Wednesday, May 22, 2024
 
 

British court throws out extradition request for Romania’s Popoviciu

- Advertisement -

More than three decades after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship Romania’s corrupt judicial system was supposed to have been fully reformed and brought in line with European Union standards, but in recent years it has inexplicably taken aim at some of the country’s most successful post-Communist businessmen.

One of the more prominent individuals on the judiciary’s list of pro-business ‘undesireables’ is Romania’s most successful real estate investor, Gabriel Popoviciu, who was tried and convicted four years ago by a Romanian court on vague charges of corruption and fraud.

Popoviciu has been in the UK since the case first went before a judge. On June 18, London’s High Court ruled that it would throw out an extradition request filed by Bucharest after it found credible evidence to show that the Romanian trial judge who convicted and sentenced Popoviciu in 2017 had previously assisted organized crime figures with their personal legal matters and had solicited bribes for issues related to Popoviciu’s case.

According to the London court’s ruling, its decision to quash an extradition request by Bucharest – which would have seen him sent from the UK back to Romania – was influenced by clear evidence that the trial judge’s conduct outside of the court, and his failure to disclose his relationship with major figures in Romania’s organized crime syndicates, as well as the Romanian authorities’ failure properly to investigate the matter, were key indicators that Popoviciu had not recieved a fair trial.

The Court concluded that Popoviciu had “suffered a complete denial” of his fair trial rights as protected by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and that his extradition would consequently represent a “flagrant denial” of his indivdual rights as protected by Article 5 of the European Convention.

Popoviciu was amongst the first to bring Western brands to Romania in the aftermath of Ceausescu’s ouster and the fall of Communism, including the KFC and IKEA franchises. He was part of a small number of individuals who capitalized on the liberation of markets to reinvigorate the ailing national post-command economy.

In 2002, he helped to develop the Baneasa Project, Eastern Europe’s then-largest real-estate development. Dubbed the “jewel in the crown” of the modern Romanian commercial sector, Baneasa attracts 40 million visitors per year and contributes around €230 million to the national economy each year – around 1% of Romania’s GDP. This success, however, turned Popoviciu into a target of Romania’s notoriously corrupt judicial system.

Prior to his conviction, and subsequent 7 year jail sentence, Popoviciu had voluntarily handed himself in to London’s police upon learning thata European Arrest Warrant (EAW) had been issued against him by the Romanian government following the recommendation of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA).

Urged on by the European institutions in Brussels, the DNA – which was headed at the time by current European Chief Prosecutor, Laura Kovesi – carried out more arrests, achieved more asset freezes and more convictions than any of its counterpart agencies across the EU.

These actions have over the years been lauded by European Union crusaders in Brussels as demonstrative examples of Romania’s ‘successful’ anti-corruption drive. Outside of the Brussels bubble echochamber, the facts on the ground painted a far different picture.

While serving as Romania’s youngest-ever Chief Prosecutor, Kovesi’s tenure was marked by significant concerns emerged about the DNA’s actions, which allegedly involved apparent abuses of power and politically motivated convictions, as well as acts of of intimidation, coercion, and an apparent collusion with the Romanian Intelligence Service – methods that would have been all-to-familiar to Ceausescu’s feared secret police, the Securitate.

Four years ago, New Europe wrote that the importance of the fight against corruption in Romania cannot be underestimated. It is also of equal importance that those who are leading the fight must be closely scrutinized, as the extensive reach of the DNA’s power and influence means that criticism will rarely come from within the country. That means that the duty for keeping a watchful eye on Romania’s anti-corruption crusade rests largely on those EU true believers who continue to heap praise on a judicial system that has obviously done very little to purge itself of its dark past.

- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

Former editor-in-chief of NE Global. Mr. Waller is a veteran journalist, analyst and political advisor, having spent 25 years covering the former Soviet Union, Europe and the Middle East.

Latest

U.S.-Kazakhstan dialogue on human rights and democratic reforms continues

The United States and Kazakhstan convened the third annual...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from...

Georgia’s “Foreign Representatives Law” moves forward amid protests

On May 14, Georgia’s parliament approved (84/150) a hotly...

North Macedonia: Sliding back towards the political dark side?

As most analysts predicted after the strong showing of...

Don't miss

U.S.-Kazakhstan dialogue on human rights and democratic reforms continues

The United States and Kazakhstan convened the third annual...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from...

Georgia’s “Foreign Representatives Law” moves forward amid protests

On May 14, Georgia’s parliament approved (84/150) a hotly...

North Macedonia: Sliding back towards the political dark side?

As most analysts predicted after the strong showing of...

A Green 5+1, regional water issues in Central Asia and previewing next year’s Astana International Forum

Kazakhstan’s Astana International Forum (AIF) has been postponed to 2025, as Astana...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany in September 2022 and the suspected sabotage of Baltic-connector pipeline, which supplies...

UK and Kazakhstan deepen strategic cooperation

During a visit to Astana, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, and Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu signed a Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, opening...

U.S. and U.K. take new steps to reduce Russia’s revenue from metals

On April 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in coordination with the United Kingdom, issued two new prohibitions in order to disrupt the...

The Schengen Zone expands conditionally, for air and sea travelers

Europe’s passport-free Schengen Zone took an important step forward on March 31 with the partial inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria. Travelers arriving in the...

Clear Direction or Misleading Headlines

In a world full of stories all noisily striving for attention, the individual importance of some of them will be exaggerated through scary headlines...

Romania sees Black Sea renewable hub, gas production growth

Ambitious projects and cross-border cooperation between the countries in the region are key in order for the Black Sea to become a renewables energy...

Viking Link undersea cable to power up UK and Denmark

On December 29, Danish transmission system operator (TSO) Energinet launched the Viking Link, the world’s longest electricity interconnector, establishing a subsea cable connection across...

Ukraine, Middle East will dominate Cameron’s UK foreign policy agenda

David Cameron, who was made Foreign Secretary in a surprise move by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his cabinet reshuffle on November 13, is...