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Controversies around several ministers proposed in Grindeanu Cabinet

Controversies around several ministers proposed in Grindeanu Cabinet

New and old names are on the minister list that PSD-ALDE coalition is taking to Parliament for a confidence vote on Wednesday. Some are old party members, present in previous Social Democrat cabinets, others are young hopes of PSD or ALDE. Some come from the local public administration or diplomacy. Several proposed ministers have legal cases in justice, others are related to controversies.

Olguta Vasilescu, nominated to take over the Labour Ministry, is the current mayor of Craiova and also won a deputy mandate in the December 11 ballot. She was indicted for bribe taking and money laundering by the anti-corruption prosecutors in a case related to the 2012 local elections’ electoral campaign. Investigators say that Olguta Vasilescu would have forced several local businessmen, personally or through other people in her campaign staff, to make various sponsorships.

Prosecutors also claim that, within these “donations”, Olguta Vasilescu would have received EUR 25,000 to pay a concert performed by a foreign singer.

Teodor Melescanu, proposed for the Foreign Affairs portfolio, is a career diplomat for 50 years. He is 75 years old and has been a diplomat since 1966.

He used to be minister of Foreign Affairs before and also head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) for 2 years, from 2012 to 2014 when he resigned to join the presidential race. After the first round of elections, when he has got less over 1 %, Melescanu came up in support for the PSD candidate, Victor Ponta. He also held an 8-day mandate as foreign affairs minister after Titus Corlateanu resigned over the diaspora vote scandal. However, he also made some controversial statement regarding the vote, saying that Romanians in the Diaspora should come to cast their vote earlier. Related to the voting in Paris, where there have been most of the controversies, Melescanu recommended Romanians to go to another polling station, 385 kilometres away from the French capital.

Yet, PSD chairman Liviu Dragnea sprang to his defence, arguing Melescanu is a professional, whom he respects. Asked about his involvement in the deficient vote in the 2014 presidential elections, Dragnea answered: “Where has he been involved? Many are involved in car accidents for instance. Can’t we look to the future? We are still searching on Google for information that subsequently proves to be false. What did Mr. Melescanu do? I respect Mr. Melescanu and his career.”

Carmen Daniela Dan, proposed for the Interior minister position, comes from Teleorman, Liviu Dragnea’s fief. She was former prefect of Teleorman an current senator and is known as trusty to Liviu Dragnea. Carmen Dan is also known for embarking on a row with famous policeman Marian Godina. More precisely, she contradicted Marian Godina, who had stated that there was no bookshop in Teleorman County. Dan retorted to Godina that there are 255 companies that sell books in the county. Later on the policeman mentioned that these companies included news stalls or shops selling school supplies and office requisites.

In retort to Carmen Dan’s nomination as Interior minister, police officer Godina posted an ironic message on Facebook: “What can I say, I wish her good luck in her activity and I hope she won’t mistake carts for police cars, as she used to mistake boutiques and news stalls for bookshops.

Former head of the National Authority for the Consumer Protection (ANPC), Marius Dunca might also be part of the Grindeanu Gov’t, as minister of Youth. Dunca has been released from office by former PM Victor Ponta after the Colectiv fire, when it has been revealed that the ANPC inspectors had been notified over the Colectiv night club and had even controlled the club a day before the tragedy that claimed 64 lives. Marius Dunca is member of PSD.

Ionut Vulpescu, aged 40, proposed for the Culture ministry, is also an old party member despite his young age. He used to be honorary communication adviser of former Romanian president Ion Iliescu. Vulpescu has had a previous mandate as Culture minister for 11 months in the Ponta Cabinet, before Ciolos technocrat Gov’t. Vulpescu is known for tabling an amendment eyeing VAT cut to 5% for books.

Razvan Alexandru Cuc was proposed for the Transports portfolio. He used to be director of Giurgiu Free Zone before ex-PM Ponta had named him as secretary of state within the Transports Ministry in October 2015. Cuc was sacked in the spring last year by PM Ciolos after he had attended an electoral meeting in Giurgiu county. His name is deeply linked to the county’s political activity and also to some controversial public contracts. According to initiativaromania.ro, comparing his wealth statements, Cuc had no property in 2010, when he was employed in the Economy Ministry, nor in 2012, when he became county councilman. Despite his modest salary, Razvan Cuc ended up as owner of several real estate properties, plots of land and houses in Bucharest and Giurgiu, of money accounts and jewelry worth EUR 25,000. His interest statements also reveal that his company, Pan D’Or Ltd have clinched some contracts with the Child Welfare during 2012-2013 when he was county councilman.

Florin Iordache, proposed as Justice minister, is known for his involvement in the operation called the “Black Tuesday” by the media, when deputies have amended several regulatory documents in the benefit of politicians with criminal files. In December 2013, deputies voted four controversial draft laws – amnesty and pardon bill, Criminal Code amendment, the mines bill and the lobby bill. Iordache is also initiator of several bills related to incompatibilities.

Petre Daea, proposed for the Agriculture Ministry has been PSD member for over 15 years and ran the ministry before, in 2004, in the Cabinet led by Adrian Nastase. As a matter of fact, Daea is considered a close person to Nastase. Petre Daea was also initiator of the controversial law of special pensions. However, the PSD chairman Liviu Dragnea says Daea ‘has been pardoned’ by the party for ‘that crime’.

He was also famous for asking the Chamber of Deputies to provide him with accommodation even if he had several apartments in Bucharest, mentioned in his wealth statements.

Andreea Pastarnac, Romania’s ambassador in Israel, was nominated to take over the ministry Diaspora. Liviu Dragnea said she ‘is highly appreciated in Israel’ when he was asked to comment the criticism against her related to the support granted to several injured people in the Colectiv fire and taken to Israel for treatment.

About Alina Grigoras Butu