Anticorruption prosecutors ask lifting of Rovana Plumb’s immunity in the same probe* Party sources state Liviu Dragnea is the actual target of this action* PSD leaders meet on Monday to discuss party strategy : “We are worried about it”
On Friday morning, Deputy PM Sevil Shhaideh showed up at the headquarters of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). Asked in what capacity she had been summoned, she refused answering, pointing out she was going to find out the moment she went before prosecutors.
On her way in, Shhaideh had to wait in a queue before the DNA headquarters’ security filter.
On her way out, approximately 30 minutes later, she stated she is a suspect, without pointing out in which corruption dossier she is being probed.
In the last week, ex-Premiers Victor Ponta and Sorin Grindeanu have also been heard at the DNA, however they did not point out the dossier in which they were summoned for explanations.
“I am a suspect in a corruption case”
Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh said Friday, while leaving the offices of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), that she had been summoned to be informed that she is a suspect in a corruption case.
“I have been informed that I am a suspect in this case. I cannot say more because there is a criminal investigation underway. I was told I am a suspect. I will be using all my rights and will be looking into the documents together with my lawyer,” said Shhaideh.
She did not answer if she would resign if indicted in this case.
Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh, criminally prosecuted for abuse of office in the “Belina Island” case
Shortly after the Deputy PM left the hearings, the DNA informed that Shhaideh is being probed for abuse of office in the “Belina Island” case.
Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh, secretary of state with the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP) at the time the guilty acts were allegedly committed, is being prosecuted by anti-corruption prosecutors for abuse of office if the public servant has obtained ill-gotten gains for self or others, a release by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) informs.
According to anti-corruption prosecutors, the file focuses on the illegal transfer of a part of the Belina Island and Pavel Distributary to the Teleorman County Council, which subsequently rented them out to a commercial company.
In the same file, Mariana Sanda Gheorghiu, main registrar assistant with the Office of Cadastre and Real Estate Advertising Alexandria, is prosecuted for abuse of office if the public servant has obtained ill-gotten gains for self or others, while Ionela Stoian, director with the MDRAP, Rodica Gusa, registrar assistant with the said Office of Cadastre and Real Estate Advertising Alexandria, and Alexandrina Anduta Diaconu, chief-registrar with the same institution, are prosecuted for complicity to abuse of office.
Prosecutors say state assets were prejudiced and the interests of the Romanian Waters National Administration (ANAR) were harmed by the committal of these guilty acts.
DNA prosecutors claim that, in 2013, parts of the Belina Island and the Pavel Distributary, having a surface area of 278.78 hectares and 45 hectares respectively, were illegally transferred from state ownership to the ownership of the Teleorman County, under the management of the Teleorman County Council, only for them to be illegally rented out to a private company only several days later.
To facilitate this property transfer, Government Decisions no.943/2013 and no.858/2013 were adopted, documents that – according to the DNA – violated constitutional provisions, Water Law no.107/1996, public assets law no.213/1998, Government Emergency Ordinance no.107/2002 on the setting up of the ‘Romanian Waters’ National Administration, ministerial accountability law no.115/1999 and law no.24/2000 on legislating norms.
The DNA points out that the adoption of the Government decision was possible because Sevil Shhaideh, in her capacity as secretary of state within the MDRAP, endorsed the contents of the substantiation note and the draft Government decision, and tabled and promoted Government Decision no.943/2013 which sanctioned the transfer that was in flagrant violation of legal norms, an aspect repeatedly signalled by the Public Finance Ministry and the Justice Ministry.
“In backing these overtures, persons holding leadership positions within the Environment Ministry, the Regional Development and Public Administration Ministry, the Teleorman County Cadastre Office, the Alexandria Cadaster Office, the “Romanian Waters” National Administration and the Teleorman County Council served the interests of a private company, thus violating the provisions of several laws,” the DNA points out in a press release.
Basically, prosecutors claim, since they are located within the streambed of the Danube, the Belina Island and Pavel Distributary are part of the state’s public domain and, consequently, they could not have been transferred to the ownership of a city council via a Government decision but only via a bill.
