Well as I wrote about on July 4, the current Minister of Transportation, Renu Fenechiu, was in serious jeopardy of going to jail for acts of corruption. Yesterday, to no one’s real surprise, the axe fell and he got sentenced to 5 years along with his brother Lucian (who also got 5 years) and three former directors of the state-run electrical company that all conspired together to defraud the people of Romania of some 1.5 million euros.
The only thing that surprised everyone was that Fenechiu never fell on his sword, resigning from his post before the court sentence and thus reducing the stigma of having a serving cabinet member convicted of a serious crime.
Fenechiu can still appeal the sentence, which is why he’s still walking around a free man, but he’s been dismissed from the government (although at the moment he’s still refusing to resign his position as a member of parliament).
I saw Ponta’s reaction to the sentence live on television yesterday and noticed an odd statement, which apparently no “mainstream” news source bothered to report on but some member of the internet with the nickname “Kokoshmare” (Big Rooster) caught it.
Ponta, speaking at an impromptu press conference in front of the French Embassy, said about Fenechiu:
…nu mai face parte din guvern, e o viata periculoasa…
My translation of which would be (Fenechiu) “won’t be part of the government anymore. What can I say? A politician’s life is a dangerous one.”
See? It’s not that a man committed an act of serious wrongdoing by criminally defrauding and ripping off the people of Romania, it’s that a politician’s life is “dangerous” because occasionally an annoying judge will convict you of something and interrupt all the fun you’re having.
DNA = Party Poopers Central
It reminds me of the extremely minor controversy (minor to the press, anyway) back in March when Fenechiu was talking about Adrian Nastase, who had just been released from jail after doing less than half of his sentence, convicted precisely for illegally raising funds for his (i.e. Nastase’s) election campaign, and Fenechiu said (in Romanian) something to the effect of “Nastase was convicted for something that lots of politicians do”.
Fenechiu then went on to say that it’s a regular practice for political parties to be financed both by “white” (legal) money as well as “black” (illegal sources of) money. Essentially, it’s “no big deal” because “everybody” is doing it.
After Fenechiu’s startlingly frank statements, Ponta himself was asked about it by reporters and he replied nu vreti sa fim mai putin ipocriti?, asking the press in other words “Why are you acting so shocked about this? Shouldn’t we be a little less hypocritical about the whole thing?”
Neither in March nor yesterday nor at any other time has Ponta or Crin Antonescu (who is head of the PNL, and Fenechiu being a long-time PNL member) ever apologized for Fenechiu’s statements or actions or even his criminal conviction. On the contrary! They’ve praised Fenechiu continuously, saying he was an “effective” minister who did a great job.
Golly, it’s just a shame that a pesky and bothersome court conviction had to get in the way of a good man doing his goshdarn best to make Romania a swell place. The bad news is that the court imposed a three-year ban on Fenechiu holding any kind of public office. The good news is that soon those three years will be up and he can get back in the game!
The other piece of good news is that while Ponta has temporarily installed himself as the interim Transportation Minister, the smart money is saying that Ovidiu Silaghi will be tapped for the position and luckily he’s corrupt as hell too so there won’t be too much of a hiccup in the smooth running of the government.