Romania’s Supreme Court has handed down five-year sentences to two Israelis for bribery – billionaire Beny Steinmetz and media consultant Tal Silberstein – overturning a lower court’s decision to acquit them in June 2019.
The Supreme Court ruled that the pair collaborated with a Romanian businessman and the grandson of the country’s former king in an attempt to defraud the state.
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The Romanian businessman, Remus Truica, who formerly served as bureau chief to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, was sentenced to seven years in jail – almost double the four-year sentenced imposed by the lower court. He was convicted of abusing the country’s process for restituting property confiscated during the Communist era in order to illegally obtain state assets worth 145 million euros.
Prince Paul-Philippe, the grandson of King Carol II, was sentenced to three years and four months, slightly more than the three-year sentence imposed by the lower court.
The Supreme Court also decided to confiscate 370,000 square meters of land owned by Truica’s Reciplia company and another 141,000 square meters of land owned by Truica personally. The prince was ordered to pay a four million euro fine, similar to the one imposed by the lower court.
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Attorney Yuval Sasson, who represented both Silberstein and Steinmetz, charged that “the appeal process violated the law and the rules of justice. We intend to appeal to the European court to annul the process, which has happened more than once with regard to decisions by Romanian courts.
“After a well-reasoned acquittal running hundreds of pages long by the Romanian district court – which showed, among other things, that the investigation of the defendants was conducted in a scandalous fashion that included forging evidence out of improper motives, the Romanian prosecution filed an appeal to the Romanian Supreme Court,” he continued.
“Regrettably, the appeal process was conducted in a way that it’s impossible to call a fair trial and raises doubts about the independence of the panel of judges.
“For instance, the panel was changed 17 times until the ‘desirable’ panel was settled on, the crime with which the defendants were charged was never presented to them until the verdict was given, the protocols were written in a biased fashion, the defendants’ lawyers weren’t allowed to cross-examine key witnesses, and use was made of evidence that isn’t admissible even under Romanian law.
“My clients are determined to fight for their innocence in European courts, and we’re confident that they will overturn the Romanian decision, as they have done more than once with regard to other decisions by Romanian courts.”
Next month, Steinmetz is slated to go on trial in Geneva over a corruption case in Guinea. He is charged with paying a bribe to the country’s government to secure rights to mine metal ores. The Guinea government withdrew its charges against him, but the case continued to be investigated by several other countries.