Romania’s richest convicted to two years and a half in jail

Romanian billionaire Ioan Niculae was sentenced to two years and six months jail time, no parole, for having illegaly financed Mircea Geoana’s presidential campaign in 2009.

Social democrat leader Gheorghe Bunea Stancu, the former president of the Braila County Council, got a three-year sentence for arranging the financing, according to Mediafax.

The court’s decisions are final and both Niculae and Bunea Stancu will be incarcerated. The court also decided to seize some EUR 144,000 from Niculae. The financial penalty won’t be a problem for the billionaire, who last year paid USD 90,000 to hunt an elephant and have it stuffed and shipped from South Africa to his mansion in Romania.

Ioan Niculae is Romania’s richest, according to the 2014 edition of the Forbes 500 Richest Romanians list. Forbes estimated Niculae’s fortune at some EUR 1.1 billion.

Niculae, 60, controls Interagro, an integrated agri-business holding which includes six fertilizer plants in Romania, one bio-ethanol plant, large agriculture exploitations which produce anything from grains to wines, grain silos, cogeneration power plants, fodder plants, animal farms, as well as oil, bread and meat factories. He also owns a tobacco processing factory, two hotels and a football club, Astra Giurgiu.

The case in which Niculae was convicted on Thursday, April 2, is just one of the many cases against the billionaire. According to the prosecutors, Gheorghe Bunea Stancu used his influence to convince Ioan Niculae and his Interagro group to contribute EUR 1 million to Mircea Geoana’s presidential campaign in 2009. The financing broke rules for financing political parties in Romania.

Niculae didn’t pay the money directly to the Social Democratic Party (PSD) but agreed to pay some of the campaign’s suppliers. In exchange, Niculae requested that, in case PSD won the elections, the party would name people that supported his interest at the top of the Economy Ministry. He also asked for favorable appointments in the management of the gas transporter Transgaz and the gas producer Romgaz.

Mircea Geoana lost the 2009 presidential elections to Traian Basescu.

The Romanian prosecutors are also investigating Ioan Niculae in several cases related to the purchase of cheap natural gas from Romgaz for his fertilizer plants.

Read more about the cases against Ioan Niculae here:

Two of Romania’s former Economy Ministers face prosecution

Former Organized Crime Chief Prosecutor allegedly bribed by Romania’s richest

Romanian prosecutors start high-level investigation on the energy segment; local businessman involved

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