Retired Romanian football player Ioan Timofte was taken in for questioning on Friday, March 17, in a case that targets a group of loan sharks.
Timofte, 49, was a member of the so-called “Golden Generation” of Romanian football. He played for Minerul Anina from 1987 to 1988, CSM Resita in 1989, and Poli Timisoara between 1989 and 1991. In the summer of 1991, he moved to FC Porto, the team for which he played until 1994 when he moved to Boavista FC.
The leaders of the crime group, namely brothers Tuta and Artur Marinescu, were detained by prosecutors from the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), reports local News.ro.
DIICOT prosecutors carried out 18 house searches on Friday, in Timis and Suceava counties. Their action was aimed at dismantling a crime group specialized in usury, fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering. The damages they have caused amounted to EUR 3.5 million.
Prosecutors say that, between 2010 and 2017, the crime group gave large amounts of money to people in Timisoara and Suceava through contracts executed “ad validitatem”, in which the interests were “disguised.”
To conclude the contracts with the loan sharks, the people were using real estate properties as guarantees. However, when they failed to pay back the loans in time, the crime group started the foreclosure proceedings against them. Moreover, the loan sharks were taking back the loans and the interests, both cash and by bank transfer. Sometimes, people close to the loan sharks were in charge of getting back the money.
“Sometimes, the group leaders were using family members as an interface at the public notary, for the money granted as loans, or they were later empowering them to initiate the foreclosure proceedings at the judicial executor,” according to DIICOT.
The loan sharks were making no compromises, the prosecutors say, meaning that they were not allowing the people who took money from them to sell their properties at the right price to pay back the loans. From the start, the loan sharks were targeting to take the properties away from their owners, which is why they were setting very high interest rates and very short deadlines.
“Before foreclosure, the members of the crime group were also resorting to threats and physical aggression to compel the victims to give up the buildings in which they were living without taking any legal action to recover the property,” according to DIICOT.
Thus, in most cases, the loan sharks were just taking away the properties from their owners. Sometimes, the owners ended up becoming tenants in their own houses, paying monthly rents of EUR 200-300 to the crime group members.
The loan sharks were using the money obtained from usury to purchase movable and immovable properties, the prosecutors say.
Irina Popescu, [email protected]