Case against #RomanianIntelligenceServices strengthens

| July 16, 2019

I recently wrote that while the Alexander Adamescu case fits the profile of something the SRI would interfere in, we could not be certain. Now we know for sure he was one of SRI’s targets, writes Emily Barley.

Alexandar Adamescu is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Romania. He is accused of bribing a judge in an insolvency case relating to a family business back in Romania. His father, Dan Adamescu, was convicted of the same charges in 2014, in what has been described by human rights campaigners as a ‘show trial’. Dan Adamescu later died in prison after being refused proper medical treatment.

I have been passed a series of legal documents and confidential evidence that starkly reveals the Romanian Intelligence Service’s (SRI) involvement in the Adamescu case The SRI is the dreaded successor to the communist era Securitate, and retains a number of links to the old regime – including many of the same operatives and methods.

The story starts in late 2013, where an investigation by intelligence experts Sir John Scarlett and Lord Carlile uncovered evidence that then Prime Minister Victor Ponta convened a meeting of the chief of the national police, the head of the DNA (anti-corruption prosecutor’s office), and the deputy general of the SRI.

At this meeting Ponta identified the Adamescu family as a threat, pointing to Romania Libera, the newspaper owned by the Adamescus, which was a committed campaigner for democracy and the rule of law. Romania Libera (translated as ‘Free Romania’) had launched a series of investigations against political corruption in Ponta’s government and into Ponta’s unconstitutional attack on President Basescu.

Ponta instigated the investigation of the Adamescus for political purposes, and his involvement continued. In May 2014 Ponta appeared on national television to accuse Dan Adamescu of corruption offences, declaring with confidence that the DNA would soon have something to say on the matter. Just two weeks later he was proved right, as the DNA took Dan Adamescu into custody and laid charges of corruption against him.

This kind of political involvement in criminal proceedings is unimaginable here in the UK, where our political leaders are careful to avoid making any comments that could prejudice criminal cases. The political involvement in the criminal justice system in Romania is more than reminiscent of communist era practice.

Partially declassified documents show that judges ordered wire taps against Dan and Alexander Adamescu, and various others connected to them. In the UK, wire tap evidence is carefully managed and we can generally trust judicial oversight. Not so in Romania, where interference by both the DNA and SRI means these shadowy organisations routinely apply pressure to judges in order to make them do their bidding.

These orders for wire taps are only partially declassified, with the names of the judges and bodies that executed the wire taps remaining classified. An expert legal opinion contained in the legal documents I have seen states that there is no good reason for these to remain classified. Hiding them raises important questions. First, which judges made these orders, and why are they hidden? It is possible that there are conflicts of interest in play. Second, knowledge of the bodies that executed the warrants is critical to establishing whether or not the evidence was gathered in accordance with the law.

This is not merely academic: wire tap evidence in Romania is coming under growing scrutiny, and since 2016 wire tapping has been ruled unconstitutional in a series of proceedings, leading to cases being thrown out. The same legal documents also show the level of cooperation between the DNA and SRI, with the DNA’s chief issuing orders for wire tapping data to be shared with the SRI at regular intervals.

However, perhaps even more interesting is the lack of wire tap evidence that prosecutors found to be useful. Despite extensive surveillance of the Adamescus and key figures around them, the entire case against Dan Adamescu, and now Alexander Adamescu, depends on the word of one witness – who was himself accused of embezzlement, and has changed his story many times. Not a single wire tap in evidence relates directly to Alexander Adamescu.

The SRI’s involvement in the Adamescu case doesn’t end there. A series of confidential witness statements from important political, intelligence service and other figures detail the collusion between the SRI and DNA to use illegal processes to pursue the Adamescu family. Target identified, these organisations set about finding – or, rather, fabricating – evidence against the Adamescus.

This was not merely on political instruction: the SRI had its own motives for targeting the Adamescus, according to these confidential witnesses. First, the ideological divide between the communistic SRI and centre-right, liberal democratic Adamescu family, and second, the scrutiny by Romania Libera which had uncovered, and continues to uncover, illegal practices in the Romanian intelligence services.

Perhaps one day these witnesses will feel able to speak out publicly, but for now they fear for their lives – and with good reason, considering the numbers of people targeted by the DNA and SRI who were convicted and later died; not least Dan Adamescu.

To the casual observer these claims may seem bold and outrageous, but consider the context. Romania is in the midst of a constitutional crisis where secret protocols between the SRI and practically every other branch of government have been uncovered, and more continue to come to light. There is now strong and specific evidence that the SRI was directly involved in the Adamescu case, and so the UK government must act.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Romania

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