Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Tuesday that Sebastian Ghita’s extradition procedure is prepared, but everything is on hold pending the courts’ decisions.
“We are currently waiting for courts to conclude the verifications regarding the legality of setting in motion the extradition procedure. The moment we receive the respective closures from the courts, we will start the extradition procedure, namely the request. The Justice Ministry has already prepared this procedure, the request, we look ahead to the courts’ closures and immediately, right away, the next second we will put the procedure in motion. Until then, the legal provisions compel us to standby, pending the courts’ decisions,” Tudorel Toader explained on Tuesday in a press statement at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters.
He added that the procedure would become null and void unless it is observed.
“Think what would happen, what it would mean for us, in our turn, not to observe the procedure – it would become null and void and vulnerable to being taken advantage of. So, we are in this phase, in this stage,” Toader said.
Asked how long the extradition procedure might take, the Justice Minister answered: “It’s an urgent procedure in the court of first instance, only the prosecutor can file a challenge, the party does not take part in it, is not subpoenaed, cannot file that challenge (…) for the simple reason that it is the one wanted, its return to the country is being asked. In three days at most, the court will verify and send us the ruling. (…) I hope there won’t be reasons for a challenge, I hope the ruling of the court of first instance would remain final and we would receive it at once, in order to start the procedure.”
Tudorel Toader pointed out that the National Interpol Office announced on Monday that Sebastian Ghita was detained for a period of 18 days.
“The National Interpol Office notified the Romanian courts, the courts that issue pre-trial arrest warrants, that Sebastian Ghita was detained for 48 hours. On April 17, the same Office (…) notified the Romanian courts that issue pre-trial arrest warrants that Sebastian Ghita was placed under pre-trial arrest for a period of 18 days, starting on April 14. According to the law, according to Art.66 of Law no.302, Romanian courts must urgently verify the observance of the legal conditions for requesting the extradition,” Tudorel Toader pointed out.
The Justice Minister gave assurances that the extradition procedure’s failure to meet the deadline is ruled out and added that he does not believe the procedure will be delayed by the fact that Sebastian Ghita is being investigated for the use of false ID in Syria.
Asked whether Ghita could ask for political asylum in Serbia, the minister pointed out: “Since asylum is an institution, of course there is the possibility of using it.”
Ghita arrested in Serbia for 18 days in order to be extradited
The Romanian Police announced on Monday that Serbian authorities announced that defendant Sebastian Ghita was arrested in Serbia, on April 14, for a period of 18 days pending extradition.
The General Inspectorate of Romanian Police (IGPR) has mentioned that Sebastian Ghita’s photo was on the Interpol website until the Serbian authorities officially confirmed that the former MP was arrested in order to be extradited.
The Romanian Police announced that the former MP was arrested in Serbia for 18 days in order to be extradited.
“Serbian authorities informed us that the respective person was arrested in the Republic of Serbia, for 18 days, in order to be extradited, starting 14 April 2017. The Justice Ministry was informed by the Romanian Police, because the ministry has the jurisdiction to start the extradition procedure. According to the legal provisions, currently, the Romanian Police has no longer any jurisdiction in this case. The Romanian side will escort the defendant in the country when extradition is decided, if Serbian authorities will request it, therefore Romanian policemen will perform this operation according to their competencies,” the quoted source added.
The Serbian Supreme Court decided to place Sebastian Ghita under arrest for 18 days, pending extradition, the Tanjung press agency informed on Friday. Businessman Sebastian Ghita was apprehended in Belgrade, on the night of Thursday to Friday. Ghita had a Slovenian ID card and driver’s licence and was traveling with his brother at the moment of capture.
Sebastian Ghita caught almost 4 months after his disappearance
Former Lower Chamber lawmaker Sebastian Ghita was apprehended on the night of Thursday to Friday, in Serbia, almost four months after he disappeared, period in which Romanian courts issued two arrest warrants on his name.
Interior Minister Carmen Dan confirmed on Friday that Sebastian Ghita was at the Belgrade Police headquarters at that moment, where “Serbian authorities are carrying out specific activities.”
“I can confirm that, at this moment, Sebastian Ghita is at the Belgrade Police headquarters, where Serbian authorities are carrying out specific activities. Last night, while he was traveling with his brother, he was stopped by Serbian police officers who asked for their IDs. His brother showed them a real ID, he showed them a false ID. This procedure took place based on information offered by the Romanian Police,” Minister Carmen Dan stated on RomaniaTV.