Nevertheless, on 26 July 2013, the Teleorman County Council forwarded to the Regional Development and Public Administration Ministry (MDRAP) a substantiation note transferring them to the administration of the Environment Ministry – the “Romanian Waters” National Administration, in under the public ownership of the Teleorman County and the administration of the Teleorman County Council. The pretext was the construction of the ‘Danube-Belina-Seaca’ tourism, sports and recreational centre.
On the date of the first Government decision, two ministries involved in the issuance of an endorsement – the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry – warned that the two properties cannot be transferred via a Government decision but only via a bill.
Thus, in order for the property right to be transferable via Government decision, the appearance that the Belina Island and the Pavel Distributary were not part of the state’s public domain administered by the “Romanian Waters” had to be created.
“The Government meeting of 6 November 2013 adopted Government Decision no.858/2013, which modified the classification codes for the Island of Belina and the Pavel Distributary, in the sense that it eliminated, on paper, their being part of the Danube river basin, creating the appearance that their transfer to the Teleorman County Council’s ownership and administration no longer required the adoption of a bill, but was possible solely via Government decision. The way G.D. no.858/2013 – an act with a legislative character – was adopted deviated from the prescriptions of legislative norms, including through the fact that the draft decision did not have, at the time it was adopted, the endorsements of the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry,” the DNA adds.
Prosecutors state that Rovana Plumb, then-Environment Minister, was the one who illegally tabled and promoted Government Decision no.858/2013, a process that took only 17 hours.
Subsequently, the Government decision that transferred Belina Island and the Pavel Distributary from the public domain to the Teleorman County Council’s administration was adopted on 27 November 2013.
Prior to these overtures, parts of the Belina Island and Pavel Distributary had been rented out to a private company.
In the same file, National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura-Codruta Kovesi has asked the Lower House to lift the immunity of incumbent Minister Delegate for European Funds Rovana Plumb, Environment Minister at the time the guilty act was allegedly committed, in order to prosecute her for complicity to abuse of office in the case involving Deputy PM Sevil Shhaideh, concerning the illegal transfer of a part of Belina Island and Pavel Distributary under the administration of the Teleorman County Council.
“A reasonable suspicion has resulted from the evidence that Rovana Plumb, as minister of environment and climate change at the time of the guilty acts, helped with intent the committing of the criminal offence by suspect Sevil Shhaideh, as she initiated and promoted Governmental Decision 858/2013 in 17 hours from November 5, 2013 to November 6, 2013, respectively, in violation of the procedure at the level of the Government for the drawing up, approval and presentation of draft legislative acts,” reads a DNA press release issued on Friday.
According to the same source, that government decision was aimed at creating a legal appearance of the transfer of the Belina Island and Pavel Distributary, contrary to the aspects repeatedly signalled by the Ministry of Public Finance and the Ministry of Justice regarding the legal force of the normative act.
Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh, state secretary with the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP) at the time, is prosecuted by anticorruption prosecutors for committing abuse of office if the civil servant has obtained undue benefits for themselves or for others.
Also prosecuted in the same case are Mariana Sanda Gheorghiu, principal registrar assistant at the Alexandria Real Estate Cadastre and Publicity Office, Ionela Stoian, MDRAP Director, Rodica Gusa, Assistant Registrar at the Alexandria Real Estate Cadastre and Publicity Office, and Alexandrina Anduta Diaconu, chief registrar in the same institution, for complicity to abuse of office.
“There is a reasonable suspicion that in 2013, through the concerted action of some persons holding public offices, parts of Belina Island and Pavel Distributary (with an area of 278.78 hectares and 45 hectares respectively) located in the lower riverbed of the Danube, were illegally passed from the state’s ownership into Teleorman County’s ownership and into the administration of the Teleorman County Council and days later these areas were illegally leased to a private company,” the DNA release reads.
Meeting of the PSD leaders referring to the DNA case related to Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb: “We are worried about it”
The leadership of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) will discuss on Monday, in the Standing Bureau, about the case of the Vice PM Sevil Shhaideh and of the Minister Delegate for EU Funds Rovana Plumb, stated the PSD Executive Chairman Niculae Badalau. He also said that Shhaideh and Plumb are “two very good ministers, with a large experience”, declaring himself convinced that the laws to which the DNA investigation refers were “correctly drawn up”.
“We are worried about it. On Monday, we’ll have a discussion at the party, inside the Standing Bureau, in which we will analyze very carefully absolutely all the data” Niculae Badalau said.
Asked if the two ministers should resign, Badalau answered that this is a political decision and it will be taken inside the Standing Bureau. “We will have all the data, for the moment we don’t have all the data, and we’ll take the decision following a discussion, since we are a democratic party” Badalau stated.
The PSD leader also said that Vice PM Sevil Shhaideh and Minister Rovana Plumb “are very reliable people and ministers, willing to work hardly and who made a lot of good things”.
“Yes, the decision exists, but at the same time, as I know Minister Plumb and Vice PM Shhaideh, they are very reliable people and ministers, willing to work hardly and who made a lot of good things. This is the reason for which this action is surprising me, I was totally surprised, since she is one of the best ministers of the Government, with a large experience. Don’t forget that Mrs. Plumb is at her third term as a minister, if I’m not wrong, Mrs. Shhaideh is at her second term, she was a Secretary of State, a minister in the Grindeanu Government, she’s a minister in the Tudose Government, therefore she has a large experience. This is the reason for which I have questions related to an administrative act, because I understood this is what’s all about, that they would have make mistakes related to an administrative act” Niculae Badalau stated when asked if there is also an option for PSD to suggest the two persons to take a specific decision.
He also said that “the discussion” refers to two administrative acts issued four years ago, and he declared himself convinced that Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb “have complied with all the required proceedings”.
“With their experience, I am sure they had a motivation and they complied with the required proceedings, because they are two very good ministers, with a large experience. I don’t believe that anyone hastened to issue an administrative act, a Government’s Decision, which totally contrary to the law. (…) I cannot say if they are guilty or innocent, but taking into account their experience, I am sure they didn’t draft… I could have accepted this if it was a minister at his first term, without experience, but taking into account their experience, I am sure that the documents were correctly drafted. This is my opinion. Now, the only one who can say guilty or not guilty is the judge” added the PSD leader for RFI.
Tariceanu: It’s a counterattack strategy that DNA is using to divert attention from the problems that the institution has, it’s a wider plan to discredit the current Government
After Vice PM Shhaideh was indicted by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) in the Belina case, the Speaker of the Senate Calin Popescu Tariceanu announced on Friday evening, in a phone interview at a TV channel, the coalition’s strategy and what’s going to happen to Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb.
“There will be no resignations from the Government. We’ll discuss about it on Monday, now we’re during the weekend. We are focused on a different issue. We’ll meet on Monday to discuss about all these things” Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated on Friday evening for Romania TV.
The Senate’s Speaker believes that the force institutions are “desperately fighting” to “keep the power”, this plan being revealed by Laura Codruta Kovesi herself in the famous recording of the DNA meeting. Tariceanu also believes that the Laws on Justice are inconvenient; the Parliament was the one who was targeted, but they are trying to hit the Government.
“DNA’s reaction comes after some scandals that put the institution and Mrs. Kovesi into a bad light. We can notice several things here. The scandal related to Prosecutor Negulescu, which reveals a less imagined side of the manner in which prosecutors have acted in Romania, some of the DNA prosecutors, and of course the issue related to the information revealed after the Judicial inspection’s control” Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated for Romania TV.
“All of us have seen the battle inside CSM, how the decapitation of the Judicial Inspection was desired. All these things have led to a counterattack strategy of DNA, as Kovesi has got us used. Let’s move to the political area. This is the strategy. It’s one of the many times when ministers are investigated for something that happened years ago. It’s a wider plan to discredit the coalition and the entire Government. Ministers are investigated for hiring a driver. Hiring at DNA is based on interviews, on close relationships, not on a contest. It’s a desperate fight of certain institutions to keep the influence and power. Now, this anthill is disturbed. It’s an outlaw action. Let the Court decide about it. It has unequivocally decided regarding GEO 13. We believe that it has to be a clear separation of powers in the state. These things will be brought to normal again. This separation line is violated now. It’s a republic of prosecutors. Some of them think that they are a superpower” the Senate’s Speaker also said.
He continued by mentioning that “I have no doubt that this is the strategy. It is one of the many times when former ministers are investigated for deeds that happened many years ago. This action is part of a wider plan to discredit the current Government. I am very sorry that what is happening is a new reflection of a phenomenon about which I talked in the past: a desperate fight to keep the power which certain force institutions in Romania have taken. The President also has a responsibility related to this issue. He cannot say that things are going well. He has the duty to responsibly observe on how these institutions are working” stated the Senate’s Speaker.
