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News 19 May 17

Romanian Mayor Awaits Sentence in Longest Corruption Trial

The nine-year-long trial of a flamboyant former mayor and 36 businessmen and public employees charged with corruption, abuse of public service, forgery and complicity in illegal sales of beaches has reached a close. 

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Mayor of Constanta, Radu Mazare, at a Social Democrat Party youth event. Photo:PSD/Wikimedia. 

The Bucharest Appeal Court was set to issue a sentence on Friday in Romania’s longest-ever corruption trial that has lasted nine years and counted over 100 hearings. But the court postponed the decision until May 31.

Radu Mazare, 48, former Mayor of the port of Constanta and one of Romania’s richest politicians, together with 36 businessmen, lawyers and employees of the City Hall, were indicted in 2008 for the illegal sale of state-owned land along the coast and of public beaches. 

The sentence has already been postponed three times with Mazare stating that he is innocent, must be acquitted and that he doesn’t even understand the accusations.

A former journalist who founded several regional publications, Mazare is one of the most controversial politicians in Romania. He was first elected Mayor of Constanta in 2000 as an independent, but joined the Social Democrat 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.

Romania's National Integrity Agency, ANI, filed a request at the Supreme Court to investigate Mazare’s entire assets after inspectors said they suspected he had hidden sums of money and that some of his income was illegal. Mazare’s wealth was then estimated at 8 billion euros, with numerous properties and hotels on the seaside but also a hotel in Madagascar.

His assets were frozen in 2014 during the corruption investigation. In 2015, Mazare 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 made it to the international 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.

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