Romanian court issues arrest warrant for Israeli billionaire

Romanian court issues arrest warrant for Israeli billionaire
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest March 16, 2016

A Romanian court approved on March 15 arrest warrants in absentia for billionaire Beny Steinmetz and two other Israeli businessmen in a case related to illegal land restitution in Romania, which caused financial damage of more than €135mn.

The investigation carried out by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), also concerns several high-ranking Romanian officials, further proof of Romania’s commitment to fighting high-level corruption.

Steinmetz, Tal Silberstein and Shimon Shevez, the chief of staff of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, are suspected of forming an organized criminal group, influence peddling, money laundering and complicity in money laundering, according to the DNA.

Prince Paul of Romania and Remus Truica, a businessman and former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase's chief of staff, are also being investigated in the same case which involved the illegal restitution of 47 hectares of forest in Snagov and Baneasa Farm, north of Bucharest.

The forest is part of the estate claimed by Prince Paul, the grandson of King Carol II through his marriage to Zizi Lambrino, which was later annulled. Prince Paul claims that he and not King Mihai is the real successor to the Romanian throne. Although he is not recognised by the Romanian royal family, a Bucharest court ruled in 2012 that he was entitled to an important part of Carol II’s fortune.

Prosecutors claim that in November 2006, Truica, Silberstein, Shevez, Steinmetz, Moshe Agavi and others formed a criminal group with the aim of acquiring the entire fortune claimed by Prince Paul. They allegedly offered money and goods to public sector workers in order to obtain the claimed property.

In return, Prince Paul offered Truica and his associates between 50% and 80% of the value of the goods he received from the state following their intervention with state officials and institutions.

Prince Paul claimed the 47 hectares of land from Snagov city hall in November 2005. He received the forest in 2007, even though he did not have documents proving he was the owner.

The court’s ruling is not final and can be challenged. Should it become final, an international warrant will be issued for the three Israeli businessmen, Hotnews reported. Meanwhile, Prince Paul and Truica have been placed under house arrest.

Steinmetz and Silberstein were previously involved in other projects in Romania. Steinmetz, one of the richest men in Israel, is one of the investors in the planned Rosia Montana gold mine in Romania and also in a number of real estate projects. Silberstein worked as a political consultant for former prime ministers Nastase and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, and for former president Traian Basescu, according to local media.

The European Union, which has recently praised the country for its efforts to address high-level corruption, is considering ending monitoring of Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism.