* Vasile Blaga, placed under judicial control in a case of influence peddling
National Liberal Party (PNL) Co-Chair Vasile Blaga was placed under judicial control on Wednesday, for 60 days, in a case of influence peddling in which he was heard more than two hours at the headquarters of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Ploiesti.
Prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate – Ploiesti Territorial Service, ordered the criminal prosecution against the following suspects:
– STEFAN GHEORGHE, who was the Vice President of a governing party and the Mayor of the Piatra Neamt Municipality at the date of the deeds, for committing the offences of influence peddling and using the influence of the leading position in a political party to obtain money, goods or other undue benefits
– BERDILA HORATIU BRUNO, representative of a trade company, under the accusation of buying influence
– BLAGA VASILE, who was the Secretary General of a governing party and a Senator in the Romanian Parliament at the date of the deeds, under the accusation of committing the influence peddling offense.
“During the year of 2009, within the governing political party, there was an obvious agreement between persons having leading positions, namely the Secretary General Blaga Vasile and the Vice president Stefan Gheorghe, in order to obtain money for the party. According to the agreement, this was going to be done by appointing, with the help of the politically assigned ministers, persons who were agreed, to the leadership of the national companies and public institutions under those ministries, through which they were going to grant public procurement contracts to the companies that were willing to ‘sponsor’ their political party.
In this regard, suspect Stefan Gheorghe, as the Vice president of the governing party, directly used his influence in the political environment, causing people who were decision-makers in the ministries in charge, to appoint a certain person at the leadership of a national company from the energy field. That person was agreed by the suspects Stefan Gheorghe and Blaga Vasile, and was willing to (indirectly) contribute to funding the party with amounts of money, by preferentially granting public procurement contracts to various indicated companies.
In the 2011-2012 period, suspect Stefan Gheorghe informed suspect Blaga Vasile on the measures by which, through the manager of a national company in the energy field, they were aiming to obtain money for the party. Specifically, by concluding contracts between the mentioned national company – through rigged auctions – and the company belonging to the suspect Berdila Horatiu Bruno, the latter transferred a specific amount of money to the party, from the above mentioned contracts, representing a previously decided percentage from the contracts’ value.
Thus, in the 2011-2012 period, suspect Stefan Gheorghe promised to the person appointed by his influence that will be maintained in the leading position inside the national energy company, if a series of public services and IT products procurement contracts will be granted to the company represented by Berdila Horatiu Bruno.
At the same time, Stefan Gheorghe promised to Berdila Horatiu Bruno that he will intervene at the company’s manager, so that the businessman’s company will win the organized public tenders, and in turn he pretended and received a percent between 10 and 25 percent of the value of each contract that was concluded this way, receiving for himself and for his political party the total amount of approx. RON 25 million.
Repeatedly receiving, three times, by the suspect Blaga Vasile, by inference, in the 2011-2012 period, the total amount of EUR 200,000, as well as EUR 500,000 from the suspect Stefan Gheorghe, which amount he knew from where it came, given the above, represented the confirmation of the previous agreement”, shows a DNA press release.
Blaga: “I am the guarantor of the party statute’s observance. I will prove my innocence”
When getting out from DNA, after around two hours of hearings, Vasile Blaga didn’t wish to comment the anticorruption prosecutor’s decision.
He said that he was placed under judicial control for 60 days.
Being asked if he’ll resign, PNL Co-Chair answered: “Please remember that I am the guarantor of the party statute’s and all its decisions’ guarantor. I will act correspondingly, don’t worry”.
He added that he cannot ask other colleagues to observe the statute if he doesn’t.
“I will take all the necessary measures. I am the first that has to observe the statute”, he said.
Also, asked how did he answer to the accusations of influence peddling, Vasile Blaga answered he can prove his innocence.
When entering the DNA, Vasile Blaga stated that he doesn’t know the accusations and the reason for which he was called.
“I was called by the phone. I don’t know which case is it”, Vasile Blaga stated when entering the DNA.
In the morning, sources that are related to the investigation stated to the press that Blaga’s hearing is part of an influence peddling case, and the deeds were committed netween 2009 and 2012. In that period, Blaga is suspected that he interfered in order for some contracts to be preferentially granted, according to the quoted sources.
Vasile Blaga was previously heard at the DNA central headquarter, on September 19
On September 19, Vasile Blaga was heard by DNA – Central Structure, stating that he was summoned to be heard as a witness in a case opened this year. At that time, when getting out from DNA, Blaga said that prosecutors asked him about his car, which was involved in an easy car accident two weeks ago, by the head of the Police Inspectorate of Bihor County, superintendent Liviu Popa.
PNL Co-Chair was also heard by DNA on April 14, also as a witness, in a case of abuse of office opened in 2015 by the prosecutors. Judicial sources stated at that time that Blaga gave statements in a case related to illegal compensations granted by ANRP.
On November 3, 2015, Blaga went to DNA to make statements as a witness in the case in which Elena Udrea is accused of funding the PDL’s electoral campaign in 2012 with money she is supposed to have received from the businessman Bogdan Buzaianu.
