” caused by the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina.
“I demand the Internal Affairs Minister to quit his position. And if he will not be so kind to do it, as he was not so kind to answer, for four days, the legitimate questions of society, Prime Minister Ponta has the duty to dismiss him in order to stop moral confusion and the possible abuse of power. Moreover, Victor Ponta has the moral and legal obligation to assure, in a transparent and immediate way, the access to information regarding the conditions the accident took place, as the public opinion is demanding them in an insistent and legitimate manner for three days”, Predoiu pointed out in a press release published by the agency MEDIAFAX.
Predoiu noted the fact that Oprea “kept silent” about the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina, a member of his escort, which has created the perception of covering up the situation that – a terrible aspect – involved the Romanian Police Department as well”.
“Everybody has the right to a reasonable amount of time in order to collect their thoughts, to reflect, to decide, yet, for Mr. General Oprea, this amount of time has expired. Four days have been a reasonable interval, during which we have all waited for explanations, but it was used by Mr. Oprea exclusively to keep his silence, which created the impression of covering up the situation that, and this is a terrible aspect, also involved the Romanian Police. Under these circumstances, there is no other way than resignation to save the credibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and of Romanian Police and to honour the memory of the deceased soldier”, Predoiu declared, who was also the Prime Minister of PNL’s alternative Government.
Afterwards, in a post published on his Facebook page, Predoiu discussed the “extended media semi-barrage” over the Gigina case that “highly resemble’s Ponta’s attempt of last year to open voting sections at the presidential elections last year” and adds: “The end will be similar to last year.”
“I sometimes stay and wonder why great news televisions, except for Digi 24, ignore the Bogdan Gigina case to such extent (I will mention his name, perhaps it stirs something in people who create the editorial content) why do they ignore the huge wave on online media and Facebook?”, Predoiu asked.
Tariceanu: I, as President of the Senate, have no official convoy
Senate President Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who was asked on Friday whether Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea should resign, following the decease of the police officer who has been a member of his official convoy, thinks that this question should be directed at Oprea directly. Tariceanu also pointed out that he had no official convoy and that this benefit is only granted to the Head of the State and the Prime Minister, and the rest of the officials do not have “what is actually named an official convoy.”
Asked whether Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea should resign in the case of the accident that had determined the death of a police officer in his official convoy, Tariceanu said: “This is a problem I do not want to interfere in, please ask Mr. Oprea directly.”
Yet, while referring to the topic, Tariceanu also mentioned that he had no official convoy and that the only officials to benefit of this facility are the Head of the State and the Prime Minister, as the rest of officials do not have “what is actually called an official convoy.”
“I, as President of the Senate, do not have access to what we call an ‘official convoy. (…) An official convoy may be granted while receiving the visit of a high official, but, in remaining cases, there are variable security measures, depending on the position held by officials in the state, that implies a certain amount of protocol. It is a benefit of the Head of the State, first of all, and of the Prime Minister, the rest do not have the right to what we call an official convoy”, the President of the Senate declared.
Tariceanu mentioned that the automobile he uses is only accompanied by a car of the Guard and Protection Service, that follows him.
Prosecution starts in motorcycle policeman’s death
Bucharest Court prosecutors have started a criminal prosecution for third degree murder, in rem, in the case of the policeman who died after falling with his motorcycle in a giant pothole while escorting an official motorcade.
“The prosecution started in this case after we took note. At this moment we are waiting for official information from all state institutions about the nature of the mission the policeman was on, if he was truly on mission, as well as information about the road construction works that were being carried out. As we get this information we will notify you,” Adrian Tarlea, Bucharest Court prosecutor and spokesperson, stated on Wednesday for EurActiv.ro.
Several hundred persons took part in a protest in downtown Bucharest on Sunday (photo), asking for the resignation of Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea after policeman Bogdan Gigina died while being part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s official motorcade. Similar protests were announced for other cities. The protesters then marched to the Interior Ministry and from there to Victoria Palace.
Iohannis: I ask Ponta and Oprea to urgently offer public clarifications
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Sunday in Arad that “it’s inadmissible” for the Government not to adopt an official position in the case of the accident in which police officer Bogdan Gigina lost his life, adding that he asks “Mr. Ponta and Mr. Ponta to urgently offer public clarifications.”
“Concerning this event, I have a single comment: here we are on day five and we lack an official position from the Government; this is inadmissible. Public opinion is waiting for clarifications and I ask Mr. Ponta and Mr. Oprea to urgently offer these clarifications publicly, and I’m not talking about the penal side of the accident in which a police officer died on duty, I’m talking about the political side and about general clarifications,” the Head of State added.
The Interior Ministry issued on Sunday its first official response concerning the investigation into the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina, claiming that the Interior Ministry and the Minister cannot present details on this topic before the investigation concludes.