Sebastian Ghita was last seen in Romania on 19 December 2016, when he showed up at the Prahova County Police Inspectorate, in line with the terms of his conditional bail. Subsequently, he was subpoenaed before the National Anticorruption Directorate’s Ploiesti office on 21 December 2016, as part of the ‘Ponta-Blair’ Case, however he never went and sent his lawyers instead. Police looked for the former lawmaker at his home and at several locations he was known to frequent but were unable to find him.
On 27 December 2016, the DNA asked the High Court of Cassation and Justice to issue a pre-trial arrest in absentia on Ghita’s name, considering he left Romania and thus disregarded the terms of the conditional bail on which he was remanded in the case in which he was indicted alongside former police chiefs and heads of prosecutor’s offices. The magistrates rejected the DNA’s request at first but then, on 5 January 2017, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant in absentia.
Subsequently, the DNA asked the judges to issue a European arrest warrant on Ghita’s name and to place him on the international wanted list. The Supreme Court approved their request on 10 January 2017.
Sebastian Ghita was included on Europol’s most-wanted persons list.
Also back then, Ghita’s lawyers stated his family did not know the whereabouts of the former lawmaker, however they did not report him as missing. Thus, Ghita’s parents-in-law claimed before authorities that they last talked to him in mid-December 2016.
On 15 March 2017, the Prahova Court issued a second pre-trial arrest warrant on Ghita’s name, in a case in which DNA Ploiesti is probing him for influence peddling, money laundering and the setting up of a crime ring.
After he fled the country, RomaniaTV, a private television station financed by Sebastian Ghita, broadcast several video recordings in which the former lawmaker talked about Traian Basescu, Laura Codruta Kovesi, George Maior, Florian Coldea and other Romanian officials. The Prosecutor General’s Office opened a new criminal case based on these recordings.
Extradition from Serbia to be requested under 1957 Paris European Convention, additional protocols
Extradition from Serbia may be requested under the European Convention on Extradition, signed on December 13, 1957 in Paris and its additional protocols, signed in Strasbourg on October 15, 1975 and March 17, 1978 and ratified by Romania under Law 80/1997, the Justice Ministry reported on Friday.
The ministry’s statement came after former MP Sebastian Ghita was tracked down and detained by the Police in Belgrade on Thursday night.
“Extradition is regulated under Title II, Chapter II of Law 302/2004 concerning cooperation in extradition and judicial assistance in criminal matters, as subsequently amended, supplemented and recast. Extradition from Serbia may be requested under the European Convention on Extradition, signed on December 13, 1957 in Paris and its additional protocols, signed in Strasbourg on October 15, 1975 and March 17, 1978 and ratified by Romania under Law 80/1997,” the ministry says in a press statement.
Extradition is a special measure because it regards an internationally wanted person who has taken refuge in another county with the intent of eschewing criminal prosecution, standing trial or serving a court sentence.
The ministry is entitled to request the extradition from a foreign country of an internationally wanted person whose presence in that country or apprehension for extradition from the requested state has been confirmed.
“Under Article 66 in Law 302/2004, as soon as the court issuing the pre-trial warrant is informed about the presence in a foreign country of an internationally wanted person or wanted by Romania’s judiciary authorities, it shall establish under a reasoned resolution whether the legal requirements are met for the request of extradition. The Justice Ministry shall fulfil its legal duties under the law after receiving a final court resolution accompanied by the relevant documents and the applicable international instruments,” the statement says.
PM Grindeanu congratulates police on doing their duty in fugitive Ghita’s case. Repatriation next
Premier Sorin Grindeanu congratulated on Friday the Romanian Police on doing their duty in the case of fugitive businessman Sebastian Ghita, adding that specific procedures to bring him back to the country will follow.
“I congratulate the Romania Police for having done their duty. This is extremely positive. The specific procedures for having Sebastian Ghita extradited and returned to the country will now follow,” Grindeanu told the national broadcaster TVR, informs the website stri.tvr.ro.
Asked for his opinion on the way the authorities handled this case, the head of the government said: “It probably wasn’t easy. (…) I’m sure the Interior Ministry personnel put in great efforts, and they were not the only ones to do so,” said Grindeanu.
At the same time, asked to comment rumoured fears in political circles at the possible disclosures Sebastian Ghita could make after he is brought to Romania, Grindeanu replied: “There might be fears in certain areas, it’s their business. We are only interested in enforcing the law. Other speculation, all allegations, are none of our business, as Government.”
Romanian Police: Exchange of data and info with Serbian and Slovenian authorities led to Ghita being detained; all procedures were coordinated by the prosecutor
The Romanian Police pointed out on Tuesday that the exchange of data and information with authorities in Serbia and Slovenia led to Sebastian Ghita being detained, and all procedures have been coordinated by the case prosecutor ever since the night the ex-lawmaker was detained in Belgrade.
Romanian police officers asked Slovenian authorities to verify the authenticity of the documents presented by Serbastian Ghita and the data was then sent to Serbian authorities.
“In line with its prerogatives, the Romanian Police engaged in an active exchange of data and information with colleagues from Serbia and Slovenia, which led to the detention of the person concerned,” the Romanian Police pointed out.
Likewise, specialists from the National Forensic Institute carried out a technical-scientific expertise and sent its result to the Serbian authorities.
The Romanian Police pointed out it carried out these activities under the coordination of the prosecutor handling the case and observed the legal norms stipulated in such cases.
“Romanian police officers were in direct contact with the prosecutor handling the case also on the night of April 13 to April 14,” the aforementioned source pointed out.
On the day Sebastian Ghita was arrested in Serbia, the Ploiesti Court of Appeals admitted a challenge on enforcement filed by DNA Ploiesti, and ordered the cancellation of the pre-trial arrest warrant issued by the Prahova Court on March 15 and of the pre-trial arrest warrant issued by the Ploiesti Court of Appeals on April 3. Both warrants had been issued as part of the case in which Sebastian Ghita was indicted for influence peddling, money laundering and setting up a crime ring, namely for asking and receiving from the representatives of Teamnet International and Asesoft International money he used to determine public institutions and authorities to award public contracts to them.
“Orders the issuance of a new pre-trial arrest warrant on the name of defendant Ghita Sebastian Aurelian, in line with the provisions of the two aforementioned rulings, for all the offences for which the criminal proceedings have started,” reads the Ploiesti Court of Appeals ruling adopted on April 14, which is open to challenges over a period of three days.
Sebastian Ghita has another pre-trial arrest warrant in absentia issued on his name by the Supreme Court early this year, in the case in which he is indicted for corruption alongside former police chiefs and heads of prosecutor’s offices from Prahova County.
Sebastian Ghita has been indicted in two criminal cases, one in which former chiefs of police and heads of prosecutor’s offices from Prahova County are indicted, and one in which he is indicted alongside former Ploiesti Mayor Iulian Badescu.
Likewise, Sebastian Ghita is being criminally probed in three other corruption cases: one concerning the visit that former British PM Tony Blair paid to Romania in 2012; one in which Iulian Hertanu, ex-Premier Ponta’s brother-in-law, is charged with embezzlement of European grants and other crimes, a case in which former Prahova County Council Chairman Mircea Cosma and his son Vlad Cosma are also being probed; one which concerns the procurement of IT programmes with public funds and European grants, based on contracts signed, from 2007 to 2015, with several IT companies and their association with Teamnet International and Asesoft International.
Border Police to investigate way Ghita left Romania
The Romanian Border Police will carry out verifications to establish the way ex-lawmaker Sebastian Ghita left Romania, Border Police Spokesperson Alexandra Popescu told Agerpres on Tuesday.
“The Romanian Border Police will carry out specific verifications to establish the way ex-lawmaker Sebastian Ghita left Romanian territory, in relation to the result of the investigation carried out by relevant authorities and the data of interest that will emerge as a result of the handling of the criminal case. At the end of the verifications, the measures stipulated by law will be taken,” the spokesperson pointed out.
Tutuianu: We must continue our inquiry and hear Ghita when he comes to Romania
Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) Oversight Committee Chairman Adrian Tutuianu stated on Tuesday that Sebastian Ghita should be heard by the committee once he is brought back to Romania.
