Three more Romanian ex-ministers charged over Rompetrol Rafinare debt conversion

By bne IntelliNews June 22, 2016

Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) has indicted three former ministers for setting up an organised criminal group, abuse of power and complicity to embezzlement, local media reported on June 22.

The prosecutors’ investigation concerns the conversion of Rompetrol Rafinare's historic debt into bonds when the company was owned by the now deceased Dinu Patriciu. The refinery’s current owner, KazMunaiGas (KMG) International is in the process of selling it to a Chinese investor. DIICOT may have opened the investigation at this point in an attempt to recover debts to the government before the refinery changes hands again.

The Romanian prosecutors have also seized the assets of Rompetrol Rafinare, the company that operates the country’s largest refinery Petromidia, alongside those of KMG International (KMGI) and Oilfield Explorations Business Solutions (formerly Rompetrol).

DIICOT said at that time it was taking action to recover alleged losses incurred by the state budget. The losses were estimated at RON1.74bn, $290mn and €35mn - some €680mn altogether.

DIICOT is investigating the activities of a group made up of 14 individuals suspected of tax evasion, money laundering, market manipulation and other illegal activities. The group was allegedly formed in 1998 and is suspected of involvement in the privatisation of the Petromidia refinery as well as the conversion of the refinery’s historic debt.

The three politicians who were indicted are former finance ministers Sebastian Vladescu and Gheorghe Pogea and former economy minister Dan Ioan Popescu. Former finance minister Mihai Tanasescu has already been indicted in the same file. DIICOT asked for the president’s approval to start the investigation into the four ministers in May. President Klaus Iohannis endorsed the investigations on May 31.

Between September-October 2003, Tanasescu and Popescu exercised their duties in bad faith following an agreement with Patriciu and several others, by initiating and promoting an emergency ordinance on the conversion of Rompetrol Rafinare’s debt, amounting at the end of September 2003 to around $603mn, into bonds subscribed by the finance ministry, DIICOT said in an earlier statement.

“That emergency ordinance was issued for an economic agent which, in the meantime, paid €10bn to the state budget, which provides 7,000 jobs and which, in my opinion, fulfilled all its obligations,” Popescu told reporters, according to Mediafax news agency.

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