On Tuesday, PSD President Liviu Dragnea was at the Supreme Court for a court hearing in the abuse of office case in which he is indicted alongside his ex-wife Bombonica Prodana and employees from the Teleorman County’s General Directorate for Social Security and Child Protection (DGASPC).
Supreme Court asks DNA to point out what laws Liviu Dragnea and the other defendants broke
The High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) asked National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors on Tuesday to point out, in writing, by April 25, what are the laws that each of the defendants broke, in the abuse of office case in which Liviu Dragnea is indicted alongside his ex-wife Bombonica Prodana and employees from the Teleorman County’s General Directorate for Social Security and Child Protection (DGASPC), the judges pointing out that their request bears in mind the decision that the Constitutional Court adopted last year and that introduced limits for the existence of an abuse of office crime.
Judges pointed out that Bombonica Dragnea filed, on March 2, a request to have the Constitutional Court notified in relation to the definition of abuse of office, from the standpoint of two aspects. One of them concerns the lack of clarity of the term “deficiently carries out” if there is no minimum damage threshold for the offence to be defined as abuse of office. In response, the judges decided to point out through court decision whether they will notify the Constitutional Court or not.
The DNA prosecutor present at the court hearing opposed this request and pointed out that Constitutional Court judges ruled on similar cases in the past too.
“We demand the rejection of the request to have the Constitutional Court notified, as inadmissible. The Constitutional Court has already analysed the constitutionality of abuse of office regulations. We explained, in the indictment, the primary legislation that the defendants broke. The Constitutional Court cannot modify the content of a law by imposing a level of damage for the guilty act to be considered abuse of office. The relevant fact is that the High Court ruled on this very aspect on March 20,” the prosecutor pointed out.
In response, the defendants’ lawyers argued the Constitutional Court must be notified “for the sake of stability in society,” pointing out that the Constitutional Court will say whether the trial can still continue. They claimed that the request is admissible and sending it to the Constitutional Court is called for.
The court proceeded by asking the defendants how they plead. While Valentina Mirela Marica stated she does not choose the simplified procedure because she considers herself innocent, Ionel Marineci, Adriana Botorogean and Nicusor Gheorghe pleaded guilty and asked to be tried based on the evidence included in the prosecution stage, evidence they do not dispute.
At that moment, court hearing chairperson judge Stefan Pistol pointed out to those who pleaded guilty that the other co-defendants had asked for them to be heard and they will continue to be subpoenaed to take the stand.
Judges then called on Adriana Botorogeanu, reading the charges brought against her in the indictment. “You’ve signed some professional assessment reports and you’ve committed the crime of complicity to abuse of office and complicity to forgery,” a member of the panel of judges told her after Botorogeanu pleaded guilty.
At that moment, the judge asked the court hearing prosecutor what piece of legislation did Botorogeanu break. With the prosecutor answering that he has arguments concerning the legal classification of each defendant’s guilty acts, the judge decided, ex officio, to ask the DNA for written statements concerning the Constitutional Court’s 2016 decision regarding solely the breaking of laws, not of regulations, Government decisions or ordinances.
Although the prosecutor told the court that these aspects should have been analysed by the preliminary court, the court upheld the decision. “We are asking for written statements in relation to the Constitutional Court’s decision concerning abuse of office, for each defendant, statements concerning the breaking of primary and secondary legislation,” judge Stefan Pistol said.
The next court hearing was scheduled for April 25, by which time the prosecutors will have to attach these supplementary statements to the case file.
The Teleorman County’s General Directorate for Social Security and Child Protection (DGASPC) did not send any jurist at Tuesday’s court hearing, despite having brought a civil action in the criminal proceedings.
Bombonica Prodana’s lawyers pointed out, in their request to have the Constitutional Court notified, that in order to indict a person for abuse of office there has to be a minimum threshold of the damage allegedly caused, deeming that incriminating the guilty act without relating it to damage caused, as currently stipulated by law, would be unconstitutional. Prosecutors have estimated the damage in this case at RON 108,000.
Government emergency ordinance no.13 (GEO 13) on amending the Criminal Codes, adopted on January 31 and repealed five days later, stipulated that an indictment for abuse of office can be made if the damage caused totals at least RON 200,000.
PSD President Liviu Dragnea was indicted by National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors on 15 July 2016, for instigating abuse of office and instigating forgery.
According to the prosecutors, from July 2006 to December 2012, in his capacity as Teleorman County Council Chairman and President of PSD Teleorman, Liviu Dragnea convinced Floarea Alesu, Executive Director of Teleorman County’s General Directorate for Social Security and Child Protection (DGASPC) at the time, to commit abuse of office by not sacking two DGASPC employees.
“In fact, the two persons worked at the headquarters of the Teleorman county branch of the political party whose president was defendant Dragnea Nicolae Liviu, something the latter was aware of,” the DNA claims.
Bombonica Prodana was indicted for abuse of office, because from 3 March 2008 to 1 August 2008 and from 3 July 2009 to 1 August 2010 she did not censure two of her subordinates despite knowing they were not showing up for work and were not observing the provisions of their labour contracts and their job description.
“This criminal behaviour was liable to offer the persons concerned undue benefits worth a total of RON 108,612, representing salary rights unjustifiably collected by defendant Botorogeanu Adriana (RON 75,593) and Stoica Anica Niculina (RON 33,019), sum for which the Teleorman County’s Social Security and Child Protection General Directorate (DGASPC) brought a civil action in the criminal proceedings,” the DNA prosecutors point out in the indictment.
Protester: I have pen and paper, will you sign the resignation? / Dragnea: I believe you want my resignation from life
Several persons waited for Liviu Dragnea at the Supreme Court, giving him, at the end of the court hearing, a yellow card bearing the message “#resist.” One of the women asked him whether he will resign from the office of Lower Chamber Speaker, telling him she has pen and paper at hand.
“I have pen and paper, will you sign the resignation? In the court room, I asked you whether you’ll resign and you asked me: now or afterward? I’ve got pen and paper ready,” one of the protesters told Liviu Dragnea at the High Court of Justice.
In response, the PSD President told the woman: “Madam, those behind you don’t want my resignation from a certain office. You didn’t tell me what office. I believe you want my resignation from life.”
“Firstly, from the office of Lower Chamber Speaker. No. You know why not? Because I want to go fishing with you,” the woman added.
“Very many of those backing you are starting to be increasingly bothered that I’ve been telling the truth for a long time about what is happening in Romania, about the foreign money entering Romania, about the Romanians who are being financed, about people who are doing a great deal of harm to this country. The answer is no,” the PSD President added.
Another protester gave the PSD President a yellow card bearing the message “#resist,” telling him: “I too have a present for the president, if I may. I’ve seen you’ve posted this on your Facebook page anyway. You are the most resistant USL member because the others were expelled. Congratulations for your resistance.” The PSD President responded: “You’re Mr Victor Ponta’s colleague, I see. You’re quoting him.”
Asked by journalists for a reaction to Victor Ponta’s attacks, Dragnea said: “Talking with Victor Ponta every day is not my goal in life. From time to time I dare not to respond to him.”