The Bucharest Court of Appeal (CAB) suspended – on Friday, May 26, 2023 – the 7-year prison sentence received by Gabriel „Puiu” Popoviciu in the „Băneasa” case, and the trial will be re-judged from scratch. Gandul exclusively obtained the first reaction of the businessman, who stated that he hopes for a fair judgment.
Gabriel „Puiu” Popoviciu was definitively sentenced by the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ÎCCJ), on August 2, 2017, to 7 years in prison, in the „Băneasa Farm” file..
The businessman was put under international investigation after he left Romania, on August 3, arriving in Great Britain, and later his extradition was requested, only that the justice in the United Kingdom rejected – in 2021 – this request (all the details HERE).
Exclusively for Gândul, the businessman Puiu Popoviciu declared that this decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeal basically means a „normalcy” that he has been wanting for several years when he was the victim of „judicial abuses”.
The referral of the case for retrial leads Puiu Popoviciu to hope for a „fair, just trial”, as he insists that the corruption charge against him is unfounded.
” I would have a lot to say after so many years of judicial abuses… I hope to finally have a fair, just, and correct judgement, that’s all. I loved and respected my country unconditionally, even when I was in antagonistic positions due to judicial abuses and injustices. By all means I have continued, even in recent years, to help create a better image of the country where I was born and educated.
I was accused of corruption, but the anti-corruption commissioner declared before the court that he did not receive anything from me, neither directly nor indirectly, it states very clearly. Another claimant in revision on this file, another officer involved in my case, is the one who gave that bag of proportional materials, which was not from me. In the case of his review, the judge of the Court of Appeal clearly said that that bag is not from me, but from him, I did not even know of the existence of that man, at that time.
All I want is normalcy””, declared businessman Puiu Popovici, exclusively for Gândul.
On November 27, 2014, Ion Motoc, judicial police officer within the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) – the one mentioned by the businessman in the statement provided exclusively for Gândul – admitted in his witness statement that the businessman Puiu Popoviciu did not bribe him.
„Popoviciu never offered me a bribe, directly or indirectly”, declared Ion Motoc in 2014.
Inaugurated in April 2008, the commercial centre Băneasa Shopping City recorded the largest initial investment in the retail sector in Romania, with a value of approximately 150 million euros.
The Băneasa shopping center was developed by the businessman Puiu Popoviciu – together with another Romanian businessman – following a total investment of 256 million euros – the commercial area, the residential area and the office area. The development continued with the addition of the Digiplex Grand Cinema and others, an investment of around €15 million.
Băneasa Developments, the operator of the largest shopping center in the Capital – the Băneasa Shopping City mall and related shopping galleries – paid salaries, taxes and related taxes of almost 1.5 billion euros to the state budget, in the period 2005-2021, according to a study on the company’s impact on the economy, carried out by KPMG Advisory.
The net salaries, taxes and related contributions resulting from the effect induced by the development of the commercial, office and residential project on the Baneasa platform are 1.46 billion euros ($1.79 billion).
The Băneasa Developments company manages the Băneasa Shopping City mall, as well as office and residential buildings in the Northern area of the Capital. According to the study, Băneasa Residential is the area with the largest surface allocated per apartment in the North of Bucharest.
Gândul presents, exclusively, extracts from the CAB’s reasoning following which the 7-year sentence that businessman Puiu Popoviciu received in the „Băneasa” case was suspended.
The court admitted the revision request made by Puiu Popoviciu against the sentence of the CAB sentence from 2016, which remained final at the High Court in 2017.
” The Court notes that in order to retain the incidence of the review case provided for by article 453 paragraph (1) letter a) Code of civil criminal procedure („facts or circumstances were discovered that were not known when the case was settled and that prove the unfoundedness of the decision pronounced in the case”), it is necessary that the new facts or circumstances invoked were not known by the court at trial of the case, and these lead to the proof of the groundlessness of the contested conviction.
It is not possible to reinterpret the evidence administered in the case or to supplement the evidence on factual aspects considered by the court or courts that tried the case, as the law refers to new situations, in the sense that, for various reasons, they remained unknown to the trial court, and not to means of evidence, as a way of supplementing the evidence on circumstances already considered and verified”, the reasoning of the Bucharest Court of Appeal states.
“With regard to the offence of complicity in abuse of official authority, the Court holds that the documents referred to by the defence and discovered after the judgment of conviction has become final constitute new facts or circumstances which were not known when the case was decided, such as to prove the unfoundedness of the judgment of conviction.”
Extract from the motivation of the Court of Appeal Bucharest – May 26, 2023
With regard to the offence of bribery, businessman Puiu Popoviciu pointed out that „new facts and circumstances concerning both activities considered to be part of the offence of bribery, developed below, pre-existing the judgment under appeal and proving the unfoundedness of the judgment handed down”, were not known when the case was decided.
Thus, „regarding the activity from 24.12. 2008, i.e. the delivery by the defendant Pitcovici Petru Daniel to the delegated judicial police officer Motoc Ion (complaining witness) of bottles of alcoholic beverages (palinca and whisky) and holiday promotional materials (diaries, calendars, pens, cap, t-shirt) with the aim of making superficial inquiries leading to a decision not to prosecute, Puiu Popoviciu requested that it be established that he had been convicted of that offence, retaining against him the form of perpetrator, while the activity of Pitcovici Petru Daniel was qualified as complicity”, the CAB’s reasoning states.
This implies that Puiu Popoviciu – on the one hand – would have known about the remittance of these goods, and on the other hand would have had the representation that the purpose of offering/remitting these goods was for Motoc Ion to exercise in some way his duties in relation to case 206/P/2006.
