The judges of the Bucharest Court of Appeal pronounced on Thursday the final decision in the Colectiv fire case, after six years of trials. District 5 mayor, Cristian Popescu Piedone, who was District 4 mayor back then, was sentenced to 4 years in prison with execution.
After the ruling, Piedone said that he was going to prison “with dignity, honor and respect”. “Prisons are for people,” said the former mayor of Bucharest’s district 4.
At the same time, by Thursday’s decision, the court forbids Piedone, as a complementary punishment, the exercise of the rights to be elected in public authorities or in any other public office, to hold a position involving the exercise of state authority and the right to hold a position. management within a legal person under public law for a period of 5 years.
The Bucharest Court of Appeal also ruled that some of those convicted pay compensation of tens of millions of euros to the families of the victims and to the survivors of the Collective, but their value was reduced compared to the amount determined by the court of first instance. However, the mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone is exempted from paying the compensations, although the first instance court had also decided to pay damages, in solidarity with the other defendants. Piedone also received a halving of his sentence, after eliminating the application of the aggravating form of the crime of abuse of office.
The harshest punishment – 11 years and 8 months was received by one of the club’s owners, Alin George Anastasescu. The other two owners were sentenced to 8 years in prison – Paul Gancea and six years and four months – Costin Mincu.
Pyrotechnicians Zaharia Viorel and Marian Moise will have to serve a sentence of 6 years and 10 months in prison. Cristian Niță, director of the fireworks company, was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison for stealing or destroying evidence or documents. The court ordered the suspension of the execution of the sentence under supervision and established a term of supervision of 3 years.
Daniela Niţă, the other owner of the fireworks company Golden Ideas Fireworks Artists had got in a first court 12 years and 8 months in prison with execution, but she deceased in the meantime.
ISU firefighters Radu Antonina and Matei George Petrică will have to serve 8 years and 8 months in prison each.
At the same time, the court decided to acquit Aurelia Iofciu, the head of the Commercial Authorization Service of the City Hall, Larisa Luminiţa Ganea, senior counselor and Ramona Sandra Moţoc, senior referent.
In the first court, the judges of the Bucharest Tribunal sentenced to up to 12 years in prison with execution. The last term of the trial took place in December 2021, and since then the judges have postponed the sentence several times in this case.
Since last year, the Code of Criminal Procedure compels judges to give extensive reasons for the solution when giving a decision aimed at restricting the liberties of defendants in cases, such as sentencing to prison on execution.
During the final debates, the defendants’ lawyers requested the payment or application of milder sentences, appreciating that the prosecutors would have been wrong when they decided to prosecute their clients, but also the magistrates of the Bucharest Tribunal, when they handed down sentences with execution.
On the other hand, the prosecutors demanded punishments “oriented towards the maximum provided by law” and with execution for the former mayor of District 4 of the Capital, Cristian Popescu-Piedone, City Hall officials, club owners, two firefighters, two pyrotechnicians and representatives of a fireworks company, claiming that the social order was “altered” by corruption, and people burned. “We are not talking about two, we are talking about a cemetery,” investigators said.
The convicted persons are also obliged to pay, in solidarity with the City Hall of District 4 and ISU Bucharest-Ilfov, moral and material damages of over 50 million euros to the victims of the October 2015 fire. At the same time, firefighters and district 4 city hall have to pay more than 8 million lei to several hospitals in Bucharest and in the country, representing hospitalization costs with the deceased and injured people.
At the end of April this year, the mayor of District 5, Cristian Popescu Piedone, was detained by the anti-corruption prosecutors from Otopeni Airport and was taken to the National Anticorruption Directorate for hearings based on a warrant. The mayor was preparing to leave the country several days before the court issued a final decision in the Colectiv case, in which he had already been sentenced prison in the first instance.
65 people, mostly youngsters, lost their lives in a tragic fire that broke out in the Colectiv club in Bucharest on the night of October 30, 2015, where the rock band Goodbye to Gravity was performing a concert to launch their latest album. The fire started from some fireworks quickly spread inside the club and many of them remained trapped in there. The fireworks used during the event led to the lighting of the polyurethane sponge on a pillar of the venue where about 400 were attending the concert. More than 160 people were injured.
“Today, by my conviction, I could sacrifice myself, if I could resurrect the 64 victims, I would not hesitate. There are others who are hiding behind the screens, there is a vacuum of legislation. I go with dignity, honor and respect. If justice has considered this, we live on earth, not in heaven. Sooner or later, many other things will come to light,” said Cristian Popescu Piedone.
Asked if he had a message for the families of those who lost their lives in the Colectiv Club, he replied: “If those parents believe that I, Piedone, killed their children, God help them.”
“Only one paper came to me, all the mayors in Romania do so. Do not think that at the mayor, at the workload, they come and check, it is the working apparatus of the mayor. The role of the mayor is to go to jail when he bothers others”, he said about his involvement in the case.