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News 03 Jan 18

Romania Seeks Ex-Mayor's Extradition From Madagascar

Romania on Wednesday said it had begun extradition procedures for Radu Mazare, the former mayor of Constanta, after he skipped meetings with his parole officer and went to Madagascar.

Ana Maria Luca
BIRN
Bucharest
Radu Mazare. Photo: Dan Avraham/Wikimedia commons.

Romanian prosecutors are set to start the extradition procedure for a former mayor sentenced for graft who skipped his police check-in on December 30 and left instead for Madagascar.

Radu Mazare, former mayor of the Black Sea port of Constanta, was given a suspended sentence in the middle of last year of four years for selling dozens of kilometers of public beaches to various business people. It was deemed Romania’s longest corruption trial, after it lasted nine years.

According to the prosecutors, the damages amounted to about 114 million euros. Another 36 people, businessmen and former public officials, were indicted in the same case.

Mazare appealed the sentence, and was placed under court supervision during the appeal; once a week, he was obliged to check in with his parole officer.

However, on December 30, he missed the appointment. When the police called, he revealed that he was in Madagascar, where he was planning to apply for political asylum.

Anti-graft prosecutors filed a request for Mazare’s arrest.

Mazare’s lawyer, Tiberiu Barbacioru, on Sunday said that Mazare’s presence was not necessary for the appeal, so he believes the court will reject the prosecutors’ request.

“Mazare has been investigated, was present at hearings, submitted all the evidence, and most of the evidence was admitted. His presence in person cannot be of any help to expediting the trial,” the lawyer said.

Mazare  said in an open letter sent to Romanian journalist Victor Ciutacu, a friend, that he feels he is a victim of political interests.

“The way the Romanian state … is abusively investigating me proves that I am still a political target for the 'parallel state,'” Mazare said in the email.

Mazare is one of Romania’s richest politicians with a wealth estimated to be worth 8 billion euros. He owns a surfing resort in Madagascar, where he made a deal with a local tribe that granted him the land for 99 years for 1 euro per square metre, according to his public statement of wealth.

A former journalist who founded several regional publications, Mazare was first elected Mayor of Constanta in 2000 as an independent, but joined the Social Democratic Party, PSD, in 2003 and was re-elected with a comfortable majority in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

He resigned in 2015 following accusations of corruption, saying he was under unbearable stress because of “politically motivated investigations”.

He was nicknamed a “local baron”, a nickname given by the media to several rich PSD members who controlled the public administration in different regions of Romania.

His assets were frozen in 2014 during a corruption investigation. In 2015, he was also indicted for under-valuing the sale price of the Constanta Casino, designated a historical monument.

Mazare is also known for his strange outfits and gaffes. In 2009, he featured on front pages after showing up at a fashion show wearing a Nazi Wehrmacht uniform together with his son, who was also in Nazi uniform.

He explained that he "always liked this uniform and admired the rigorous organization of the German army".

Two days later, he issued an apology to Jewish organisations, declaring that in wearing the uniform he had only wanted to pay homage to Claus von Stauffenberg, a leading member of the failed plot to kill Adolf Hitler during World War II.

The former mayor also lost a libel lawsuit against a survivor of the 1989 revolution who he called a beggar and he caused further uproar when he admitted his bodyguards beat up a Tunisian football player in August 2013.

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