The High Court of Cassation and Justice in Romania has issued a final verdict in a case that has lasted more than 10 years
Radu Mazare, the
former Social-Democrat mayor of Constanta, Romania's biggest Black Sea port, has
received a final 9-year prison sentence from the High Court of Cassation and
Justice for illegal return of land in Constanta and the nearby resort of Mamaia,
in the beach and seafront areas.
Begun more than
a decade ago, the inquiry has revealed the web of corruption that controlled a
complex mechanism of illegal restitution and awarding of city land that caused
the state losses of 114 million euros. Almost 40 persons were indicted, including
city hall staff, notaries, intermediaries, heirs and assignees buying accession
high-profile names involved include the former Social-Democrat president of the
County Council Nicusor Constantinescu and the former financiers of Dinamo football
club Cristian Borcea and Dragos Savulescu. They were charged with aggravated
abuse of office against public interest to obtain patrimonial benefits,
aggravated forgery and association to commit criminal offences.
going to prison with the exception of Radu Mazare who fled the country and now
lives in Madagascar, the most exotic of the destinations chosen by former
dignitaries, politicians and heads of institutions found guilty of acts of
corruption. Borcea will return to prison after a short period of freedom. He
was released on parole last year after serving part of the sentence he got in
another infamous case involving illegal football transfers.
This was the
first important sentence handed down by the High Court of Cassation and Justice
since the blockage caused by an intervention of the Constitutional Court that
deemed as non-legal the creation of 5-judge panels in the last two years. The
High Court was therefore forced to suspend sentences for a number of famous
individuals, such as the former minister Elena Udrea and the former chief of
the organised crime and terrorism prosecutor's office, Alina Bica, both of whom
are seeking political asylum in Costa Rica.
And they were
not the only ones who benefited from the situation. A situation which, together
with the uncertainty surrounding the position of head of the National
Anticorruption Directorate, which is still vacant after the dismissal of Laura
Codruta Kovesi, and the situation of the prosecutor general Augustin Lazar, against
whom dismissal procedures have begun, as well as the controversial amendments
to the judicial legislation made by the leftist government, have fuelled
concerns, both at home and abroad, about the functioning of the judiciary.
In all her
meetings as part of Romania's presidency of the Council of the European Union,
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has tried to allay these fears, giving
assurances that the rule of law is respected. She also gave such assurances on
Thursday during talks with the president of the European Council Donald Tusk.
After the meeting, Tusk posted the following message on Twitter: "Maybe I'm old
fashioned but I still believe that it's for judges, not politicians to decide
who's guilty and who's innocent."