CRAIOVA - A team of journalists investigated the connections between an institution for Romanian democracy and a crime group, who sustained together a corruption network violating law and blocking controls to favor their political leaders.
Part I: The Stabber
A key institution for Romanian democracy has been captured by a consolidated crime group after an assassination attempt. The criminal group is from the city of Craiova, and they helped each other reach the top of the Permanent Electoral Authority, the institution that organizes and supervises electoral processes in Romania. The group also decides, according to their own will, how the public money for political parties' subsidies is settled, violating the law, according to the Romanian Court of Auditors, and blocking controls to help its political leaders.
At least 25 people have reached important positions in this way. Some forged their CVs, others plagiarized their doctoral thesis. The main gateway was the office of the president of the authority, where newcomers were formally hired as counselors, and then became officials in the institution, bypassing competitions for positions. They ended up managing the election budgets, organizing tenders for the electoral software that centralizes our voting process, or resolving complaints with possible electoral fraud.
However, the past caught up with the group's leader. RISE Project, a community of journalists, programmers, and activists, studied their connections, starting from scratch: an assassination attempt that short-circuited the Romanian political scene two decades ago.
Part II: Electoral Arrangements for the Party
This is how the Romanian Permanent Electoral Authority (PEA) could be called - this is the institution that verifies, among other things, how the public money received as a subsidy by political parties is spent.
But when the people from the Control department took the Social Democratic Party (SDP) through the ringer in 2018, their PEA leaders quickly took action. They blocked the controls, and then forced those who were doing their job to resign. At stake were also the PSD subsidies for the following year, over 29 million euro.
When other settlements on public money reached the court, AEP gave up fighting, so that SDP could receive its money: the president Constantin Florin Mitulețu Buică ignored a document in which the legal department of the institution listed the reasons for appeal in the trial with the party that promoted him to office.
Previously, as general secretary of PEA, although he did not have such attributions, Mitulețu ordered the cessation of the control at DSP from 2018.
Thus, it helped DSP to recover 3.4 million lei from public money and treated with minimal sanctions irregularities reported by the Court of Accounts.
Part III: The one who came out in front
Cristian Petraru, the man who coordinated 23 rounds of Romanian elections, spoke with RISE Project about clientelistic relations and political maneuvers within the Romanian Permanent Electoral Authority (PEA). Petraru gave a video interview to Ioana Moldoveanu during the documentation of the #ElectoralHydra investigation project.
"I can't keep quiet. (...) If I don't speak, no one can ever be punished. (...) It is possible to speak and nobody to be punished, but at least you have a clear conscience".
Cristian Petraru (47 years old), the one who says this, has been the head of the technical apparatus at the Romanian Central Electoral Bureau for over two decades and director in the Permanent Electoral Authority for six years. A career abruptly interrupted in 2019, when he was changed overnight from the head of the department and was forced to resign.
His conflict with the PEA leaders, also politically exploited, calls into question the clientelistic system in which a vital institution for our democracy operates. Petraru filed a criminal complaint with the PEA president, Constantin Florin Mitulețu Buică, for abuse of office and has also a civil trial.
Now, Petraru is coming forward. He accuses the heads of the Permanent Electoral Authority of nepotism and abuse: stopping the controls at the Social Democratic Party in 2019; refusal to fight in court with the party that appointed him to office; the pressure on officials, the fear they feel of not losing their jobs.
The clientelistic relations in the institution represent another subject of the interview with Cristian Petraru.
After the appointment of Buică as president of PEA, in February 2019, the number of management positions doubled. The awkward directors were removed, in order to make "some places for some friends". Among them, people "who have nothing to do with the job", who entered the institution through the office of President Mitulețu, the only position in the institution you do not need to pass a contest for.
Photo credit: Alexandru Dobre / Mediafax FOTO