Merry Christmas, Mr. Prime Minister

Yesterday night, the press was ready. Camera crews and journalists circled the property, everyone ready to spring into action when they heard the shot go off.

Oh the weather outside is frightful
Oh the press camped outside is frightful

Last summer the comically tragic long-running drama called Politics in Romania was dominated by the story of the conviction of former strongman PSD party leader and ex-Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. Bam, they got him! A win for the good guys.

Or was it?

Following the announcement of Nastase’s conviction, a great number of people became interested in seeing a former big guy dragged off into jail, so the journalists surrounded his house. What they didn’t know was that inside that luxury apartment, Adrian Nastase was flipping out, having an intense mental breakdown, shouting and screaming at everyone who approached him.

Periodically peering out through a slit in the curtains, inside his penthouse apartment he was pacing back and forth, frantically dialing numbers on his mobile phone and reaching out to everyone he knew, trying to call in favors. The Interior Minister was an old friend but said that the most he could do was delay the police coming to his house for a few hours. No one else of repute would offer Adrian a helping hand and even Victor Ponta, his protege, his golden special boy, did nothing.

Then Adrian’s wife had an inspiration. By the time the handpicked cops had arrived, the scene was set. Adrian Nastase was lying on a sofa, an expensive Burberry scarf tied around his neck. Adrian had tried to kill himself! The wife told one of the cops that his role was to pretend to have rushed into the room and heroically stopped Adrian from blowing his brains out with a gun. The bullet had then unfortunately gone through Adrian’s neck and out near the base of his head.

An ambulance then sashayed onto the scene. Unfortunately for Mrs. Nastase’s plan, there was a slight gap between the roof of their garage and the ambulance doors. The press, alerted by the flashing lights of the ambulance, aimed their video cameras at that gap and got some very clear shots (and mediocre footage) of Nastase being wheeled into the ambulance.

The ambulance was then taken to a hospital clinic that was run by a doctor who was on very good terms with the Nastase family. This doctor was fairly well respected and so when he went along with the cover story of Adrian having a bullet wound, everyone believed it. Safe in the hospital ward, the jail sentence had effectively been delayed (since the prison hospital “couldn’t handle” someone with Nastase’s injuries).

Eventually though, Nastase toddled off to jail and then had his sentence commuted because under Romanian law geriatric inmates don’t have to serve out all of their time. So now he’s free. And last night the cameras were back, all channels enjoying holding a suicide vigil over the former Prime Minister because the court was going to render their verdict in the “Zambaccian Case” and he might be about to be dragged off to jail again.

Unfortunately for everyone outside the house, the court changed their minds at the last minute and said they’d render their verdict on January 6. This being Romania, the court of course did not really have to explain why they needed an extra two weeks to deliberate the matter. A relieved Nastase waddled down the stairs and gave an impromptu press conference, once again inveigling against the judges in this case and again reiterating his (and his wife’s) complete innocence.

Now that’s the drama part.

The comedy, however, lies in the details. The first hilarious aspect is that, of course, Adrian Nastase did not try to commit suicide. In fact, he never fired a gun at all. Nonetheless, all kinds of people in power averred to the “truth” of his suicide attempt, including Laura Codruta Kovesi. Yet when he finally got to prison he was treated for a small cut on the back of his neck and had no gunshot wounds anywhere.

The second part of the comedy is that Nastase is partly right about being unfairly found guilty. Although I’ve found a few spelling errors (and horrible typography) in his writings, Nastase is plenty verbose on his personal blog and goes into great details about his prosecution in the three major criminal cases he’s been involved with.

The one that sent him to jail last year was the “Quality Trophy” case and the one that had journalists outside of his house last night on suicide watch was the “Zambaccian Case”. A third one remains on the books, the “Aunt Matusa” case, which should lead to more hilarious drama in the future.

The flip side to prosecutorial incompetence (at best) is reading Nastase’s own defense. A hat tip to the reader who provided a link the other day to the “Quality Trophy” sentencing summary but I still stand by my position that the judicial process in Romania is painfully non-transparent. Usually we never get access to the “meat” of a trial, the arguments put forth by the lawyers and the testimony of the witnesses, but Adrian’s words on his blog give us unique insight.

One of the key issues in the “Zambaccian Case” is whether a former diplomat, Ioan Paun, was bribing Nastase to keep his (Paun’s) position as head of Romania’s mission to Hong Kong. Paun has already “auto-denuntat”, a hideously Communist term meaning “self-denounced”, in effect saying he’s guilty of related crimes and is now a prosecution witness against the Nastases.

Paun was using his consular rank to ship over lots of unspecified goods through diplomatic channels (i.e. avoiding normal customs duties and inspection) even though the goods were for his own personal use. Where this all gets hilarious is that when the Nastases (husband and wife) allegedly wanted to put a stop to this, Paun stated that he was “working undercover for certain institutions”, implying he was some sort of spy, and thus pressured the Nastaes into backing down.

Again, just like the Berbeceanu case, you find that prosecutorial incompetence (or malice) is being practiced concomitant with some rather bizarre legal defenses on the part of the accused. Nastase can both simultaneously be right that a shady character like Ioan Paun shouldn’t be able to testify against him (Nastase) while also revealing what a stupid fool he was, either buying the story that Paun was some undercover top secret spy or that such a flimsy excuse would cover Nastase’s actions if they were ever discovered in the future.

There are dozens more examples like this that painfully reveal that the criminally corrupt political class is only just a hair more incompetent than the supposedly impartial judicial organs that are tasked with prosecuting and convicting the offenders.

However as things stand now, the Nastase family can relax and enjoy their Christmas. And we, the poor regular folks of Romania, will just have to wait until 2014 to see how the next chapter of this crazy story evolves.

3 thoughts on “Merry Christmas, Mr. Prime Minister

  1. Matusa means Aunt, so I think you meant to say the Aunt Tamara or Matusa Tamara case, But I guess you only see typos in other people’s writing :) However, if you really want to be fair, you should mention that in the sentence for the trophy case – read out on public tv by the magistrate – it stated that although the prosecution DID NOT FIND SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEIR CLAIM OF THE CRIME IN QUESTION, the accused is hereby sentenced to 6 years in prison. That was what had people up in arms, that if a man as connected as Nastase can go to jail without there being sufficient evidence, what chance, if any, does the common man have. And now you know.


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