*EUR 2 M bribe laundered through offshore companies
*Calin Popescu Tariceanu allegedly personally informed Mihaiu that he would be appointed in office
Liviu Mihaiu (photo) knew that businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vintu was going to arrange his appointment as Danube Delta Governor. The ex-journalist himself told that to National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors. He also revealed that he found out subsequent to his appointment that the businessman had paid a bribe for it, judges point out in the reasoning of their decision to have former National Bank of Romania (BNR) Deputy Governor Bogdan Olteanu placed under house arrest.
“Witness Mihaiu Liviu pointed out that Vintu asked him whether he wants to be Delta Danube Governor. Since Mihaiu Liviu agreed, Vintu told him he would arrange it. Subsequently, Mihaiu Liviu was summoned at the Government, where Calin Popescu Tariceanu, currently Senate Speaker, Premier at the time, told him he would be appointed Governor. The witness told us that “Vintu had discussed my appointment with the political factors, but at the time I didn’t realise what that had entailed.” Mihaiu Liviu found out later on that Vintu had paid a bribe to secure his appointment,” reads the reasoning of the judges’ decision to place Bogdan Olteanu under house arrest, Agerpres informs.
Circuit that the EUR 2 M took through offshores
The case file includes the statements of several witnesses, who are talking about the 1 million Euros that Bogdan Olteanu, who was back then holding the third highest office in the state, allegedly received from businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vintu in 2008 in return for appointing Liviu Mihaiu as Danube Delta Governor.
The money was apparently transferred into two equal instalments – one to the bank accounts of a company (IT Media Productions Delaware) and one to the bank account of Ionut Adrian Eftime, who was close to Vintu, the aforementioned document shows. At Vintu’s request, Ionut Adrian Eftime withdrew 1 million Euros and handed the cash to Olteanu at PNL’s head office, Rise Project journalists show.
The money that Bogdan Olteanu allegedly received was transferred back and forth through several offshore companies controlled by Sorin Ovidiu Vintu, Rise Project shows.
“Ever since March 2006, Ionut Adrian Eftime and his father, trade union leader Ion Eftime, had received full powers to represent and manage the IT & Media Production offshore company registered in Delaware. This is the mailbox whose bank accounts are the source of the 1 million Euros that Eftime Jr. allegedly handed over to Bogdan Olteanu in October 2008, at the PNL head office, after Liviu Mihaiu was appointed Danube Delta Governor,” the aforementioned source shows.
DNA prosecutors claim that the initial source of the money was another offshore company – Demera Investments Ltd – registered in Cyprus and used by the Vintu – Liviu Luca duo.
The money was skilfully moved back and forth in order for their trace to be lost, thus being “laundered.”
“Through a “royalty payment” scheme, namely a financial solution that sees offshore owners taking out cash from the companies by arguing that the sums represent their own management indemnities. Two such operations channelled 1 million Euros to Ionut Adrian Eftime. The first was sealed on 3 January 2008, by having Ionut Adrian Eftime formally co-opted within the board of another offshore company (the Cyprus-based Narfalk Debit Service and Factoring). The company committed to paying Eftime EUR 400,000 for his activity in 2008. The payment was about to be made through a different offshore company – New Zealand-based Laveco Group. A month later, on 20 February 2008, Eftime became member of the board of Cyprus-based KLG Debit Service and Factoring Ltd and received EUR 600,000. The two companies that co-opted Eftime in their boards are traditional instruments in dozens of tax evasion schemes provided by the offshore consultants whom the Sorin Ovidiu Vintu group used. These companies played the role of a nominal shareholder, a front, in several businesses involving various beneficiaries, which were subsequently investigated by tax authorities and prosecutors. Moreover, Laveco Group, which paid Eftime EUR 400,000, was precisely the parent company of the financial strategists. Through Laveco, the latter were contracting their clients for whom they were then rendering offshore services,” Rise Project added.
The money came from Cyprus-based Demera Investments Ltd, DNA prosecutors claim.
“On 17 September 2008, the Demera offshore company signs a contract with Laveco Group Ltd (the consultants’ New Zealand-based company), the former tasking the latter with brokering the purchase of 30 percent of Conmec SA (Republic of Moldova) shares. Demera committed to paying Laveco a commission of EUR 1 M. The same Laveco was constantly wiring money into the accounts of Bulgaria-based IT & Media Productions, operated by Ionut Adrian Eftime,” Rise Project journalists add.
The following day, 18 September 2008, Liviu Mihaiu was appointed Danube Delta Governor.
The second instalment ended up in the hands of Eftime Jr. through the same circuit, only this time the transaction took the cover of a loan.
“On 2 December 2008, KLG Debit Service and Factoring Ltd loaned its manager, Ionut Adrian Eftime, EUR 600,000. Eftime took it upon himself to reimburse the loan in a year’s time. The sum was equal to the one he had already received for his activity within the company. On that same day, Eftime contracted another loan from Laveco Group Ltd (EUR 400,000), set to fall due one year later. Laveco had paid Eftime the same amount of money for his activity within Narfalk Debut Service,” the aforementioned source points out.
The circuit was thus the same.
