Former Romanian minister admits taking €4mn bribe in Microsoft case

By bne IntelliNews October 14, 2015

Iulian Ernst -


Romania’s former communications minister Gabriel Sandu admitted at a court hearing on October 12 that he received a €4mn bribe in the so-called Microsoft case. Eight other former ministers are under investigation in the case, but Sandu is the only one to be indicted so far.

The implications of the case remain unpredictable, as it involves ministers from three governments of various political orientations. It was instigated by Prime Minister Victor Ponta of the centre-left Party of Social Democrats (PSD) who wanted an investigation into contracts signed under his predecessor and political rival Emil Boc in 2009-2012. But he opened the door into a much broader political scandal that has dragged in politicians of both parties.

The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started investigations into the sales of educational software licences for Romanian schools in September 2014. The nine former ministers are suspected of receiving bribes in exchange for signing and later extending contracts to license Microsoft software at above market prices.

Sandu was the first former minister to give testimony in court. He claimed to have contributed the entire €4mn bribe he received to the centre-right Liberal Democrat Party (PNL) electoral campaign and to that of Traian Basescu, the party’s successful candidate in the 2009 presidential election.

“I was the most stupid minister in Romania’s history,” Sandu admitted, according to

Sandu served as communications minister from 2008 to 2010, assuming office four years after the Romanian government acquired the right to use Microsoft licenses in the public sector.

The supplier was the local branch of Fujitsu Siemens Austria, a licensed distributor of Microsoft Ireland. There was no auction on the grounds that only one supplier submitted a bid. The initial value of the contract was around $74mn, with an additional $26mn paid during the next five years as more orders were placed.

The DNA claims that the software supplier offered a 47% discount for bulk sales and because the licenses would be used in the public sector. The discount was eventually shared by top politicians and businesspeople, the DNA says.

More details emerged as three of those involved in the scandal agreed to give full testimony. Former Fujitsu Siemens Romania manager Claudiu Florica and former tennis player Dinu Pescariu, who acted as a go-between, were allegedly the initiators of the fraud. Together with Dragos Stan, an investor specialised in the IT sector who helped transfer funds through offshore firms, they provided documents showing the flow of money. As a result they have not been indicted, but prosecutors say they can still be indicted for other actions related to the case.

In addition to Sandu, two others pleaded guilty on October 12. Nicolae Dumitru, the owner of property development group Niro, and Dorin Cocos, the husband of former minister and Basescu ally Elena Udrea. The pair admitted their involvement and have explained how the bribe was shared among politicians. A fourth indicted person, PNL vice president Gheorghe Stefan, has denied the accusations against him.

Dumitru admitted in court that he paid the bribe on behalf of Pescariu - one of the two initiators of the frauds - to Alexandru Bittner ($4.8mn) and Serban Mihailescu ($800,000) in 2004. The two are known as close collaborators of Romania’s then prime minister Adrian Nastase, who is suspected of facilitating the signing of the first Microsoft contract.

Dumitru also admitted to paying €1.9mn to Cocos in 2009. At the time, Cocos’ wife Udrea was a member of Boc’s centre-right cabinet. Later, Cocos has asked for €9mn for himself in return for convincing the government to sign another contract for Microsoft licenses. In total, he asked for €17.5mn to be shared among himself, Stefan and Sandu, prosecutors claim.

The investigation was originally requested in 2013 by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who wanted a probe into the handling Microsoft contracts between 2009 and 2011, when Boc was in power. However, it was since expanded by the DNA to also cover the initial contract signed in 2004, when Ponta’s mentor Nastase had a firm grip on all public acquisitions in the country.

Nastase’s government also privatised oil company Petrom under conditions seen as detrimental to the state, and signed a contract with the US’s Bechtel to build the Transilvania highway, which was never completed.

By the time the initial contract expired, the PNL was in power and its candidate Basescu had defeated Nastase to take the Romanian presidency. A new €90mn contract was signed in 2009 and renewed two years later. The supplier under this contract was a firm set up by Florica, the former head of Fujitsu Siemens Romania.

Florica’s March 2015 testimony indicated that he and his associates successfully penetrated the public administration at the highest level during successive political regimes. Moreover, the same politicians have been implicated in an even larger corruption scandal that has not yet fully surfaced. The “EADS scandal” relates to the public acquisitions of equipment and services for the country’s border control system. International aerospace and defence company EADS, which was renamed Airbus Group in 2014, was the main contractor. The unfolding Microsoft case is expected to help prosecutors collect evidence for further investigations. 

Related Articles

Macedonia kept on hold as Balkans edges towards EU goal

Clare Nuttall in Bucharest -   Macedonia’s EU accession progress remains stalled amid the country’s worst political crisis in 14 years, while most countries in the Southeast Europe region have ... more

Romania’s Dacia changes gear

Clare Nuttall in Bucharest - Automaker Dacia has been highly successful in exporting to markets across Europe and the Mediterranean area since its takeover by Renault in 1999, but the small ... more

INTERVIEW: Romania’s Fortech prepares for next growth stage

Clare Nuttall in Bucharest - In the last 12 years, Fortech has grown into one of Romania’s largest IT outsourcing companies – a home-grown contender in a market increasingly populated by ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.