Romania’s High Court sends former tourism minister Elena Udrea to jail for six years
Romania’s High Court (ICCJ) rejected the appeal and upheld the 72-month jail sentence for bribery and abuse of office against former minister of development and tourism Elena Udrea, who was one of the most powerful women in Romania during former president Traian Basescu’s mandate.
The sentence is final and Udrea will be sent to jail as soon as she will be extradited from Bulgaria, where she was caught on Thursday afternoon, April 7, after the Romanian High Court announced its decision.
Elena Udrea reportedly left Romania on Thursday morning and waited for the sentence in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. As soon as she found out about the conviction, she drove to the Kulata border point to cross into Greece. The Bulgarian border police held her in Kulata and she was expected to appear before the court in Blagoevgrad on Friday, according to judicial sources quoted by G4Media.ro.
This is not Udrea’s first attempt to dodge a jail sentence in Romania. In 2017, the former Romanian tourism minister fled to Costa Rica before the Romanian court sentenced her to six years of prison time in the same case. Udrea called herself a “political refugee” in Costa Rica. She returned to Romania in July 2019, after her six-year jail sentence was suspended based on a Constitutional Court ruling.
In 2018, the Constitutional Court decided that the High Court’s panels of five judges that had sentenced several high-profile politicians and business people had been illegally formed. The Constitutional Court’s ruling was prompted by a complaint filed by the former justice minister Tudorel Toader when he was part of the PSD government.
Tudorel Toader represented Elena Udrea after her return to Romania trying to have her 2018 sentence revoked.
The corruption case in which Elena Udrea was convicted is related to a boxing gala held in Bucharest in 2011, which featured a world title match between Romanian champion Lucian Bute and French boxer Jean-Paul Mendy. Elena Udrea was indicted and then sentenced for having illegally approved the financing of the boxing gala by the Tourism Ministry to have her name associated with this event and get electoral benefits.
In 2015, Elena Udrea spent several months under arrest during the investigations in this case.
In the same case, the former head of the boxing federation Rudel Obreja got a five-year jail sentence and Tudor Breazu, an employee of Elena Udrea, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Elena Udrea must also pay almost EUR 3 mln as damages to the National Authority for Tourism, representing the costs with the boxing gala that were covered by the Tourism Ministry.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea)