Romanian court sentences media magnate to 10 year imprisonment

Written by on August 8, 2014 in Europe - Comments Off on Romanian court sentences media magnate to 10 year imprisonment

The Bucharest court of appeal sentenced Romanian media magnate and politician Dan Voiculescu to 10 years in jail, ending one of the longest and most high-profile corruption trials in the country’s post-communist history.

Voiculescu (67), the founder of the Conservative party and owner of one of Romania’s largest media groups, was found guilty of money laundering stemming from the privatisation of the state agricultural research institute ICA. He was accused of paying only 100 000 euro for ICA, while the land held by the institute in Baneasa, a suburb of Bucharest, was worth more than 60 million euro.

Eleven other defendants in the lawsuit were handed sentences ranging between three years and eight years in jail, with five of them receiving suspended sentences.

The court’s ruling sentenced Voiculescu to the maximum penalty under the country’s new penal code. In September 2013, the first-instance court in Bucharest sentenced him to five years imprisonment.

The court also ordered the confiscation of $3.5 million held by Voiculescu, as well as several office buildings in Bucharest and shares in his companies that he had gifted to his children, to cover the damages. He was also banned from holding political office for five years.

The appellate court’s decision cannot be appealed further, except to claim mistrial on procedural grounds, with Voiculescu’s lawyers expected to lodge such a claim in the high court of cassation, Romanian media reported.

Voiculescu has been the target of other corruption allegations in the past, but this is the first time he was sentenced, in a trial that lasted six years and had been repeatedly postponed because he was a member of Romanian parliament – he had to resign from the upper house on three separate occasions in order for the trial to proceed.

Known as one of Romania’s richest men, with various estimates placing his net worth at more than one billion euro, Voiculescu has been a constant fixture in Romanian politics for the past decade, during which his Conservative party was government more often than not, as a junior partner in several ruling coalitions.

That made him also one of the most high-profile politicians outed as former collaborators of Romania’s communist-era secret police, the Securitate. He has fought the country’s dossier commission decision in court, arguing that it was politically motivated, but his appeals have been rejected each time.

His media group, Impact, owns several TV and radio stations, as well as major newspapers. During Voiculescu’s trial, his media often accused the judiciary of pursuing the case for political reasons. The ruling could impact the media group’s operations, as one of the buildings confiscated by the court hosts the offices of the Antena 1 TV station and Antena 3 cable news channel.

(Dan Voiculescu. Photo: danvoiculescu.net)

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