On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee excluded passive bribery, influence peddling, active bribery and purchase of influence from the pardon-granting list, at the request of PNL Senator Daniel Fenechiu.
The latter asked for a redo of Wednesday’s vote on the amendments that would have pardoned the aforementioned offences, invoking the statements of PSD leaders who said they do not endorse the pardoning of corruption crimes.
“In relation to the circumstance that we have nevertheless included, not excluded, the corruption crimes we discussed yesterday, and in relation also to the statements made by the PSD leaders, namely by the party president and the premier, the PNL and USR members of the committee propose that we should redo yesterday’s vote in what concerns corruption crimes, so as to include them in the category of exceptions from pardoning. The arguments have to do with the different solution for crimes included in law no.78/2000 and with PSD’s public statements. In this sense, we believe that, on one hand, things should be regulated uniformly, and, on the other hand, it’s very good to have PSD’s clear and unitary stance on corruption crimes; if PSD’s MPs agree, we will respect that, however, given the statements made by the leader of PSD, we believe this proposal of ours is welcome,” Fenechiu stated.
USR representative George Dirca also opined that corruption crimes should not be pardoned because they “generate particularly grave and irreparable consequences.”
“I want to remind you that corruption crimes allowed a tragedy to occur – Colectiv –, corruption crimes mean that apartment buildings and constructions that can no longer be demolished are built on Bucharest’s green areas, affecting our lives,” Dirca emphasised.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Serban Nicolae agreed to put the PNL-USR proposal up for vote, stating however that he does not understand why the statements made by PSD leaders are used as arguments.
“I didn’t understand the arguments related to the statements made by PSD leaders. If we are to see it like this, it would mean I’d ask you to act consistent with the stance of Ms Turcan, who was saying that PNL is fighting against the judiciary. But these things are part of the folklore that is specific to press statements,” Serban Nicolae stated.
The proposal was adopted with five votes in favour (PNL, USR and UDMR) and four abstentions (PSD and ALDE).
During Thursday’s debates, Popular Movement Party (PMP) Senator Traian Basescu claimed that abuse of office has become “an instrument used by prosecutors to place political institutions under [their] control.”
“The abuse of office issue has been interpreted abusively. I’m looking at the latest report of the Chief of the DNA, who was saying that 2,150 abuse of office dossiers are pending, apart from what has been sent to court. At the same time, I’m looking in Europe. I don’t believe we can find 50-100 dossiers in all [EU] member states. We have 2,150 pending. It’s obvious we have – and the CCR [Constitutional Court of Romania] has proved it too – a deficient implementation. (…) I say we should pardon abuse of office, which has become an instrument used to place political institutions under control. Political institutions must work for the country, not sit under the prosecutors’ control,” Basescu said.
Justice Ministry Secretary of State Mariana Mot stated that the Government does not endorse the pardoning of persons convicted for abuse of office, pointing out that the Justice Ministry’s draft excludes from pardoning the following offences: embezzlement, abuse of office, conflict of interest, the leaking of classified information and misappropriation of funds.
Traian Basescu’s amendment on abuse of office garnered only five votes from PSD and ALDE Senators and was consequently rejected.
Likewise, the amendment that proposed the pardoning of persons convicted for conflict of interest was not adopted either.
On Wednesday, the members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee had adopted an amendment to the bill on the granting of pardons, which would have pardoned persons convicted for passive bribery, active bribery, influence peddling, purchase of influence. Also pardoned would have been offences committed by the members of courts of arbitrations or in relation to them, or offences committed by foreign civil servants or in relation to them.
Following the Committee’s initial vote, on Wednesday evening around 1,000 persons protested outside the Government building against the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to pardon persons convicted for corruption.
Toader: Justice Ministry does not endorse amendments to pardon bill. I’m convinced in the end the law will not include corruption crimes
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader (photo) stated on Thursday that the Justice Ministry does not endorse the amendments brought to the pardon bill, amendments that refer to the pardoning of persons convicted for corruption, pointing out that he is convinced that, in the end, “a law without corruption crimes” will be adopted.
“The Justice Ministry does not support the amendments brought to the pardon bill. Now, of course, many elements of novelty usually occur will keep occurring throughout the legislative process. I express my conviction that the end will be that of a balanced law, a law with reduced punishment limits, a law without corruption crimes, the one that the Justice Ministry initially approved,” Tudorel Toader stated at the Supreme Magistracy Council’s (CSM) meeting.
Asked whether the Justice Ministry can still intervene on the text of the bill that will be put up for vote in Parliament, Toader said the Justice Ministry can no longer intervene to override the lawmaker’s will, but a secretary of state is taking part in all debates on the pardon bill.
“[The secretary of state] is in Parliament today too, she will go to the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Committee too, until the end of the legislative process,” Toader pointed out.
The Justice Minister added that the bill on the granting of pardons will be part of the package of measures meant to meet the demands of the pilot-judgment ruled by the ECHR.