“The first one that is targeted is the Parliament. The reform package of the Laws on Justice is the most inconvenient. It’s very difficult to numerically weaken the parliament, there are a lot of parliamentarians, there is a solid majority. A Government is much easier to be weakened. What I can guarantee to you is that the current majority is aware of these threats. All my colleagues are extremely solidary. Any attempt to politically overthrow the 2016 elections, with all the foreign support which they are trying to get and which sometimes they succeed to mobilize, will fail from changing the majority and the current Government” Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated.
Tariceanu also talked about Victor Ponta and issued a tough warning. “I don’t know why Ponta was called to DNA. The youngest who want to get into politics should observe what’s going on”.
Olguta Vasilescu: The target is Liviu Dragnea. I hope Plumb and Shhaideh will not resign
Labor Minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu stated on Friday evening, referring to the prosecution started against Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb, that they shouldn’t resign, mentioning that “the target is Liviu Dragnea”.
“Legally speaking, there is no Government Decision according to which transfers of property are adopted between administrations. Moreover, this property wasn’t alienated, meaning that it continued to belong to the state. It is in the patrimony of the County Council, nobody ran with the lake, nobody moved it from there, or gave it to somebody else. (…) Of course, the target is Liviu Dragnea. When you want to hit a structure, you hit the head so that you can destroy it” Vasilescu stated on Friday for RTV.
Asked about Rovana Plumb and Sevil Shhaideh’s intention to resign, the quoted source said that this is actually pursued.
“I don’t know (if they will resign – e.n.), but I hope they will not, because this is what is pursued” Vasilescu added.
Codrin Stefanescu: The action against Shhaideh, “the last twitch of the binomial”; Maior wants to get PSD’s leadership
The Deputy Secretary-General of PSD Codrin Stefanescu claims that the action started by the prosecutors against Sevil Shhaideh is “a last twitch” in a battle conducted against PSD by “the remnants of the SRI-DNA binomial”.
“We are simply stupefied! In the middle of the national scandal on the abuses of the parallel state, supported by recordings, videos, incendiary statements from inside, a scandal that is even taken by the international press, the remnants of the former binomial, instead of urgently resigning in mass, they continue the battle not only against PSD and Liviu Dragnea, but simply against Romanian people who voted for a total change of paradigm, for fundamental rights, freedoms, for stopping the abuses, for not having fear anymore, and not at last for the rehabilitation of the state institutions” reads a press release issued on Friday by Codrin Stefanescu.
The Secretary-General of PSD claims that “the remnants of the binomial” who feel themselves threated by the campaign of cleaning the system are acting coordinately against the leader of the party, Liviu Dragnea. “George Maior, who is dreaming since years to become the PSD Chairman, Prime-Minister or even the President of the country, together with Coldea, Kovesi and recently with the Ponta group, is coordinating a plan to eliminate Liviu Dragnea, using the last resources they have in the system. Today’s action against Vice Pm Sevil Shhaideh is only the last twitch in the battle they are conducting against PSD” Stefanescu stated.
The Social Democrat says that PSD will not give up to bring the state institutions “within the constitutional limits” and to democratize Romania. “In the near future, we will probably ask for revocations, resignations and investigations related to all the shocking statements appeared in the recent weeks” Codrin Stefanescu also said.
Stanescu: On Monday, PSD will discuss about Shhaideh’s situation; she doesn’t have to resign
PSD Senator Paul Stanescu, the head of the Olt organization, stated on Friday that Vice PM Sevil Shhaideh’s situation, who is indicted by DNA, will be analyzed by the party on Monday, mentioning that he will support the idea that she doesn’t have to resign, because she enjoys the presumption of innocence.
“Any citizen of this country, regardless of his or her position as a minister, prime-minister or parliamentarian, enjoys the presumption of innocence, it’s every man’s right. We will probably analyze this situation on Monday, inside the party, we will all meet” Stanescu stated in a phone interview at Realitatea TV.
