News 24 Mar 16

Romania Jails Ex-Minister Over Microsoft Licenses

A former minister and three others have been handed jail sentences for corruption in Romania in a case linked to Microsoft software licenses.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest
Ex-minister Gabriel Sandu is sentenced to jail for corruption linked to Microsoft licences | Photo: O. Micsik-Inquam Photos

Romania’s high court of cassation and justice on Thursday jailed the former telecommunications minister, Gabriel Sandu, for two years for money laundering, abuse of office and bribery involving the lease of Microsoft IT licenses for schools.

The ex-mayor of the eastern town of Piatra Neamt, Gheorghe Stefan, and two other businessmen who acted as middlemen also got jail terms of up to three years.

The four defendants have also to pay a total of almost 10 million euros in compensation. The Supreme Court’s sentence is not final.

At the start of the trial last October, the defendants admitted to charges of influence peddling in order to get their sentenceds reduced by a third.

They told the court how they used their influence to get the government to approve the purchase of the Microsoft license in 2009, and how they got fees from the people interested in having the contracts go through.

Sandu was accused of receiving 3 million euros and of asking for an additional 1.3 million euro in bribes to ensure he chose the company involved.

During the trial, he told the court that he was "the worst minister in Romania’s history”. He also said he gave away all the money he received to finance his Liberal Democratic Party and its election campaigns.

Prosecutors said there was manifest corruption in the contract worth 105 million US dollars, which was to supply Microsoft Office licenses to schools and other public institutions between 2004 and 2009.

They said officials embezzled the 47-per-cent discount on the price that Microsoft offered the Romanian government.

Officials involved also sought bribes in order to favour Fujitsu Siemens Computers in operating the contract, at a price that was overestimated by 40 per cent.

An investigation showed that out of the 54 million US dollars that the government paid under the licensing contract and its extension, commissions paid to public officials amounted to 20 million US dollars.

Prosecutors note that while Microsoft products are at the heart of the case, the company itself was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting corruption and organised crime since it joined the EU in 2007.

But in recent years, the number of high-ranking officials sentenced for graft has increased significantly.

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