The High Court of Cassation and Justice (Romania’s Supreme Court) has decided on Tuesday that the Constitutional Court’s ruling regarding the prescription applies retroactively. Therefore, many corruption cases might be closed.
Several courts in the country have asked the High Court to determine whether the decisions of the CCR regarding the statute of limitations are retroactive on the principle of the most favorable criminal law.
The panel for resolving some legal issues from the supreme court decided on Tuesday that the decision of the CCR regarding the prescription applies retroactively.
“The norms related to the interruption of the prescription are norms of material (substantial) criminal law subject from the perspective of their application in time to the principle of the activity of the criminal law provided by art. 3 of the Criminal Code, with the exception of more favorable provisions, according to the “mitior lex” principle provided by article 15 paragraph (2) from the Constitution and art. 5 of the Criminal Code.
The court that settles the annulment appeal, based on the effects of the decisions of the Constitutional Court no. 297/26.04.2018 and no. 358/26.05.2022, cannot reanalyze the prescription of criminal liability, if the court of appeal debated and analyzed the incidence of this cause of termination of the criminal process during the process prior to this last decision“, according to the Supreme Court.
On May 26, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional an article in the Criminal Code that allowed prosecutors to interrupt the prescription by administering new evidence. The constitutional judges found that, in the period 2018 – May 2022, there was no case of interruption of the criminal statute of limitations.
Some courts suspended the trials pending a clarification from the Supreme Court, but others proceeded directly to the application of the CCR decision and ordered the termination of some corruption trials. The Bucharest Court of Appeal was the first court to refer this matter to the Supreme Court, followed by other courts.
Former minister Elena Udrea could benefit from this provision, who has two more cases pending trials. It is about the file regarding the financing of the electoral campaign of Traian Băsescu from 2009, in which Udrea received an eight-year prison sentence for committing the crimes of inciting bribery and money laundering. The trial is judged in the appeal phase at the Supreme Court.
At the same time, she is on trial at the Bucharest Court of Appeal in the “Hidroelectrica” file, in which she is accused of influence peddling and money laundering, in connection with the sum of 5 million dollars received from the businessman Bogdan Buzăianu. Currently, Elena Udrea is in the Târgşor penitentiary, where she is serving a 6-year sentence received in the “Gala Bute” file, in which she has exhausted all appeals. In this case, she did not invoke the statute of limitations.
This decision will affect thousands of files pending before the courts or under investigation by prosecutors, and the defendants will escape conviction or charges, as a result of the statute of limitations. There are also some cases of definitive convicts who were released from prison o the same ground- the statute of limitations has passed, such as the former Chamber of Deputies Speaker, Bogdan Olteanu or the former owner of Craiova Football Club, Adrian Mititelu.