Udrea at DNA Ploiesti, to be heard as a witness in Blaga’s case
Elena Udrea was summoned as a witness in the case in which PNL Co-Chair Vasile Blaga is prosecuted for influence peddling.
According to the prosecutors, in the 2011-2012 period, Blaga would have received three times, by inference, the total amount of EUR 200,000, as well as EUR 500,000 from the former Mayor.
At the time of the deeds, Elena Udrea was the Minister of the Regional Development and Tourism, and she was Blaga’s colleague in the Liberal Democrat Party (PDL).
Blaga resigns as the PNL leader and as the head of electoral campaign
Being investigated by DNA for corruption deeds, Vasile Blaga announced shortly after he was placed under judicial control, that he resigns as the National Liberal Party Co-Chair and as head of campaign for the parliamentary elections of this year.
“Following the accusations that were brought to me today, I will prove my innocence in front of the competent institutions. I, myself, am the guarantor of the PNL Statute’s and all the party’s decisions’ observance. I cannot ask my colleagues to observe the integrity criteria if I don’t do this. Therefore, I will act correspondingly and I will resign as the National Liberal Party Co-Chair and as head of campaign for the parliamentary elections of this year”, Vasile Blaga announced by a press release.
What the PNL Statute provides
According to the PNL’s integrity Decalogue, approved in 2015, those who are under a preventive measure cannot candidate on the PNL lists.
These are the PNL Decalogue’s provisions on the criminal issues:
- Criminal issues.
- Not to have been definitively sentenced for a corruption offense or for offences committed with violence.
- Not to have been definitively sentenced for other offenses committed intentionally.
- The criminal prosecution shouldn’t have been started against him/her for corruption deeds or for offenses committed with violence.
- Not to have been sent to judgement for other offenses committed intentionally.
- Not to be under a preventive measure – detention, house arrest or judicial control, for any offense committed intentionally”.
Liberal meeting in the coming days
PNL leadership will meet in the coming days in order to decide which is the best option to follow, in the circumstances of Vasile Blaga’s resignation as the party’s Co-Chair and as head of campaign; he also announced that he renounces to run for a new Senator seat.
“National Liberal Party appreciates that Mr. Vasile Blaga’s decision to renounce to the PNL Co-Chair position proves that he has put the integrity principles assumed by PNL above his own political career. In the same time, National Liberal Party mentions that Vasile Blaga has informed the PNL Timis President, Nicolae Robu that he will not run for a new parliamentary seat. In the next days, a meeting of the party’s leadership will take place, where it will be decided which is the best option to follow, in the circumstances of Mr. Vasile Blaga’s resignation”, reads a press release issued by PNL.
Alina Gorghiu urgently returns in the country, after Vasile Blaga’s resignation
PNL Co-Chair Alina Gorghiu, who is in Paris, at the hearing of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), took the decision to immediately return in the country, after Vasile Blaga’s resignation as the PNL leader.
According to some Liberal sources, a possible substitute for Vasile Blaga as the PNL Co-Chair could be the Mayor of Arad, Gheorghe Falca.
Alina Gorghiu after Blaga resigns: “For us reform is not just a discourse”
PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu stated that the party is losing “one of its pillars.” At the same time, she says she will not comment on the investigation in which Vasile Blaga is involved. The PNL leader also stated that “for us reform is not just a discourse.”
Alina Gorghiu stated she regrets “the not at all comfortable situation” Blaga finds himself in, the outgoing PNL Co-President being accused of influence peddling. She added that she has “complete confidence” in the presumption of innocence.
“Just as I did in all situations, I will not comment on the essence of cases and investigations, since this is not the purpose of a politician and party leader,” the PNL Co-President emphasised.
“In what concerns the political implications, with this resignation the National Liberal Party is losing one of its pillars. At the same time, the PNL Co-President’s resignation is an example of honour and consistency, which shows, once more, the major difference between our party and all the other parties. The difference is that, although the presumption of innocence is the same for everyone, only a few show dignity and respect for the parties they represent and for the electorate,” Alina Gorghiu added.
“The National Liberal Party is proving once again that for us reform is not just a discourse, it’s also a manner of doing politics, from the newest party member all the way to its leaders,” she said.
Gorghiu also pointed out that consultations with PNL members will follow. “The National Liberal Party represents a single entity, which no longer differentiates between its members based on the parties they were formerly members of. It’s one of the great merits of the PNL Co-President alongside whom I visited, in the past two years, each party branch, several times, in order to present our joint message of unity and reform,” she stated.
Moreover, Alina Gorghiu also said that the Liberals’ efforts should now turn to the parliamentary elections scheduled in December.
“Alongside President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, PNL is a force that wants Romania’s complete change for the better. We have the duty to win these elections, not just because this is a normal objective for a party, but primarily in order not to leave Romania in the hands of a political cartel that pursues only revanchist and backward objectives,” Alina Gorghiu’s message shows.
Andreea Paul on Blaga’s resignation: Proves he is an honourable man
PNL Lower Chamber lawmaker Andreea Paul pointed out that by doing what he had asked Liberals do in such a situation, namely resign, Vasile Blaga is proving he is an honourable man. Andreea Paul did not want to say who could replace Vasile Blaga as PNL’s chief of campaign.
