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News 18 Apr 17

Romania Seeks Extradition of Former MP Arrested in Serbia

Romania's Ministry of Justice will request the extradition from Serbia of former MP and businessman Sebastian Ghita, a fugitive wanted in five different graft cases. 

Ana Maria Touma
Former MP Sebastian Ghita has been arrested in Belgrade after police found him with fake Slovenian identity documents. Photo: Octav Ganea - Inquam Photos

Bucharest will ask Serbia in the coming days to extradite former MP Sebastian Ghita, who is wanted in Romania on several corruption charges.

Ghita, 38, was detained in Belgrade last Thursday night after identifying himself to police with fake Slovenian documents.

He was arrested after Serbian police thought it strange a “Slovenian” was speaking only in English.

The Serbian Supreme Court issued a 60-day detention order to give Bucharest the time to go through extradition procedures, according to the Romanian police.

The former MP had been on the run for four months after vanishing last December from Bucharest while under court supervision.

But on Tuesday at noon, the Romanian Ministry of Justice was still waiting for a court to rule that extradition from Serbia was possible since Romania and Serbia have no bilateral extradition agreement.

However, they both signed the European convention on extradition in 1957.

Ghita, a former Social Democrat Party MP and financier, made hundreds of millions of euros from IT contracts with the government, as well as owning Romania’s most successful basketball team and a news television channel.

During his term in the Chamber of Deputies, from 2012 to 2016, he headed the commission that supervises the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service, SRI.

He faces five corruption investigations as well as two international and domestic arrest warrants after the National Anticorruption Directorate, DNA, launched probes into allegations he courted bribes in return for state contracts and illegally funded former Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s 2014 presidential campaign.

Ghita vanished while under court supervision on December 19, 2016, after the SRI’s end-of-the-year reception, and spent four months on the run in several European countries, including Serbia.

Many in Bucharest wonder what revelations Ghita could divulge on his return.

While on the run, he released seven video recordings revealing close relations with SRI deputy director General-Lieutenant Florian Coldea, including private parties and vacations in the Seychelles and Paris.

Coldea resigned from his post after Ghita’s revelations.

The fugitive also claimed in his videos that the DNA was colluding with the to fabricate cases against particular politicians and businessmen.

Meanwhile, Ghita is facing charges in Serbia of using false ID, which carries a potential jail term of between six months and three years.

His extradition depends on a whether a Serbian judge decides to pursue that case, or opts to let him be extradited to Romania. 

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