Runaway Sebastian Ghita, the former SocDem deputy investigated in several corruption files in Romania, has been tracked down and detained in Belgrade, Serbia on Thursday night, the Romanian Police informed.
The former deputy had been gone missing since December, while he was on a Police stakeout. He was investigated in several criminal files, and an APB had been issued against him, as well as an international arrest warrant through Interpol.
The Police said it had collaborated with the authorities in ten countries to catch the former MP. The Romanian Police thanked their counterparts in Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia, Austria, Italy and France, as well to their institutional partners, for their cooperation in this case.
Ghita was identified by the Serbian Police during a routine check, when he presented false ID papers. The former IT tycoon was accompanied by his brother, who had real ID papers. Ghita is said to have met his brother, Alexandru, and talked to him for four hours and after that he was approached by the Belgrade police that asked for his ID papers. The Serbian policemen found out that his ‘Slovenian’ passport was expired.
Sources quoted by the local media say that Ghita would have left to Bulgaria right on the night he had escaped the police stakeout in December, while a team of investigators went to Serbia to locate him in February.
Sources close to investigators also reveal that the route Ghita has taken after going missing on December 20 was a pretty long one. It seems he has crossed several countries in eastern and western Europe in the past four months, the precise ten countries that the Romanian Police mentioned as collaborating with for his catch.
Police officers say that Ghita could travel across these countries at large based on false ID papers. When he was caught in Serbia, he had Slovenian papers.
Serbian policemen are to open a criminal record for using false papers against Ghita, with the extradition procedure pending, as the Interior minister Carmen Dan told Digi24. The minister revealed that Ghita voiced no opposition to being detained.
However, his extradition may take up to a month, according to the authorities, as Serbia is not a member of the European Union and the extradition procedure is more labourious.
Ghita would be now detained in a police section in Belgrade.
The extradition is conducted through the Justice Ministry in Bucharest.
Serbia, hinted by Romanian journalistic investigation
A month ago, Romanian portal news Hotnews.ro reported that the businessman Sebastian Ghita had been located in Serbia, but Police and the prosecutors didn’t confirm the information. According to sources to Hotnews, Ghita would have been recently visited in Serbia by two of his close collaborators in Romania, with whom he would have discussed new strategies of compromising the anti-corruption chief prosecutor. Yet, the Police and the Prosecutor General denied the information.
The journalists said that one person who would have visited the runaway businessman was the political adviser Dan Adronic, owner of EVZ newspaper. Yet, Andronic denied: “I haven’t met Ghita since he left. I don’t think is in Serbia, it’s false information. It’s nonsense,” Andronic told Hotnews. He refused to answer the journalists’ repeated questions if he has been in Serbia lately. “The answer is that I have been in many places, does that make any difference?”.
The sources quoted by Hotnews also revealed that at least two officers of the Romanian Police Inspectorate would have headed to Serbia two weeks ago to collaborate with the Serbian authorities so that Sebastian Ghita should not leave the country. There has been an extradition agreement between Romania and Serbia in force since 1961.
However, the Police did not confirm the information for now. “We don’t confirm the information on defendant Sebastian Ghita. Neither the case prosecutor, nor us” reads a statement by the Romanian Police, quoted by Pro TV.
In his turn, prosecutor general Augustin Lazar also denied Ghita would be in Serbia, saying the information is false. “It’s a false information, we don’t consider it,” said Lazar.
The sources quoted by Hotnews also hinted that Serbia has been chosen as hideaway destination for Ghita as the Serbian prmeier Aleksandar Vucic is a very good friend of former PM Victor Ponta, also close friend of Sebastian Ghita.
However, journalist Dan Andronic said on Friday after the news on Ghita’s catch that someone from the National Anti-corruption Directorate has leaked out the information on Ghita’s being in Serbia, thus jeopardizing the Romanian authorities investigation.
PM Grindeanu: This operation must not be politically regarded
PM Sorin Grindeanu said on Friday that the operation to catch Sebastian Ghita was complex, and congratulated the Romanian Police for doing its job. He added that the judiciary must take its course.
The premier argued that this operation “must not be politically regarded”. ” The operation is for the things related to judiciary and not to political statements. Judiciary is one thing, politics another thing,” the Prime Minister told an interview to TVR News.
He added that the other speculations are none of the Government’s business. “Our job was the completion of this mission, namely to bring Mr. Sebastian Ghita back in the country”, Grindeanu said.