By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Romanian President Traian Basescu has today rejected accusations he had interfered with prosecutors to help a Roma shady businessman under criminal investigation, a day after a video surfaced purporting the President’s brother was negotiating the release of the defendant now in prison, which prompted calls for the head of state’s resignation.
The video allegedly shows the President’s brother, Mircea Basescu, negotiating the release of Sandu Anghel, aka Bercea Mondialul, a Roma businessman now serving an eight years prison term after stabbing a nephew, with the latter’s son. Mircea Basescu today denied he had asked for or accepted money to intervene and secure Bercea’s release from prison. The footage was aired last night by Antena 3 which is owned by media tycoon Dan Voiculescu, the president’s political arch-rival.
The scandal erupted a month ago when Bercea’s son-in-law was arrested for blackmailing Mircea Basescu. He had asked for money in return for supposedly keeping some secrets. Bercea’s son later explained his brother-in-law was actually trying to recover some money his family would have paid to Mircea Basescu to secure Bercea’s release. Mircea Basescu baptized one of Bercea’s granddaughters in 2010.
The National Anti-Corruption Department summoned the president’s son today for questioning. In the mean time, the head of state came out publicly to deny any involvement in Bercea’s criminal file.
“I would like to stress that I have never had any discussion with my brother about supporting Sandu Anghel in the latter’s trials. I guarantee such an intervention never took place” the President said. He said though his brother had told him he was being blackmailed last year and he urged him to report it to authorities.
But the President pointed out he regrets his brother joined “such an entourage”. “I am confident justice will reveal the truth in this public dispute between my brother and Sandu Anghel’s relatives” he added, underlining “I hope my brother’s side of story is real”. Basescu ended his statement almost in tears, saying that “between the need to consolidate justice and the natural reflex of protecting the brother, I choose consolidation of justice”.
PM Victor Ponta, Basescu’s political rival, immediately called for the President’s resignation, even if there is no evidence of the videos authenticity. “Basescu’s resignation would be a good gesture to protect the justice” Ponta said. The scandal is though another solid proof the political fight ahead of this fall’s presidential elections will be a tough one, with all the scenarios open.