The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) asked the Romanian Senate on Monday to approve the start of the prosecution against Senator and ex-Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean, in the Diaspora Case. The latter is accused of malfeasance in office and hampering the exercise of electoral rights. Consequently, the Senate Speaker has to consult the members of the Standing Bureau in order to convene a Standing Bureau meeting. After the Senate’s Standing Bureau is convened, the Judicial Commission will be given a deadline for the drafting of a report based on the DNA’s proceedings, and the vote will take place within the Senate’s plenum.
DNA prosecutors accuse Titus Corlatean of malfeasance in office and hampering the exercise of electoral rights in the presidential elections of 2014. According to a DNA communiqué, Titus Corlatean, as Foreign Minister, “organised in a discretionary manner the voting centres abroad, thus obtaining an undue benefit for the candidate proposed and backed by the party he too was a member of [presidential candidate Victor Ponta – editor’s note].”
Corlatean expressed his surprise when hearing the news.
“No institution notified me. I’m surprised to find out from the press about this notification. No comment,” the PSD Senator stated for Mediafax. He added that he did not go at the Senate, nor did the Senate inform him about the DNA’s request.
DNA prosecutors heard Titus Corlatean in October 2015, in the Diaspora Case concerning the presidential elections of 2014. At the time, the former minister pointed out that he gave “a detailed statement.”
“I gave a detailed statement, in line with procedures currently in force. They asked me what the prosecutor handling the case had to ask me and I gave all details demanded,” Titus Corlatean stated back in October 2015.
Accused of malfeasance in office and hampering the exercise of electoral rights
The former Foreign Minister is accused of allegedly hampering the exercise of electoral rights by setting up voting centres in areas where no Romanian citizens lived and by refusing to set up voting centres in the locations requested by Romanian consulates that knew the situation on the field.
“In line with legal and constitutional stipulations, the Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate has forwarded the case report to the General Prosecutor of PICCJ [High Court’s Prosecutor’s Office], in order to ask the Senate to approve the request to criminally prosecute Corlatean Titus, member of the Romanian Senate, Foreign Affairs Minister at the time of the deeds, for the crimes of malfeasance in office and hampering the exercise of electoral rights,” the communiqué reads.
The document shows that, as Foreign Minister, Corlatean “organised voting centres abroad, by breaking legal provisions and through decrees, thus obtaining an undue benefit for the candidate proposed and backed by the party whose member he was. The undue benefit consisted of limiting the number of Romanian citizens who were able to exercise their voting rights abroad. Consequently, the limiting of access to voting centre abroad resulted in the hiking of the overall percentage of favourable votes obtained by the said candidate, against the backdrop in which the electoral behaviour of Romanian citizens abroad was largely unfavourable for the said candidate. On the other hand, the voting rights of the Romanian citizens who live abroad were damaged. The damage consisted of both the hampering of the exercise of this right and of making it very hard for this right to be exercised, prompting many holders of the voting rights to give up on exercising them. Through the same behaviour, the Foreign Minister also damaged the legitimate interests of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, interests that consisted of the proper functioning of Romania’s diplomatic missions and consular offices abroad and their exercising, in optimal conditions, of their legal prerogatives to defend the Romanian citizens’ rights abroad,” the aforementioned document reads.
Kovesi: “Ambassadors were heard too”
DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated on Monday that ambassadors were also heard in the “Diaspora Vote 2014” Case in which she asked the Senate to approve the criminal prosecution of Senator Titus Corlatean.
“Ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions were heard too, civil servants from the ministry were also heard,” Kovesi stated when leaving the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM).
Prior to that, she said that for the time being anticorruption prosecutors are focusing on the crime of malfeasance in office and hampering the exercise of electoral rights, and Titus Corlatean benefits from the presumption of innocence.
“I can tell you that 19 volumes, copies of the case file, which include the statements of witnesses, persons or civil servants involved in these activities, have been attached to the prosecutor’s case report. There are documents seized from various public institutions, other data and information on which the documentary evidence is based at this moment,” the Chief of DNA added.
Asked whether Titus Corlatean is the only person concerned, Kovesi pointed out that she cannot give an answer. DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi has notified the Senate in order for it to approve the criminal prosecution of Senator Titus Corlatean, former Foreign Minister, in the Diaspora Case.
Liviu Dragnea: “I didn’t expect Titus Corlatean to be criminally probed”
PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated on Monday that he did not expect the DNA to ask for the approval of the start of a criminal prosecution against Titus Corlatean in the case that concerns the Diaspora’s vote in the presidential elections of 2014.
“We will discuss this. The information is fresh and we will discuss with our colleagues. I admit I did not expect this, but we will convene within the party and establish what to do next,” Liviu Dragnea stated at PSD’s central headquarters, Agerpres informs.
Asked whether ex-Premier Victor Ponta will in turn be involved in this case, the PSD President said: “There would be no reason for that.”
“I don’t think, I don’t think this could go as far as Victor Ponta, there would be no reason for that. Victor Ponta was a candidate. I know [he was Prime Minister], but neither of us is a prosecutor so we don’t know what is there. I don’t understand why this reached Titus, but, of course, I don’t have all information,” Liviu Dragnea stated.
Alina Gorghiu: “I’m asking PSD not to block the investigation through a vote against the criminal prosecution”
PSD Co-President Alina Gorghiu is asking PSD not to block the probing of former Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean by voting against the DNA’s request.
“In 2014, vey many Romanians from the Diaspora were prevented from voting. Those who wanted to exercise this right queued for hours on end, in the rain, in humiliation queues. PSD’s state apparatus trampled democracy in order for its candidate to win. The Romanians from the Diaspora, as well as we, those living in the country, are waiting for the result of the investigation in this case. It’s good that something is nevertheless happening, albeit a year and a half since the worst violation of electoral rights seen in Romania in recent years. Restricting citizen’s rights has always been PSD’s specialty. I am asking them to have the decency not to block this investigation by voting against the criminal prosecution. It’s time for them to bow their heads, admit their abuse and apologise to Romanians. Because a vote is not a slogan,” Gorghiu wrote on Facebook on Monday.