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Update: Harsher sentences in the Microsoft file. Judges double sentence in jail for ex-mayor Gheorghe Stefan

The High Court of Cassation and Justice (Romania’s Supreme Court) gave final rulings in the Microsoft file, giving slightly more extended prison sentences to the four defendants. Therefore, businessman Nicolae Dumitru (Niro group) and businessman Dorin Cocos (Elena Udrea’s former husband) were sentenced to two years and four months in prison each, former Communications minister Gabriel Sandu got three years in jail, while the harsher sentence was given to former DemLib mayor Gheorghe Stefan (aka Pinalti) who has to stay six years behind bars.

The ruling is final, with the arrest warrants to be soon enforced.

Initially, Nicolae Dumitru had got one year and a half on probation at the first ruling, Sandu and Cocos had been sentenced to two years in prison and Stefan to three years in prison.

Nicolae Dumitru was the only defendant that was not already in prison, as he has got a sentence on probation during the first ruling. He is to be imprisonned. At the same time, the court ordered that he should pay compensations of over USD 2 M and EUR 1 M.

Judges with the Supreme Court also ruled that EUR 9 M should be seized from Dorin Cocos.

The anti-corruption prosecutors had asked for harsher punishments for the four defendants in the Microsoft file, Dorin Cocoş, Gabriel Sandu, Gheorghe Ştefan and Nicolae Dumitru. The Supreme Court judged the last hearing in this case on Monday.

“We consider that the previous court decided much too reduced punishments, particularly for businessman Dumitru Nicolae, it was unfair sentence. The law court should have considered the current weight of the case. First of all, the four defendants committed serious corruption crimes, while the social danger is high. The fraudulent activity was of wide scope, with cross-border branched implications, through the high number of the persons involved and offshore companies. They exerted their influence on some public servants.

The money value received as undue benefits is also important. They prejudiced the image of the state institutions. The minister position and his duties were considered in Gabriel Sandu’s case. In Dorin Cocos’ case it’s relevant he committed a forgery when clenching the dummy contract with Dinu Pescariu. We consider the penalties should be increased up to the maximum stipulated by the law for Dorin Cocos, Gabriel Sandu, Ghorghe Ştefan and Dumitru Nicolae”, the National Anti-corruption Directorate argued in court.

At the same time, the DNA calls on seizing EUR 9 M from Dorin Cocos.

The four defendants in the file admitted their guilt on Monday’s hearing, while apologizing and asking for more clement sentences.

Ex-minister Gabriel Sandu’s lawyer asked the court for his client’s acquittal or for a sentence on probation, while Dorin Cocos’ defender asked the judges to rule eight months in prison on probation for his client. At the same time, Gabriel Sandu announced he had filed a denunciation at the US Department of Justice and the Justice Ministry in Austria, against the Microsoft directors and against the members of the group led by Claudiu Florica.

Dorin Cocos said he regretted what he has done “from the bottom of his heart”, promising to get right “like a good Romanian”.

Tearfully Nicolae Dumitru also said he regretted his deeds and vowed to undo the mischief, while telling magistrates about the achievements of his company, which “has been working for 23 years without having contracts with the state”.

Former mayor of Piatra Neamt, Gheorghe Stefan also admitted charges agains thim, although he refused to to that during the anti-corruption body’s investigation. “I am guilty for exerting influence on Gabriel Sandu,” he said.

As for Sandu, he voiced indignation at charges against him, while others are not investigated. “I don’t understand how a group that injured the Romanian state with EUR 200 M has impunity and I don’t benefit of circumstance at least,” Sandu argued. Yet, the panel president asked the former minister how come he received over EUR 2 M through an offshore and what he had done with the money.

“I admit what I’ve done. I admit I have got EUR 2 M and used it for the electoral campaign,” Sandu replied.

The defendants’ lawyers also sprang  to their clients’ defence, asking for gentler sentences.

“My client admitted he had received EUR 5.9 M for himself and for the others, but his part was EUR 1.6 M (…) My client expressed willingness to do community service (…) The money was used for former Democrat Liberal Party’s 2009 electoral campaign for President Traian Basescu. It seems that PDL used it to finance Basescu’s electoral campaign. Dorin Cocos used EUR 1.6 M, the rest up to EUR 5.9 M are the PDL’s expenses,” Dorin Cocos’ lawyer told the judges.

On the other hand, Nicolae Dumitru’s lawyer claims that the businessman returned to the state the entire sum considered as prejudice, admitting charges and expressing willingness to collaborate in this case. The lawyer argued that a sentence on probation would be justified.

The High Court of Cassation and Justice gave the first ruling in the Microsoft file in March this year, where high-sounding businessmen and former state officials are prosecuted.

Businessman Dumitru Nicolae was sentenced to one year and a half in prison with suspension, while former Communications minister Gabriel Sandu, businessman Dorin Cocos and ex-mayor Gheorghe Stefan have to serve prison time. Sandu got two years in jail, Cocos, two years and Stefan three years.

The four defendants also had to pay a total of almost EUR 10 M as compensations.

The first ruling in this high-sounding case stirred anger in the public opinion and in mass media, as the sentences seemed rather reduced compared to the gravity of the corruption deeds and to the volume of the case.

Dorin Cocoş, Nicolae Dumitru and Gheorghe Ştefan were charged with influence peddling and money laundering, while Gabriel Sandu (minister of Communications during December 2008-September 2010) was charged with bribery and money laundering.

About Alina Grigoras Butu