Wednesday

19th Dec 2018

Romanian judge claims European immunity in jewels-for-verdicts case

  • A businessman admitted giving jewels to the judge, but 'out of friendship' (Photo: EUobserver)

Romania's judge at the European Court of Human Rights on Friday (14 October) claimed diplomatic immunity for his wife, a judge under investigation for allegedly receiving jewellery, holiday tickets and expensive restaurant meals for favourable verdicts in the country's highest appeals court.

ECHR judge Corneliu Barsan said prosecutors who searched his home and confiscated his wife's computer and documents violated the Vienna Convention, which covers both him and his spouse, Gabriela.

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But legal advice from the country's top magistrate council said the search was legal as immunity is not granted to judges for their own benefit or to hamper the course of justice. A final vote on the legality of the move will be taken by the magistrates' council on Tuesday.

The vote is set to be closely watched by the European Commission, which has repeatedly criticised the council for being too lenient with misbehaving judges. Romania, as well as Bulgaria, are still being monitored by the EU executive on how they deal with corruption and organised crime. This is also the reason why entry into the border-free Schengen area was delayed indefinitely by the Netherlands and Finland last month.

Gabriela Barsan, who heads the administrative and fiscal litigation department in Romania's top appeals court, is accused - together with a subordinate - of having received jewellery, plane tickets and expensive restaurant dinners in exchange for favourable verdicts. The businessman who allegedly paid the bribes, Gabriel Chiriac, has claimed that he gave them jewellery "out of friendship", Romania Libera newspaper reported.

Chiriac was involved in real estate deals of over €600 million in the past few years, including the privatisation of electricity and textile industries. The transactions, involving US hedge funds and Cyprus off-shore companies, are under investigation by the country's anti-money laundry unit.

In a separate case, the head of the national employment agency, Silviu Bian, was arrested over the weekend for having received over €50,000 in bribes. According to prosecutors, he ordered that 25 percent of money from EU-funded projects be channelled to his own accounts.

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Corruption in Bulgaria and Romania continues to not be properly pursued by the judiciary, with cases taking too long and judges themselves prone to taking bribes, the EU commission said Wednesday. The reports may lead to a further delay in a decision on admitting the two countries to the border-free Schengen area.

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