Asked if Shhaideh should resign from the Government, Stanescu answered: “Why should she resign? Is she convicted, does she has a final and irrevocable decision, is she convicted, so that she has to resign? I don’t understand why she should resign. She doesn’t have to resign. I will support the idea that Sevil Shhaideh shouldn’t resign”.
“As far as I know her, she’s not a person who commits illegalities. I know her since many years ago, and I don’t believe she can do illegalities. Maybe she made a mistake” Stanescu added.
Petre Daea: I do not wish to make any comment on this case, both of them are precious colleagues
The Agriculture Minister Petre Daea stated on Friday at Valea Calugareasca, Prahova County, that he doesn’t wish to make any comment on the case in which Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb are involved, because both of them are “precious colleagues”. Besides, he mentioned that he doesn’t know the circumstances and he doesn’t want to issue an opinion.
The Agriculture Minister Petre Daea, who attended on Friday a festival in Valea Calugareasca, Prahova County, was asked how he comments the accusations brought to Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb, and he said he doesn’t wish to comment, since he is “a person dominated by the moment”.
“I wouldn’t wish to comment on this issue, I am a person dominated by the moment, I am in this extraordinary circumstance which we have to understand as it is. I don’t want to comment, I will not make any comment on this issue. I don’t know the circumstances, I don’t want to issue an opinion” the Agriculture Minister stated.
He explained that both of them are “precious colleagues”.
“Both of them are my colleagues, and they are precious colleagues whom I respect, and for this reason please allow me not to make any comment on this issue” Daea also stated.
Nicolicea: Iohannis has no legal support by which he could ask for Shhaideh’s suspension, the allegedly committed deeds were not executed by her as a minister of the Tudose Government
Eugen Nicolicea, the Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Deputies’ Chamber, said that President Klaus Iohannis has no legal support by which he could ask for Sevil Shhaideh’s suspension from the office, because the allegedly committed deeds were not executed by her as a minister of the Tudose Government.
“The President cannot ask for a minister’s resignation if the alleged deeds were not committed as a current minister. (…) We have the Fenechiu case. He was indicted and sent to judgement. At a certain time, he was convicted by the first court in the Transformer case, but President Basescu couldn’t revoke him from his office” Eugen Nicolicea stated for Antena 3 in the show moderated by Ana-Maria Roman.
Being asked what PM Mihai Tudose will do regarding Sevil Shhaideh’s destiny, the Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Deputies’ Chamber said: “Asking one minister’s resignation is a natural thing and it doesn’t have to be caused by a criminal case. He can also ask the President to revoke a minister, I repeat: without having this motivation. Such requests of the PM can be made anytime, because he makes his governmental team as he wants”.
PMP is asking for Shhaideh’s resignation
People’s Movement party (PMP) is asking for Sevil Shhaideh’s urgent resignation, both as a Vice PM and as a Minister of the Regional Development, Public Administration and EU Funds.
PMP also claims that the PSD Chairman Liviu Dragnea is “the major problem”, and consequently “he must disappear from the Romanian political landscape”.
“But the major problem is not Mrs. Sevil Shhaideh’s resignation, but the master of PSD, Liviu Dragnea. Everything that Dragnea touches, all his reliable people which he appoints in key positions, are going, sooner or later, to DNA. Liviu Dragnea is liable for all the catastrophic appointments in the Government. We shouldn’t forget that, in December 2016, he proposed Sevil Shhaideh as Prime-Minister. Today, we understand why he was supporting her so strongly: he was indebted to her. Liviu Dragnea is also liable for appointing as the Education Minister a disaster for the Romanian Education system – Liviu Pop” reads a press release issued on Friday by the People’s Movement Party (PMP).
“In the time of the odious USL Government, Minister Relu Fenechiu was picked up directly from the Minister seat and taken to prison. We hope that this situation will not repeat, although the déjà-vu feeling exists”.
PMP claims that Liviu Dragnea “is also the author of a premiere in the Romanian political life: he is the first leader of a government party that dismisses his own Government (Grindeanu Government), only to get rid of the one who was PM, because he was not listening his orders anymore”.
“He was also the brain of another political premiere: he is the head of a party with the most reshuffled Governments. Liviu Dragnea must be accountable and he must disappear from the Romanian political landscape, because all of the political instability in the recent period, for all the Government’s mistakes that deepen the gap in which the Romanian economy finds itself”, according to the PMP representatives.