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Romania’s Fugitive Millionaire Caught in Serbia

Sebastian Ghita – once a maverick entrepreneur, now facing investigation in several corruption cases – had fled after losing his parliamentary immunity. 

18 April 2017

One of Romania’s most controversial politicians and businessmen has been apprehended in Serbia, after four months on the run, Euronews writes.

 

Sebastian Ghita (pictured), a former Social Democrat parliamentary deputy, was detained in Belgrade last Thursday night, after a routine check where he showed local policemen a fake Slovenian ID and driver’s license, Stirileprotv.ro writes.  Ghita had changed his appearance since leaving Romania, and was sporting a shaved head and a beard.  After noticing that, in spite of his papers, he didn’t speak any Serbo-Croatian, the policemen took him in for questioning, identified him on Interpol’s most-wanted list, and alerted Romanian authorities.

 

The Romanian General Inspectorate of Police said that the Ministry of Justice needs to send an official extradition request to Belgrade. Serbian judges first need to validate the international arrest warrant, then the extradition request, and, last but not least, to decide if Ghita is to be tried in Serbia or in Romania for his use of false documents. Depending on how long each procedure takes, Ghita might end up spending between three months and five years behind bars in Serbia, Stirileprotv.ro writes.

 

Ghita had fled the country on 19 December 2016, the day before his parliamentary immunity expired, making him fit for prosecution in several corruption cases. He now faces charges ranging from blackmail and money laundering to being an accomplice to fraud. The total damages he brought to the Romanian state stands at around 50 million euros ($53.5 million), according to Stirileprotv.ro.

 

Ghita had his fingers in many pies, the most important ones being state contracts awarded to his IT firms, Asesoft and Teamnet, a RISE Project investigation in 2014 revealed. The Romanian Information Service (SRI) was one of his clients, though Ghita, during his parliamentary mandate, sat on the commission in charge of parliamentary control over the SRI.

 

Ghita’s confessions about his close relationship with General-Lieutenant Florian Coldea – via the TV station Ghita owned, Romania TV – led to Coldea’s downfall and decision to retire, Business Review writes. Ghita has also said he had friendly ties with Laura Codruta Kovesi, the head of the National Anticorruption Department (DNA). 

 

Reacting to Ghita’s arrest, former Romanian President Traian Basescu said that “prosecutors should give Ghita a pen and paper or a computer [to write on], because he can bring many people down,” Stirileprotv.ro writes.


 

  • “Over the years Ghita has contributed to the country’s three largest political parties. The value of the business his companies did with public agencies between 2007 and 2010 has been estimated in the press at 64 million euros. For example, after donating 57,000 euros to the National Liberal Party in 2007 and 70,000 euros in 2008, one of the companies in the group won a 1.4 million euro contract to provide the software used in the 2008 elections,” wrote TOL’s Razvan Amariei in 2011.

 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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