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OCCRP Weekly News Roundup

Friday, 22 June 2012 13:49
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Sentenced Former Romanian PM Attempts Suicide

Instead of facing the music, convicted former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase turned to the gun.

As reported Wednesday, the Romanian Supreme Court upheld a two year jail sentence for Nastase on charges of corruption.

Hours after the announcement, as police prepared to take Nastase into custody, he shot himself in the neck. He was rushed to the emergency room where he underwent surgery; he was in stable condition as of Thursday morning. According to Romanian news reports, no vital organs were damaged and, if the wound heals according to schedule, he can be released in two weeks. Nastase’s lawyers plan to ask for his imprisonment to be postponed.

In another victory for Romanian prosecutors, Sorin Ovidiu Vîntu, the former owner of Realitatea Media group, was sentenced Thursday to one year in prison on charges of blackmail. Vintu, along with an accomplice, blackmailed a colleague to pay either €150,000, end his business contract, or face harm to him, his family and his public image.

This is only Vintu’s latest set of problems, he has been under investigation before.


A Fledgling Olympic Scandal

Greece and Serbia are on the defensive after reporters from the Sunday Times went undercover to try and buy black market tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The investigation asserts that 27 officials representing tickets for 54 countries were willing to sell black market tickets at inflated prices.

The report included allegations that Spyros Capralos, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, said he had “pulled strings” with London’s organizing chairmen. The investigation also contained video footage in which agents from some countries, including Serbia, are shown trying to sell black market tickets.

Greek officials denied the report and called the video “untrue” and “misleading.” Serbian Olympic Committee Secretary General Djordje Visacki said he was “unpleasantly surprised” by the reports, which he said have no basis.

An International Olympic Committee investigation is underway.


And A Bigger Ukrainian Scandal

The guardian reports that officials from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) are under pressure to investigate allegations that Ukrainian officials stole $4 billion in funds intended for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.

The government of President Viktor Yanukovych cancelled competitive bids for Euro 2012 projects in 2010, and proceeded to hand out no-bid contracts to firms with direct or indirect connections to the government.

“Ukrainian taxpayers got pickpocketed by the Ukrainian leaders,” wrote Ostap Semerak, a Ukrainian Member of Parliament, in last week’s KyivPost.

He later added, “The scheme is very simple: the official and his chosen contractor agree to share the budget cash.”

“They cook up an overblown budget, and the contractor pays off a part of it back to the official as soon as he receives a transfer – usually in cash. Sources in such companies have said that this scheme allowed officials to receive (or, to put it bluntly, steal) between 30 to 40 percent of the state funds allocated for the tournament’s preparations.”


Finally, A Looming Russian-American Scandal

While the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Magnitsky bill a few weeks ago, a vote on a similar version of the bill in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been delayed due to Democratic Senator Jim Webb’s “concerns about some of the language in the current draft and has asked that the bill be held over so that he can more closely examine it,” according to his spokesman.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer imprisoned after accusing tax and police officials of perpetrating a tax fraud of more than US$200 million using the company he represented, only to have charges of tax evasion leveled back at him. He died in jail in 2009 under dubious circumstances. The Magnitsky bill would deny U.S. visas to Russian officials with ties to human rights abuses and freeze their assets.

However, the Senate version of the bill would keep some names of the abusers secret, to the chagrin of some legislatures, but most likely to the greater satisfaction of the Obama Administration, which opposes the law, and Russian officials who detest it.

Russian authorities have vowed retaliation if the bill is passed. On Sunday Bloomberg News reported that Russian authorities said that they had barred entry into Russia of 11 current and former US officials for human rights abuses connected with Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo bay,

Although the ban was already in place last year, the formal announcement is probably a small reminder of what is to come if the Magnitsky bill becomes US law.


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