Infamous GEO 13 reloaded: Abuse of office in case of a damage of less than EUR 50,000 decriminalised

A draft amendment submitted by the Government to the Criminal Code adopted by the Senate on Wednesday establishes a new value threshold for abuse of office and neglect of duty. More precisely, if the damage is less than 250,000 lei, i.e. 50,000 euros, then it is not considered anymore a crime for which prison sentence is required.

The PSD-PNL-UDMR ruling coalition is thus proceeding the same as the former Social-Democratic leader Liviu Dragnea was planning to do in 2017, through the famous GEO 13, which prompted wide mass protests for several weeks in a row in Romania, the the widest street protests recorded in Romania after the anti-communist Revolution in 1989. GEO 13 provided for a value threshold of 200,000 lei.

The amendment stipulating the new amount, 250,000 lei, meaning EUR 50,000, belongs to PSD, PNL and UDMR and is included in the bill adopted on Wednesday by the Senate with 79 votes “for” and 25 “against”. PSD, PNL and UDMR lawmakers have voted in favour, USR and 4 unaffiliated senators against and AUR abstained from voting.

The amendment submitted by the Coalition MPs comes to a draft law submitted by the government which, however, did not provide for a value threshold, but only stating that the crime of abuse of office and neglect of duty is if the public servant does not comply with a law, an ordinance or an ordinance emergency causing damage or injury to a person.

The proposed changes to the criminal code in the case of the offenses of abuse and negligence in service are justified by several decisions of the Constitutional Court which stated, on the one hand, that the acts that are not fulfilled, i.e. primary legislation, must be specified, and on the other hand, that it is need a value threshold.

PNL senator Cristian Țăgârlaș, the president of the legal commission, told Digi24 that the threshold of 250,000 lei for the crime of abuse of office was established “in the coalition” and communicated to the members of the commission, who “appropriated” it and introduced in the draft law. Tăgârlas stated that he does not know who proposed the value of the threshold, but says that it is a political decision the coalition had assumed. He added the amendments came on e-mail.

The draft bill will be also debated in the Chamber of Deputies, which is the decision-making body in this case.

Opposition slams the bill, asking for the amendment to be withdrawn

Former technocrat PM, currently REPER MEP, ​Dacian Cioloș asked PSD and PNL chairmen, Marcel Ciolacu and Nicolae Ciucă to immediately withdraw the amendment by which the parliamentary majority introduces a threshold of 250,000 lei for abuse of office, even higher than the one in the famous Ordinance 13, which in February 2017 brought out hundreds of thousands of people in the street.

“Either PSD and PNL didn’t understand anything that happened to Dragnea, or simply the fear of prison is so great that they don’t care that they shamelessly defy citizens in every parliamentary session with theft protection laws. Marcel Ciolacu and Nicolae Ciucă, as leaders of the governing coalition, must immediately withdraw the amendment by which the parliamentary majority introduces a threshold of 250,000 lei for abuse of office, almost identical to the threshold in the famous GEO 13,” Ciolos stated.

Dragoș Pâslaru, co-president of REPER, announced the organization of a protest, on Wednesday evening, in Piața Victoriei: “Dragnea, your former students have outranked you. What you did not achieve in 2017, your heirs have now done. PSD, PNL and UDMR passed the former OUG 13 in the Senate TODAY. Abuse at work is decriminalized if the damage is less than 250,000 lei, i.e. 50,000 euros. Basically, if you steal 49,999 euros, you’re fine, you’re not under criminal investigation. As an idea, this is how much a two-room apartment in the province or a studio in Bucharest costs. Tonight, my colleagues from REPER, as well as people who believe in the values ​​of democracy, gather in Piața Victoriei to protest against this idiocy. You know the choreography of 2017, right?”  

“Great despair in two consecutive days for two types of theft: yesterday special pensions, today abuse of office. We propose to prepare for street movements, shooting from all directions!”, is the message posted on the Facebook page Corruption kills after the PSD-PNL-UDMR Coalition “revived” GEO 13 in Parliament.

And USR reacted by calling people to put pressure on the coalition. USR leader, Cătălin Drula said: “Marcel Ciolacu and Nicolae Ciucă want to get away with stealing up to 250,000 lei. PSD and PNL voted in the Senate for a new threshold for abuse of office. Do you commit a damage of 250,000 lei? You escaped. It’s the law that put hundreds of thousands of us on the street in 2017. It’s the law that we stopped then. As we must do now. The Chamber of Deputies is next and we will fight to prevent something like this from happening. I call you with me and USR to put pressure on this coalition of theft and poverty.  The vote comes on the same day that, also in the Senate, they refused to eliminate special pensions. Their choice is made: they prefer to defend their specials than to take billions of euros from NRRP. They no longer have any limits.” 

USR Vice President Ionuț Moșteanu also reacted: “Mr. Iohannis, stop! PSD and PNL voted today the threshold of 250,000 lei for abuse of office!  You steal 250,000 lei, you got away with it. With the PSD and PNL vote.  We went out into the street to stop GEO 13, we went out into the street to stop the thief prepared by Liviu Dragnea. Even Dragnea’s threshold was set at 200,000, not 250,000 lei. Mr. Ciolacu and Mr. Ciucă, stop! USR will not allow such a law to be passed. We will fight against this new GEO 13”. 

Former Minister of Justice Stelian Ion: “Predoiu is more toxic than Iordache. Under his supervision, PSD, PNL and UDMR members have just proposed and will vote in the Senate a value threshold for abuse of office in the amount of 250,000 lei. That is, the act by which a public official intentionally causes damage of less than 250,000 lei will no longer be a crime. What does 50,000 euros represent for the embezzled PSD PNL?… Total nothingness. We proposed a threshold at the level of a minimum wage for the economy, because the state cannot seriously claim that a person’s work for a period of one month is a trifle, a value that can be ignored. Iohannis and Predoiu complete what Dragnea started in 2017″.

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