The lawyer of Attilla Csaba Pantics, one of the men detained by the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) prosecutors, said on Friday that he will ask the Romanian judicial authorities that the British journalist Stuart Ramsay with Sky News TV broadcaster be submitted to a polygraph test, in order to see if he is telling the truth.
Lawyer Marcel Vrabie said at the Bucharest Court of Appeals that Attilla Csaba Pantics and the other two men detained in this case, Levente Pantics and Aurelian Szanto, were assured by the British journalists that at the end of the story they would display the fact that the characters are fictional.
“They are guilty for having participated in this farce. They thought that nothing would happen to them, as Mr. Szanto firmly promised them, who in turn had spoken to the British reporters, that at the end of the story, at the bottom of the footage, the clarification according to which all events and characters are fictional would be displayed,” lawyer Marcel Vrabie pointed out.
The lawyer confirmed that he would ask for a polygraph test for journalist Stuart Ramsay, the one who led the Sky News team.
“If Mr Stuart Ramsay is brought in front of the Romanian judicial authorities, we shall also ask for a polygraph test, a lie detector test, to see who’s lying, because I strongly believe that Mr Csaba Pantics is very honest. And he is willing to take the polygraph test. I asked him and there is no problem,” the lawyer said.
Marcel Vrabie explained that Csaba Pantics wasn’t in for the money to do the story, because he is an economist and his wife is a doctor, the two having a prosperous business in Iernut city.
The three Romanian men that appear in the report broadcast by Sky News regarding arms trafficking in Romania were placed under preventive arrest on Friday, following the decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeals. The decision is not definitive and can be contested.
The Bucharest Court of Appeals has passed judgment on Friday on the request of the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) to arrest the three Romanians who appeared donning balaclavas in the Sky News report regarding arms trafficking in Romania – Aurelian Mihai Szanto, Attila Csaba Pantics and Levente Pantics.
On Thursday evening, the three were detained for 24 hours for committing the offences of forming an organized crime group, violation of the arms and ammunition legislation and communicating false information.
Aurelian Mihai Szanto played the role of intermediary between the British journalists and supposed arms traffickers, and Attila Csaba Pantics and Levente Pantics appear in the Sky News material with masked faces. They describe and manipulate the firearms offered for sale.
“The inquiry also showed that, in reality, the so-called journalistic investigation was not based on facts and real circumstances, but was created upon the initiative of the journalists, with false information and data being presented as true. Thus, information revealed that at the beginning of July 2016, defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai, a Romanian citizen having resided in the United Kingdom for several years, was contacted by phone by a British journalist that he had met before, who proposed he work as a translator for the British TV station. Said journalist told him that he intends to shoot a documentary on arms traffickers and asked him to find persons willing to present firearms. Although defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai replied that he has no possibility of presenting military firearms, only hunting weapons legally owned by a friend of his in Romania, the said journalist agreed. Under such circumstances, defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai made contact with his friend, defendant Pantics Attila-Csaba, who agreed to the request, with the presentation to be made together with his cousin, Pantics Levente,” DIICOT shows.
The prosecutors also say that British journalists offered Aurelian Szanto 2,000 euro, for the ‘journalistic investigation,’ of which he took 1,000 euro, with the remaining 1,000 to be split between Attila Pantics and Levente Pantics.
On July 29 on the Targu-Mures airport, a flight arrived carrying several British journalists in order to shoot the story; they were met by Szanto in a car rented for this activity.
After being welcomed, the journalists and hosts had talks on the details of the filming, and Aurelian Szanto was requested that the persons who posed as “arms traffickers” wear balaclavas.
Furthermore, the journalists indicated the questions and answers that the so-called traffickers should give, including the prices for some types of weapons.
“The journalists also requested that the filming be done in an isolated area, forested and with hills, that the vehicle used by the smugglers not bear license plates, and the guns be covered with a blanket. As the British journalists requested presentation of military firearms resembling AK’s, defendant Pantics Attila-Csaba requested another person lend a firearm made at UM Sadu, of 7.62×39 caliber, firearm classified as ‘collectible’ that he owned legally. Although the firearm was legally possessed, he was not allowed, according to the legislation in force (Law 295/2004 regarding arms and ammunition) to leave his domicile with it or lend it to other persons,” DIICOT mentions.
The investigation also shows that, once the demands of the British journalists were met, on the morning of July 31, 2016, Aurelian Szanto travelled in the rented vehicle to the hotel where four persons in the crew of the British television station were staying.
Together with them, Aurelian Szanto travelled from Targu Mures to Jeica, Mures County, where they met Attila and Levente Pantics. The two travelled in an off-road vehicle being followed by Aurelian Szanto, who was driving the car in which the British journalists were.
“Around 2 km away from the rendez-vous point, defendant Pantics Attila Csaba stopped the vehicle, a Suzuki Samurai, and, together with defendant Pantics Levente, went out of their car, both donning balaclavas (the balaclavas were found during home searches), but one of the British journalists requested that defendant Szanto Aurelian Mihai too, as ‘intermediary of the arms traffickers,’ wear a balaclava. Lacking one, the film crew handed him one, as well as a cap and jacket. Later, the effective filming of the video took place, when the questions and scripted answers were delivered, with the defendants being expressly requested to speak Romanian, although the native tongue of the defendants is Hungarian,” DIICOT mentions.
The DIICOT has also announced that, through an international letter rogatory, the prosecutors will call in the British journalists working for Sky News for hearings.
Romanian Embassy in UK asks Sky News to broadcast findings of organised crime investigation by Romanian authorities
The Romanian Embassy in the UK on Thursday evening announced that further to the actions taken for fair and complete information of the public and for establishing the truth about the “Criminal Gang Selling Military Weapons” story that introduces alleged firearms traffickers from Romania it has sent Sky News a new letter, calling on the British broadcaster to air the outcome of the criminal probe conducting by Romania’s Directorate for Organised Crime and Terrorism Investigations (DIICOT) and do so as they broadcast their story.
“In its message, the embassy informs about preliminary conclusions of the DIICOT probe that point to a false nature of the allegations made in the story, saying that the accusations levelled by the writer generate question marks in the public space as well as conclusions and misstatements that groundlessly impinge on Romania’s picture. At the same time, a wish is expressed that in line with the values and principles promoted for the correct information of the public, Sky News will attach due attention to the request made by Romanian authorities,” reads a message posted in Romanian by the Romanian Embassy in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on its Facebook page.
The Romanian Embassy on Tuesday had informed having taken over the positions of the relevant Romanian bodies – the Romanian Police General Inspectorate (IGPR) and DIICOT- and forwarded them to Sky News as a right of reply. It also notified the British communications regulatory body OFCOM about the content of the “Criminal Gang Selling Military Weapons” story broadcast by the said channel on August 7.
In a press statement posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday, the embassy said that the remarks of the Romanian authorities were submitted to the British Foreign Office and the National Crime Agency, underscoring in letters to the two organisations what it calls “imprecise, incomplete and incorrect nature of the information presented in the said story that does not support the conclusions of the journalistic investigation involved and that is able to project a negative picture of Romania with the British public.”
JusMin Pruna: Romanian state must react if Sky News allegations are false
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said Friday that the Romanian state must react if the allegations in the video footage aired by the British Sky News private broadcasters are false.
“Certainly, to the extent that what featured in the Sky News story does not square with reality, the Romanian state must take action. And first demarches have already been made to this end,” Pruna told a news conference at the Government House in reply to whether or not Romania should sue Sky News in London.