Dan Adamescu, a leading Romanian businessman of Jewish origin, has become the most famous victim of Romania’s “failing” penal and judicial system.
Fleeing Communist Romania where his father, a High Court judge, had been imprisoned by the Communists, Dan Adamescu arrived in West Germany in 1989, sold his stamp collection that he had smuggled out of Romania for 25,000 Deutschmark, and set up his own trade and real estate business in Frankfurt. Despite being of fragile health for all of his life, Adamescu became a succesful businessman and well-to-do member of German’s Mittelstand.
After the fall of Ceausescu, Adamescu returned to Romania in the early 1990s. There he applied what he had learned in Germany. He quickly became Romania’s real est ate pioneer, opening the country’s first class A office building in 1996 and transforming Bucharest’s run-down department store Unirea into a glitzy shopping mecca in 1999. But Adamescu’s crown jewel was Astra, a fledgling state-owned insurer which he saved from the brink of bankruptcy in 2003 and turned into Romania’s insurance power house employing tens of thousands of agents and competing with the Western European multinationals.
Adamescu decided to back Romania’s most radical pro-Western newspaper, Romania Libera, edited by his life-long friend Petre Mihai Bacanu, himself imprisoned by Ceausescu in 1989. Romania Libera became the most fierce critic of the social democratic PSD, the successor party of the Romania’s Communist Party, which have dominated Romanian politics through the last 28 years.
Adamescu’s downfall is mirrored in the ascension of Victor Ponta, PSD Prime-Minister from May 2012-November 2015. After failing to oust President Basescu and being lambasted by Romania Libera for his buccaneering style of autocracy, Ponta took revenge on Basescu’s closest allies.
After Ponta accused Adamescu and Astra in early 2014 of financing Basescu’s campaigns, the Romanian Financial Supervisory Authority took control of Astra in 2014 and withdrew its insurance license one year later. Despite the loss of thousands of jobs, Ponta greeted Astra’s folding on Facebook and gloated over the pending ruin of Romania Libera and its journalists.
Not satisfied with the loss of Romania’s largest insurer, Ponta appeared on prime time TV on 22 May 2014, accused Adamescu in front of the nation of being a corrupt newspaper owner and announced that “we will shortly be hearing more about this from the prosecutor”. Ten days later, Adamescu was arrested by masked anti-terror police charged for alleged bribery of 20,000 euro, a case prosecuted by the controversial Romanian Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA). Adamescu was paraded in handcuffs on TV and the indictment leaked to the press. Despite his fragile health he was not granted bail for, among other grounds, “not admitting his guilt”.
In a position paper on the state of the presumption of innocence in Europe, Fair Trials named Adamescu’s treatment as a blatant breach of the principle that all European Union countries committed to uphold. Adamescu was convicted to four years and four months in 2015 and his appeal rejected in May 2016. In January 2017, after several rejected pleas to be released on medical grounds, Adamescu passed away in Romanian custody in a hospital in Bucharest.
A leading campaign group says Adamescu should have been released from prison both on health and age grounds and the case highlights a “total breakdown in the rule of law” in the country.
Willy Fautre, director of the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), says the EU has an important role in such matters and should “closely monitor” the situation in Romania. He said “negative reports” on the state of the penal and judicial system in Romania have also been issued since 2013 by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe’s Committee of Prevention of Torture and the U.S State Department.
Ponta’s hand in Adamescu’s fall is undeniable. Just how much the former Prime Minister did to quash his rival remains an open question. Intelligence sources confirm that Ponta gave clear political orders at the end of 2013 to major Romanian institutions, including the DNA and the Romanian intelligence agency, to find ways to eliminate Adamescu. But until today the Romanian government refuses to investigate let alone acknowledge the witch-hunt initiated by the PSD prime minister. This is hardly surprising that the current government is led by Mihai Tudose- a PSD Prime Minister.
Even more suspiciously, one year after his death, Dan Adamescu’s autopsy has not been released. “I have asked the authorities for this autopsy in countless letters”, says his son Alexander Adamescu, a playwright living in London. “Why are the causes of his death a state secret? It looks like Romania is either manipulating the evidence or hiding the truth about the causes of his death”.
Romania has chosen to respond to accusations of political motivations in the death of Dan Adamescu by piling more guilt on him and accusing him of Astra’s demise. Although being in coma, Adamescu was indicted at the end of 2016 in a second case which is widely believed to have been invented to strip him of the rest of the assets of his business group and to plug in state coffers that the holes that Ponta’s blow against Astra have left behind.
In another judicial farce, a Romanian Judge refused to end the Astra criminal case against Adamescu and sent him to trial on 25 September 2017, exactly 9 months after his death. Adamescu will now be tried post-mortem.
“The persecution by Romania has reached ridiculous heights,” says his son Alexander Adamescu. “There are no limits to what Romania is ready to do when the name Adamescu comes up. They will summons my father in the grave just to beat him up a bit further in court.”
Alexander Adamescu has become himself a target for the Romanian authorities. Living in London with his partner and three small children under the age of five, Bucharest requests his extradition and incarceration for exactly the same charges that his father was accused of in 2014 after he began fighting to clear his father’s name. Despite having never held residence in Romania and being a German citizen himself, the DNA chief-prosecutor Laura Kovesi accused Alexander Adamescu publicly of “evading justice” and clamoured for his arrest on national TV in March 2016. Her prosecutors secured a European Arrest Warrant in only half an hour in front of a Romanian judge.
The Council of Europe passed a motion for a resolution in January 2015 on “Alexander Adamescu and the abuse of the European Arrest Warrant” acknowledging that he “became a target after criticising Romania for the treatment of his father and bringing legal action against the country”. A Council of Europe source said: “The Adamescu case illustrates the failing penal and judicial system in Romania.”
Alexander Adamescu says: “My father was hunted down and executed by Romania. That was their reward for his contribution to the country’s development. Now my turn has come. Romania is using the same fabricated charges against me that it has deployed against my father. I have zero chances to get a fair trial. My conviction and imprisonment is a fait accompli. The EAW is abused in the most obvious manner.”
Asked whether the Jewish origin of his father was a factor in this case, he replied: ‘’Maybe. My father was vilified as a Shrek with a Jewish mug”.
In a Written Question to the European Commission in January 2017, MEP Hannu Takkula inquired about Alexander Adamescu’s European Arrest Warrant.European -Justice Commissioner Jourova acknowledged in her answer that “The Commission is aware that sometimes European arrest warrants (EAWs) are being used in a non-proportional manner”. But Romania seems ready to incur international opprobrium when it comes to the Adamescus. Faced with Romania’s continuous campaign, Alexander Adamescu’s lawyers launched arbitration against Romania at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2016 for the wilful destruction of Astra and the take-over of Romania Libera. In a landmark interim judgement in March 2017 the ICSID tribunal ordered Romania to withdraw Alexander Adamescu’s European arrest warrant to allow the arbitration to run its course. Again, Romania did not budge.
Alexander Adamescu comments: “Romania is on the one side refusing to acknowledge any political element in my prosecution, on the other hand it is choosing to break international law by not complying with the ICSID order. It is obvious that Romania does not abide by any law any more in our case. The unique goal is to put the last man standing in jail, crush him and cover up the truth.”
He concludes: “Romania is showing its true face by its behaviour. It is a murderous country without any rule of law. My life is in danger but I am determined to continue the fight to let the truth be known.”