By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Nine former ministers in four governments are one step away from being prosecuted for corruption if their immunity is lifted, in one of the largest anti-corruption investigation ever done in post-communist Romania concerning the largest IT acquisition contracts signed by various governments over the past 24 years.
In a press release issued yesterday and which sent shockwaves across the Romanian political spectrum, especially since it comes a week before the start of the electoral campaign, the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to submit applications to the Romanian Presidency, Parliament and the European Parliament for the immunity of the nine suspects to be lifted. The investigation concerns several IT contracts concluded as of 2004, such as Microsoft licenses, but also a border protection integrated system signed with EADS, totaling more than 1 billion Euros.
DNA’s press release has a very severe wording. It says that six of the suspects, namely Dan Nica, Serban Mihailescu, Adriana Ticau, Alexandru Athanasiu, Mihai Tanasescu and Gabriel Sandu performed their official duties ill-intentioned and signed the first Microsoft licenses contract in 2004 under onerous conditions which cost the state budget. Thus, a 47 per cent discount granted by Microsoft was diverted by the six, says DNA, with a view to pay fees to middlemen. The prosecutors also say the above-mentioned asked for and received various amounts of money to influence the tender and favor a single company, Fujitsu Siemens.
In this manner, all the public acquisitions provisions were encroached upon while Fujitsu Siemens was wrongly designated as the sole distributor, with prices of at least 40 per cent more than the real market price. The investigation also revealed that out of the 54 million USD the Romanian Government paid Fujitsu Siemens in 2004, about 30 M USD were fees paid to people involved in this contract, either in the ministries or the companies.
As concerns another contract which sought to equip schools with computers and software, DNA concluded the Government granted a contract to Romanian company Siveco for prices up to 50 per cent higher than the market prices. “The evidence proved the existence of a mechanism which sought to gain a larger profit for the subcontracting companies out of which, by means of off-shore companies, sums of money necessary for bribes were diverted. These bribes were paid by either bank transfers (…) or in cash withdrawn outside Romania and transported in the country by various middle-men with the view to hide the source of incomes” DNA further said in its press release.
In summer, Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors started hearing at least 40 current and former high ranking dignitaries in a case which concerns a border security contract with the defense company EADS signed a decade ago. The investigation concerns the contract on the integrated system for state border security concluded by EADS Deutschland GmbH and the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2004, which cost the Romanian state about 734 million Euros.
The contract, in force between 2004 and 2010, came amid Romania’s efforts to join the European Union and, later, the Schengen Space. Romania invested more than 1 billion Euros to secure its borders and has met all the technical criteria to join the space without internal borders, but political decisions made in various Western capitals have kept the country out of the space, along Bulgaria.
DNA said EADS was conditioned to sign deals with subcontracting companies in Romania and middlemen used to distribute smaller contracts in return for commissions. “EADS paid in 2004, eight the contract was signed, a 4 million Euros advance that was to be used to bribe various people” the institution said back then, identifying several subcontracting companies and middlemen.