‘Write a book to escape jail’ loophole, widely spread among Romanian famous convicts, goes viral in foreign media

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The now famous habit of Romanian prisoners to write books and scientific papers in order to reduce their jail sentence became ‘viral’ also in the international media.

Renowned  public persons such as magnate Dan Voiculescu, media mogul Dan Diaconescu, businessmen and football club owners Ioan Becali, George Copos and Gigi Becali, or former lawmakers Cătălin Voicu and Adrian Năastase rank among the famous convicts whose main activities while in jail was to write books in order to see their sentences diminished. Each book or paper published is a month less behind bars.  More precisely, under Romanian law, prisoners can cut down 30 days off their jail terms for publishing a book of scientific value.

In an article entitled “Book ’em: the loophole undermining Romania’s anti-corruption drive“, The Guardian notes that ‘while in prison for graft offences, politicians and businessmen in particular are churning out papers in order to take advantage of the loophole, with little in the way of checks to confirm the value or even originality of the works produced.’

The British publication exemplifies with the case of Dan Voiculescu, ‘one of Romania’s richest men and owner of several television stations’. Sentenced to 10 years in prison in August 2014 for corruption, the tycoon has written ten books in less than a year and a half– ‘a startling achievement by any standards’, the UK paper remarks.

George Copos also stands among similar examples. Before being released from prison, Copos was accused of plagiarism related to a book he reportedly wrote while serving the jail time: ‘Matrimonial Alliances as a Policy of Romanian Kings in the XIV-XVIth Centuries’. According to Catalin Parfene, a historian who wrote his MA thesis on this topic ten years ago, Copos’ book “has an identical structure, the same historical approach, the same type of argumentation, similar expressions and passages, an identical structure of the ideas in my thesis”.

Overall, Copos apparently wrote five books in his 400 days behind bars; he also got time off for being over 60 and working in the prison’s carpentry workshop.

Gigi Becali, the controversial owner of Steaua Bucharest football club, also reduced his jail time by writing five books, one of which was about his relationship with the football team he owns. Former manager of Steaua football club Mihai Stoica also wrote four books, while businessman Dinel Staicu has had ten titles published in one year-time. Former international football player Gica Popescu produced four papers. If the last four mainly wrote about their field of acivity, which is football, for instance, George Netoiu, though he has been a football person himself, wrote four books on agriculture.

On top of all, the richest Romanian included in Forbes ranking, Ioan Niculae, still imprisonned, has written five books since April 2015 until end of August on bio-diesel, bio-ethanol or on the modern technologies of producing methanol. So, that means that Nicoale wrote a book every 29 days, a record that prompted his lawyer compare him with Balzac.

The publication quotes Laura Ștefan, anti-corruption expert and former director in the Romanian ministry of Justice, who explains that this provision of the law has been effective for many years, but it hasn’t been abused until recently, once with the explosion of corruption convictions among public figures.

In her turn, Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) told the British publication that “no one is verifying the scientific value of the work, or if they have time to write these books.

‘There are strong suggestions that many of the books are being written by ghostwriters, or at least heavily guided by outside research assistants, who then pass the text on to the prisoners who handwrite them – the manuscripts must be handwritten rather than typed – and pay for a small print run of a few hundred copies,’ The Guardian also notes.

Romania’s penintentiary administration reports to Mediafax that 188 scientific works written by prisoners in the past 2 years were published, while there were just seven of them in 2012. The Guardian says there have been 415 scientific works between early 2013 and December 9, 2015.

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