“Mr. Blaga Vasile is proving to be an honourable man because he has respected his word and has done what he had permanently asked Liberal members do in such a situation. Of course things happened fast today, we are all surprised, however I am looking at things from the side lines, because several months ago I resigned from the office of PNL Vice President, and my first conclusion is that the National Liberal Party lost today its chief of campaign for the parliamentary elections and I hope he will be able to prove his innocence in court, just as he stated he wants to do,” the Liberal lawmaker said.
Asked who could replace Vasile Blaga as PNL’s campaign chief, Andreea Paul did not want to name names.
“I won’t answer this question, the news is still fresh, troubling and as a simple party member I’m in no position to make suppositions, but I’m convinced PNL has many nominations for such an honouring position and will enter an accelerated renewal race. And not just inside the party but also outside, because we have opened our doors to professionals. I really believe the time has come for well-prepared people of character to enter politics. Talks within PNL’s parliamentary group and national bureau will follow, several nominations will be made but for the time being there is none,” Andreea Paul stated for Digi24.
Ponta on Facebook: They make room for Ciolos, either he wants or not, to rescue PNL
Former PM Victor Ponta posted on Wednesday a message on Facebook, following the news about the former PNL Co-Chair Vasile Blaga.
“If there still was a stupid person in Romania who didn’t understand, the ‘Vuvuzela’ of Cotroceni will explain to him what’s going on – they make room for Ciolos (either he wants or not) to ‘rescue’ PNL!!!
Ludovic Orban didn’t understand to make room for the Capital in the spring, and you could see what happened to him / Vasile Blaga didn’t understand it in the autumn, and now you can see what happened to him also! Other fools, be aware!
Orban and Blaga were vehement supporters for the ‘criminal investigations’ based only on forced denunciations when it came about Dragnea, Tariceanu or Ponta – you like it now, guys?!?! Or you thought you will enter on the backdoor, like Alinuta?!?! Bad luck.
My opinion – by using the same methods as in the local elections, PNL+Ciolos+Iohannis will have the same result! So, dear Romanians, you know who you have to vote if you wish this circus and chaos to take at least a break!” the former PM wrote on Facebook.
Ponta reminds Blaga the statement he made on September 29, 2015, in Parliament, on the occasion of the debate on the censure motion submitted by PNL against Ponta Government, when Blaga stated that he removed him from politics. “With all due respect, I have a Labrador at home, too, and he thinks he’s a tiger. Those who removed me from politics, unfortunately, think that will remove you too, and this is not fair both for me and for you. Just remember this” stated Ponta at that time, at the end of the debate on the censure motion in the plenum of the Parliament.
Journalist Rares Bogdan: Devastating impact for PNL
“The impact is devastating for PNL, it’s a disaster! PNL is a party that is functioning only being beaten with the whip, although apparently I the most liberal party in Romania. The only one that was whipping there was Vasile Blaga. Blaga is not a great orator, he’s not an electoral locomotive, but he is an outstanding organizer. Without Vasile Blaga organizing the electoral campaign, the county organizations, especially those belonging to the former PDL, which are extremely important, like Alba, Cluj, Bistrita, Arad, Sibiu, Mures, Brasov and so on, these people don’t recognize Alina Gorghiu, Atanasu or Petrache as leaders, maybe in a smaller extent Falca, but even here they don’t agree unanimously. These organizations will be paralyzed, which is a total disaster for PNL”, stated the TV producer Rares Bogdan for stiripesurse.ro.
Journalist says that the only rescuing solution is attracting Dacian Ciolos in PNL in the next 30 days.
“Probably Vasile Blaga will also not be able to be the coordinator of the electoral campaign. Things become complicated, extremely complicated for the National Liberal Party. I believe that a path is rising slowly and surely a path is made, not necessarily being made by someone, it simply rises due to the events. A path is rising for the only person who could revitalize the Liberal spirit: Dacian Ciolos. Attracting Dacian Ciolos becomes crucial in the next 30 days”, claims Rares Bogdan.
Working scenarios in PNL, after Vasile Blaga’s resignation
The scenarios that PNL leadership will discuss are two, according to stiripesurse.ro.
- The immediate organization of an Extraordinary Congress, where a unique President of the party will be elected
- The former PDL will appoint a person to replace Vasile Blaga, and the Congress will take place next year
Sources from the PNL leadership explained for stiripesurse.ro that a quick decision is not considered, and a meeting of the PNL National Political Bureau will take place next week.
Meanwhile, backstage games started inside the party. Several names are circulated as potential substitutes for Vasile Blaga, but the most frequently circulated are the names of Gheorghe Falca or Gheorghe Flutur.
Another major issue for PNL after Vasile Blaga’s resignation is a technical one. PNL is legally functioning under the co-presidency regime, and the lists will have to be signed by the two leaders. The surprise element is that somebody can challenge the lists with PNL candidates and Liberals are in danger of not having candidates for the Parliamentary elections, says stiripesurse.ro.