“And we have in mind that bill on compensatory recourse, we have in mind the possibility of modifying the parole limits, as the final part of the punishment, and of introducing the electronic surveillance measure, that ankle monitor. Plus, the logistical measures, modernising penitentiaries, extending some penitentiary pavilions, building the two penitentiaries in Berceni and Calafat. I assure you that, in a short time, we’ll come up with the roadmap that the ECHR pilot-judgment demanded of us,” the Justice Minister added.
Tudorel Toader stated on Thursday morning too, when arriving at the Justice Ministry, that he endorses the initial form of the pardon bill.
The Senate’s Judiciary Committee adopted on Wednesday, with 5 votes in favour (PSD and ALDE) and 3 votes against (PNL, USR and UDMR), the amendments that Senators Traian Basescu, Serban Nicolae and Liviu Brailoiu had filed to the bill on the granting of pardons. According to the amendments, those who received executory prison sentences for active or passive bribery, influence peddling or the buying of influence will be pardoned, provided they pay the damages.
The representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, of the Supreme Magistracy Council and of the National Union of Bars, present at the meeting of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, opposed the pardoning of those convicted for corruption.
“The Public Ministry takes note of the fact that corruption crimes still represent an important problem at national level, in Romanian society. We don’t have five-year national strategies to combat pick-pocketing, we don’t have five-year strategies to combat the personal injury through negligence offences you’ve pardoned; on the other hand, we do have five-year strategies on combating corruption crimes, strategies in which all the institutions of the Romanian state are engaged, having domestic and international benchmarks to observe. That is why combating corruption crimes was reflected as a priority in the prosecutor’s office’s plan of activity and among the Public Ministry’s objectives in past years, is reflected this year and will certainly be reflected in future years, since it was set as a priority by Romanian state institutions,” Irina Kuglai, the representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office, stated.
On Wednesday, Premier Sorin Grindeanu wrote on Facebook that the Government does not endorse the amendments that the Senate’s Judiciary Committee adopted on Wednesday, pointing out that the Government supports the pardon bill in the form that the Justice Ministry initially proposed.
In his turn too, PSD President Liviu Dragnea wrote on Facebook that he “categorically disapproves” the amendments that the Senate’s Judiciary Committee adopted on Wednesday and that he will have a discussion with the PSD members of the Committee, in order for the final form of the committee’s report not to include these stipulations.
Referring to the opinion that Premier Sorin Grindeanu and PSD President Liviu Dragnea expressed on the granting of pardons, which differs from his, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Serban Nicolae (PSD) stated that the Government did not offer an alternative solution to detention conditions in Romanian penitentiaries and the Government most likely has already prepared the money for the ECHR fine.
“Mr Dragnea stated what he has constantly stated. I find it natural, it’s not a novelty, I don’t know why it should be a surprise. He said he is not in favour of pardoning in principle, but he categorically opposes the pardoning of corruption crimes. (…) It’s an issue of criminal policy. Some have one opinion, others have a different opinion. For instance, I saw that Mr Prime Minister does not endorse the amendments but he endorses the Government’s draft. It’s one point of view. (…) Probably the Government has already prepared the money for the ECHR fine. Apart from the compensatory recourse proposed during Florin Iordache’s stint, the Government is yet to offer another alternative solution. If, by the time the pardon bill ends up on President Iohannis’s table, the Government manages to avoid the ECHR fine or manages to find the money for the ECHR fine, the pardon law will no longer be needed,” Serban Nicolae stated.
Tarcea: Corruption crimes have a high level of social danger, they have never been pardoned before
High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) President Cristina Tarcea stated on Thursday, referring to the amendments brought to the pardon bill, that corruption crimes have a high level of social danger and have never been pardoned before.
Asked for her opinion on the amendments that the Senate Judiciary Committee brought to the pardon bill on Wednesday, Cristina Tarcea said she continues to support the point of view expressed by the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM).
“As a member of the Supreme Magistracy Council, I can only have the same point of view as the CSM,” Tarcea pointed out.
The ICCJ President added that the granting of pardons is an institution stipulated by the Criminal Code, which was rarely applied over the years and which, by definition, “was applied only to crimes that have a low degree of social danger.”
Tarcea added that corruption crimes have a high level of social danger and, “by custom, because we are referring to the other previous laws, they were not the object of those legislative acts of amnesty or pardon.”
JusMin Toader says annulling amendments to pardon bill is good news, wisdom prevailed
The Justice Minister Tudorel Toader on Thursday said it is good news that the amendments voted on Wednesday to the pardon bill were annulled.
“It is good news. (…) Wisdom has prevailed,” said Tudorel Toader at exiting the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM)’s headquarters.
Upon his arrival at CSM, Toader was specifying that he expressed hope that the pardon law will finally be a balanced, without corruption deed’s law.
“The Ministry of Justice is not backing the amendments to the pardon draft law. Now, obviously during the legislative stage many elements of novelty will occur, and they occur, regularly. I express confidence that the finale will be that of a balanced law, a restricted penalty limits’ law, a law without corruption deeds, the one the Justice Ministry has initially Okayed,” said Tudorel Toader upon his arrival at the CSM.