Romania Cracks Down on Criminals Forced Home by Pandemic

 Romania Cracks Down on Criminals Forced Home by Pandemic

A recent journalistic investigation in Romania exposed how the infamous Clan of the Sportsman, a Bucharest gang with interests in several underworld activities, captured an entire Social Democratic Party regional branch.

But not everyone praises today’s centre-right rulers of Romania as much as the US ambassador. On 1 November, dozens of civil society groups signed an open letter slating President’s Klaus Iohannis for promulgating a law that effectively reduces the statute of limitations for child trafficking and pornography offences.

The signatories to the letter reported the amendment to the European Commission and other international authorities. Days later, on Tuesday this week, parliament undid the contested changes in a separate law that will now go back to the President for promulgation.

However, Silvia Tabusca, a law professor representing the European Centre for Legal Education and Research, ECLER, which championed the open letter, said the damage had already been done. 

As she explained to BIRN, “When the law has been modified in the period spanning from the moment when the [criminal] deeds were committed to the moment of the final court decision, it is the legislation that is more favourable to the accused that applies.”

This means that all the ongoing criminal matters will be judged under the law that the President already promulgated – including the causes opened on Wednesday following the hundreds of raids, mostly targeting COVID-19 returnees.

ECLER and the other NGOs also reproach the current government for a decision it took in September – under the argument of protecting victims’ privacy – to conceal the files of child trafficking cases. The NGOs say the minors’ identities could be safeguarded by simply removing their names and personal details from public documents, instead of preventing civil society from monitoring the development of these causes.

There is no obvious explanation for the authorities allegedly showing favour to crime syndicates – but the media have reported a number of connections between politicians and human trafficking networks or their former or active affiliates. 

Earlier this week, for example, the daily Adevarul reported that convicted child trafficker, Cristian Turcu, had been sworn in as a member of a regional council in the northeastern county of Vaslui.  In 2010, Turcu was found guilty of recruiting two underage sisters and selling them for 1,000 euros to a trafficker who intended to sexually exploit them in Italy. Turcu has been elected for the centrist ALDE party, which was the junior partner of the Social Democrat Party in the former government.

Whatever the common perceptions, human trafficking activities also do not take place exclusively in the fringes of society; their reach can extend to the centres of power. One of those arrested on Wednesday, according to the media, was a well known millionaire playboy and socialite, Alex Bodi, who was thought to owe his fortune to legitimate businesses in Spain and Germany and was catapulted to fame by his wedding to the model and TV personality Bianca Dragusanu. 

Bodi hails from a modest family that emigrated to Spain and is thought to have worked for a Croatian businessman with mining interests in Africa. Prior to his arrest on Wednesday he was a familiar face in gossip and entertainment press for his opulent lifestyle and exuberant love affairs.

Marcel Gascon Barbera

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