Prosecutors used all their means to catch Bucharest’s mayor, court’s arrest motivation sheds some light on this case

The Romanian anticorruption prosecutors have used all their technical means to gather evidence against Bucharest’s mayor Sorin Oprescu. They packed their case with intercepted phone calls, video and audio recordings, photographs and GPS tracking data, according to Agerpres news wire.

Among the evidence presented to the court, there was also a recording of a conversation between Sorin Oprescu and the person who bribed him at his home.

The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) held Sorin Oprescu on Saturday night on bribery charges. The Bucharest Court decided on Sunday that Bucharest’s mayor should stay under arrest for at least 30 days while the prosecutors continue their investigation.

The court’s motivation was made public on Friday. According to this document, the court decided that there was enough evidence in the prosecutor’s case against Oprescu to support the accusation that he received EUR 25,000 from another person as a bribe and not as a personal loan, as he “unconvincingly claimed in court”.

The EUR 25,000 that Opresuc got on Saturday evening apparently came from the managers of the Mogosoaia Palace Cultural Complex, who paid the mayor in order to keep their jobs. The complex is subordinated to the Bucharest City Hall. The two managers of the Mogosoaia Complex were also arrested, as they apparently took a EUR 60,000 bribe from a private company to grant it some work on the Mogosoaia Palace.

The Court ruled that Oprescu validated the two managers’ illegal activities by keeping them and receiving money from them. The two bribers were also arrested.

The two managers didn’t give the money to Oprescu directly but through an intermediary. The intermediary was the head of the Bucharest Graveyards’ Administration, who was placed under home arrest.

According to the recordings in the case, Sorin Oprescu insisted to meeting the intermediary and receive the money on Saturday evening, although the man’s grandfather had died earlier that day. Oprescu saw the intermediary at his home in Ciolpani, close to Snagov. The prosecutors stopped him in traffic later that evening and found EUR 5,000 of the bribe money on him. The money was marked.

DNA’s chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said earlier this week that the prosecutors didn’t try to catch Oprescu in the act at his home because of procedural issues. The prosecutors are not allowed to search peoples’ homes after 8:00 PM.

The DNA chief also said that the prosecutors had started investigating Oprescu after receiving two complaints in March this year. The DNA didn’t reveal who the denouncers were, but from the context it would seem that they were representatives of the firms who were asked to pay bribes for the contracts at the Mogosoaia Palace Complex.

Sorin Oprescu’s chauffeur was also arrested in this case for complicity to bribery. The Bucharest City Hall’s economic director was also held, as he too received some part of the bribes.

According to the prosecutors, Sorin Oprescu was part of a very well organized group within the public administration that asked companies to pay bribes in order to get public contracts from various authorities subordinated to Bucharest’s City Hall. The group functioned between 2013 and 2015.

The companies that got contracts from the local authorities would only keep a third of the profits made from these contracts (30-33%) for themselves. The rest of the profits went to the group that functioned within the City Hall. Mayor Sorin Oprescu himself would get some 10% of the profits, according to DNA.

In exchange, the group’s members would help the companies win public contracts by pulling the strings in different institutions.

Bucharest’s mayor manages the largest expense budget of all local authorities in Romania. The Bucharest City Hall’s expense budget for 2015 is almost EUR 1 billion, a quarter of which is invested into infrastructure and other public work.

The Bucharest City Hall allotted over EUR 18 million to the Graveyards’ Administration this year. By comparison, the Hospitals’ Administration got EUR 67 million.

Bucharest borrowed EUR 500 million earlier this year via a bond issue on the Bucharest Stock Exchange to refinance its debt.

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