“I believe we acted wisely. Over a month ago you kept asking me whether we closed the inquiry (regarding the activity of some SRI cadres – editor’s note) and I said no and I believed that hearing Mr Ghita within the SRI [Oversight] Committee would be useful, because that was the starting point of our inquiry too. Subsequently, once extradition procedures are finished and we’ll have Mr Ghita in Romania, we must continue our inquiry, we must hear him, we must see what supplementary elements he’ll bring to our attention, and then decide whether we’ll hear other persons too,” Tutuianu said at the Palace of Parliament.
He added that the inquiry of the SRI Oversight Committee will remain open until Sebastian Ghita is heard.
In what concerns the decision to extradite Ghita, Tutuianu pointed out this does not depend solely on the Romanian state.
“It’s a crime committed on the territory of another state, Serbia, and we must see what the Serbian state authorities decide regarding that crime and then we must see the legal steps that must be taken to obtain an extradition. I believe we are rushing to give various solutions, but it very much depends on the Serbian state’s decision.”
Basescu: President Iohannis’s intercession with Serbian counterpart, essential for Ghita’s extradition
Ex-president Traian Basescu stated on Monday that President Klaus Iohannis’s intercession with his Serbian counterpart in view of having Sebastian Ghita extradited as quickly as possible is “essential,” adding that the Serbian authorities’ decision in this sense will be “political.”
Basescu pointed out that Serbian authorities must decide whether to give priority to Ghita’s extradition to Romania or to investigating and convict him for the use of false ID on Serbia’s territory.
“Categorically, it will be a political decision; however, if it is a political decision, it will also depend on the pressure that the Romanian state exerts. The president’s intercession is essential, the Romanian Justice Minister’s cooperation with the Serbian Justice Minister is essential. If they sit and say ‘I read it in the paper, I consider myself informed,’ I doubt there will be a political decision,” Basescu told RomaniaTV.
Likewise, the ex-president mentioned that he interceded with Syrian leader Bashar al Assad to obtain the extradition of Omar Hayssam, and added that both President Iohannis and Justice Minister Tudorel Toader should make overtures with the Serbian authorities for Sebastian Ghita to be extradited to Romania as quickly as possible.
At the same time, Basescu added that the Serbian judiciary cannot sentence Ghita to more than three years in prison for the use of false ID, and the sentence could in fact end up being one year and a half in prison, and then he would still be brought to the country. The ex-president added that he does not believe Serbia can give Ghita political asylum if he asks for it, considering that the Belgrade authorities’ goal is accession to the EU.
“I don’t know if Serbia will offer him political asylum. (…) It’s difficult to believe it would, it would be impossible to do this as a candidate country. (…) It will respect its status as a country that is asking to join the EU,” Basescu stated.
JusMin Toader: Sebastian Ghita detained based on arrest warrants issued in Romania
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Tuesday evening that Sebastian Ghita was identified and detained by authorities in Serbia based on the warrants issued in Romania.
“Sebastian Ghita was identified and detained based on the arrest warrants issued in Romania. If they detained him, you realize that the detention cannot be done without an indictment, an analysis, without a case, which means that the moment he was detained, subsequently arrested for 18 days, there was a judicial basis, a judicial and factual ground for enforcing these serious measures,” Tudorel Toader told Antena 3 private television station.
He added that on Wednesday the Justice Ministry might receive the final decisions regarding the legality of the arrest warrants issued on the name of Sebastian Ghita.
“At 17:30 hrs we didn’t have a final verification closure in respect to the legality of the two warrants which the extradition request is based on. Probably tomorrow we will receive them and from that point on the mission goes to the Justice Ministry to request the extradition. But one doesn’t request the extradition as a first thing after the closure is received because the Justice Ministry, in its turn, through its specialized directorate must conduct a verification of the international regularity, the collaboration requirement, the requirement of the international convention. […] After the verification, this international regularization, the compliance with international acts, immediately, right away, we set in motion the extradition request, but […] at the Justice Ministry we don’t receive […] the closure of the first court, but the final closure,” Justice Minister stated.
Interpol notifies Romania’s Supreme Court about Sebastian Ghita’s extradition
The Interpol notified on April 15 the High Court of Cassation and Justice about the procedure to extradite businessman and former deputy Sebastian Ghita from Serbia.
According to the Supreme Court’s Press Bureau, the notification was made based on Law No. 302/2004 on international judicial cooperation.
The procedure in this case is confidential.