“The offshore company that DNA identifies as the source of the bribe money was established in June 2006 in Cyprus and was dissolved this year. Demera investment Ltd engaged in transactions worth several million Euros, buying shares in companies in Romania and the Republic and Moldova. Overpriced shares. In Romania, less than three months since it was established, the Cyprus-based offshore company bought from Delta Asigurari SA (Vintu’s insurance company) over 4 million shares issued by Romexterra Bank, a bank whose majority shareholders were initially employees of Petrom, Romgaz and Petromservice. The price was RON 6 per share. Shortly thereafter, Demera brokered more than 300,000 Romexterra Bank shares, on behalf of Petromservice (today’s PSV Company). In the Republic of Moldova, in 2008, Petromservice became majority shareholder of Investprivatbank. While the shares were worth a little over EUR 6 M on the stock exchange, Petromservice bought them through Demera Investment at a price seven times higher. A year later, the National Bank of Moldova withdrew Investprivatbank’s licence and appointed a receiver in bankruptcy to sell the bank’s assets and reimburse its depositors. Once again in Moldova and once again at overestimated prices, Demera became a stakeholder in former state-owned companies: Magistrala, Conmec, Agat, Mezon, Semnal and the Cosnita Can Factory,” Rise Project journalist show.
Ionut Adrian Eftime, an important pawn
Ionut Adrian Eftime is the son of Ion Eftime. Ion Eftime is a Ploiesti-based businessman, Petrom’s former trade union leader and former owner of the Alpha TV local broadcaster. Eftime’s wife worked at the Presidential Palace until 2010.
Eftime Jr. was first arrested in a massive money laundering case, for causing Petromservice – the company belonging to Petrom’s trade unionists, taken over by the Vintu-Luca duo – a damage of EUR 8 M.
Offshore consultant Lazslo Kiss was also arrested along with Ionut Adrian Eftime. Eftime Jr. received a final sentence of six years and four months in prison.
Prior to that, Sorin Ovidiu Vintu had appointed him manager of Realitatea Media, a media trust that also controlled Realitatea TV.
Ionut Adrian Eftime denounced Bogdan Olteanu at the DNA, pointing out that he met him in October 2008, at PNL’s head office, where he allegedly bribed him in return for appointing Liviu Mihaiu in office.
Bogdan Olteanu’s overtures materialised in mid-September 2008, when the PNL politician announced for the first time, in a televised talk-show, that Liviu Mihaiu will be the Danube Delta Governor. Two days later, Premier Tariceanu signed the decision.
One month later, according to prosecutors, Sorin Ovidiu Vintu offered Bogdan Olteanu, through Eftimie Jr., 1 million Euros in cash.
“The money had been taken out of the Bulgarian bank accounts of IT & Media Productions Ltd (Delaware) offshore company, an instrument also used in defrauding the former Petromservice. RISE Project has revealed that almost EUR 2.8 M of the EUR 8 M embezzled from Petromservice ended up in the same Bulgarian bank account belonging to IT & Media Productions Ltd,” Rise Project shows.
The journalists also write that all offshore companies operated by the Sorin Ovidiu Vintu crime ring were established by consultants Laszlo Kiss (Romania) and Ian Taylor (New Zealand).
“Linked to all tax havens in the world, the two consultants’ network is being investigated on several continents for trafficking weapons in countries under UN sanctions, money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel and the Russian Mafia, tax evasion and embezzlement in the Balkans,” according to the aforementioned source.
In July 2015, in Bucharest, Laszlo Kiss was sentenced to six years and four months for complicity to embezzlement and money laundering in the Petromservice case. The ruling was final. Kiss is also on trial, on the same charges, in the Ultra Pro Computers case, for a damage of 10 million Euros. Eftime, who is witness in that case, took a polygraph test which showed he was being honest so his statement is considered an important piece of evidence in the investigation, Digi24 points out, citing the DNA document.
Prosecutors also claim that at first Liviu Mihaiu was not satisfied with the arrangement from a financial standpoint, namely with losing the positions he was holding at the time, the most important of them being that of editorial director at Radio Guerrilla, where he was earning more than he would have earned as Danube Delta Governor. Later on, after the talked with Vintu, Liviu Mihaiu accepted.
Another witness told prosecutors that “after Danube Delta Governor Liviu Mihaiu was dismissed, Vintu was extremely upset, allegedly stating in this context that he lost 1 million Euros or that it had cost him 1 million Euros or something like this.”
Olteanu could be arrested on August 11
Last Friday, former Lower Chamber Speaker and former BNR Deputy Governor Bogdan Olteanu was placed under house arrest, after he spent one night in the custody of the Bucharest Police, being accused of influence peddling in this case.
Prosecutors claim that in 2008, back when he was Lower Chamber Speaker and one of PNL’s leaders, Olteanu allegedly received 1 million Euros and other benefits in order to make sure Liviu Mihaiu was going to be appointed Danube Delta Governor.
The High Court of Justice has decided to rule on August 11 on the DNA’s appeal against the decision to have Bogdan Olteanu placed under house arrest, News.ro informs.
Liviu Mihaiu: “I am “honoured” that my “transfer” had such a cost”
Ex-journalist Liviu Mihaiu wrote on Facebook that he did not know about the alleged bribery related to his appointment in office.
“I DID NOT know about and did not take part in that alleged transaction surrounding my appointment as Governor. I was probably a very good pretext for the former media mogul to have something on the Lower Chamber Speaker (too). If we are to use a different tack, I am “honoured” that my “transfer” had such a cost, but I’m terrified that one of the best/honest governors of the Danube Delta (forgive me, emoticon smile J), ended up at the helm of the Danube Delta through such an act of corruption at such a level. None of those involved in this “South American” scandal EVER called me to ask something from me! For the simple reason that these were the terms I presented to the Tariceanu Government in order to accept the office. The judiciary should do (its whole) duty!” Mihaiu wrote.