“In reality, however, the claimant in revision Popoviciu Gabriel Aurel was neither aware of the fact of the remittance of these assets nor did he have the representation of the corrupt nature of the remittance of the assets by Pitcovici Petru Daniel, aspect retained in the contents of the criminal sentence no. 118/F/l 1.06.2021 of the Bucharest Court of Appeal – Criminal Section I, pronounced in file no. 5476/2/2020* ANNEX9, respectively of the final criminal decision no.291A/02.12.2021 of the Court of Cassation of Justice pronounced in the case no. 1999/1/2021 concerning the request for revision of the defendant Pitcovici Petru Daniel against the same sentence.
The new circumstance that the Bucharest Court of Appeal, respectively the High Court of Cassation and Justice (on the resolution of the request for review of the defendant Pitcovici Petru Daniel) brings into discussion is that, in reality, Pitcovici Petru Daniel is the one who gave these assets the destination desired by him, under the conditions in which these goods came from other people.
In such a situation, it was held without any doubt and with res judicata that he was not the one who determined the bribe destination of the goods handed over by Pitcovici to Motoc on 24.12.2008, this being the exclusive and personal decision/contribution of the said Pitcovici Petru Daniel”, as specified in the reasoning of the Bucharest Court of Appeal.
The rules of fair trial require that the defence of businessman Gabriel Popoviciu be given the opportunity to fight the plausibility of the charges against him, given the existence of the aforementioned documents which constitute new circumstances in relation to the previous trial and which may place him outside the criminal activity, it was also stated in the CAB reasoning.
“By reference to the elements of novelty mentioned and analysed above, invoked by the petitioner POPOVICIU GABRIEL AUREL, they are in the Court’s opinion likely to lead to the conclusion that the conditions imposed by the provisions of article 459 paragraph (3) Criminal civil procedure code, the request for review being formulated within the deadline and by a part of the process, the request complies with the provisions of article 456 paragraphs (2) and (3) Criminal civil procedure code, the incidental legal basis was invoked, the facts and means of proof supporting the request were not presented in a previous request for review, and the facts invoked lead to the establishment of the existence of the legal basis, in which sense it appreciates that the request for review is admissible in principle.
At the same time, the Court notes that the two offences for which the claimant in revision was prosecuted and convicted are closely and inextricably linked, so that the request for review for both offences for which the petitioner was convicted must be admitted in principle. The Court notes that the law must be interpreted in its positive sense, generating legal effects, as it is necessary that the legal ways of interpreting a legal norm take into account not only the letter, but the spirit of the law, so that the result of the practical application of the legal norm is as close as possible to the purpose pursued by the legislator.
Therefore, considering the arguments above, based on art. 459 paragraph 7 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in conjunction with art. 453 paragraph 1 letter a of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it will in principle admit the request for revision made by the petitioner-convict POPOVICIU GABRIEL AUREL against penal sentence no. 115/F/23.06.2016 pronounced by the Bucharest Court of Appeal – Criminal Section I in file no. 9577/2/2012 final by presidential decree no. 266/A/02.08.2017 of the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
It will order the retrial of the case on the merits and on the basis of article 43 paragraph 1 corroborated with art 26 Criminal Procedure Code sends the case to C 4 panel of the Criminal Section I of the Bucharest Court of Appeal in order to discuss the reunification of the criminal side with the civil side of the file 46/1/2020 with a deadline of 30.06. 2023. The Court has in mind the decision to refer the case to the C4 panel of the Criminal Section I of the Bucharest Court of Appeal, given that the criminal sentence on the merits itself ordered the separation of the civil side, thus constituting the criminal case at the level of this section under no.46/1/2020″, it is also stated in the CAB’s reasoning from which Gândul has presented exclusive excerpts.
The businessman Puiu Popoviciu stated, in his defence, that all these „problematic aspects regarding his conviction” are corroborated with an unprecedented decision pronounced by The High Court of Justice in Great Britain, which, on 11.06.2021, refused to execute the European arrest warrant issued in Romania on his name.
Gabriel Popoviciu assessed „that it is particularly relevant that, in addition to the novelty of the decision itself for the British justice, the judges found that he suffered in Romania a violation of his right to a fair trial and a flagrant denial of justice”, it is also stated in the reasoning of the CAB.
“Thus, the claimant in revision considered that these considerations, although they relate only to a certain aspect of the case in which Mr Popoviciu Aurel Gabriel was convicted (invoked before the British courts), are all the more relevant since the elements set out above highlight reasonable suspicions as to the existence of the facts themselves, which the Romanian courts have described as constituting the offence of bribery.
In view of the arguments set out above, and considering the grounds put forward to be well founded, the claimant in revision Popoviciu Gabriel requested that the present application for review be admitted in principle, that the criminal sentence number 115/F of 23.06.2016, final by criminal decision number 266/02.08.2017 of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, be annulled in part with regard to the decision to convict him for the offences of complicity in abuse of office in a qualified form, namely bribery, and that the case which was the subject of file No 9577/2/2012 be retried.
Also, pursuant to art. 460 para. (1) Criminal Procedure Code, the claimant in revision requested that, along with the admission in principle of the present request for review, the suspension of the execution of the criminal sentence no. 115 of 23.06.2016, pronounced by the Bucharest Court of Appeal – Criminal Section I, definitive by criminal decision no. 266/A/02.08.2017, pronounced by the High Court of Cassation and Justice – Criminal Section in file no. 9577/2/2012, noting that its execution „would produce irreparable negative effects as far as I am concerned, as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom granted the Romanian Government permission to challenge the decision of the High Court of Justice – the Queen’s Court (High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court”, Divisional Court) of 11.06.2021 by which the request for extradition to Romania was rejected, the settlement term to be set in 2023″, it was also mentioned in the reasons of the CAB dated 26 May 2023 , from which Gândul presented exclusive extracts.