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USL to set up investigation committee over property restitution fraud suspicions

romaniantimes.at

Liberal leader and co-president of the Opposition Social Liberal Union (USL) Crin Antonescu announced today (Tues) that the Opposition will ask for the set up a senatorial inquiry commission over the way in which the restitution of properties confiscated by the communists, had been handled since 2009, local press informs.

USL is close to getting the Majority of seats in the Senate, after several members of the parliament (MPs) resigned from their parliamentary parties and joined the Opposition last week.

Antonescu deems illegal and unfair the decision of the Cabinet to limit the damages paid to former owners to 15 percent of their initial value.

He told a press conference today that there are major fraud suspicions over the activity of the Agency for the Restitution of Properties (ANRP) and the Parliament who has the overseeing role over all government institutions, according to the Constitution, has the duty to check into the legality of this agency in particular.

The co-president of USL, Social democrat leader Victor Ponta said that according to the information he recently got,  ANRP paid some 800 million Euros in the past three years for consultancy services to some shabby companies in Bistrita and Cluj (West), while no properties have been given back to former owner nor damages had been paid either.

"There are three Senators of the Majority who are as terrified as the Opposition over the massive frauds at the Property Restitution Agency", Ponta said.

Earlier today, the Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu was summoned by the government coalition parties to talks over the new properties restitution law.

Last week, the cabinet informed it did not have the necessary funds to compensate all the former owners. According to a new draft law, the former owners will get only 15 per cent of the value of their lost properties and in a period of time spanning from 10 to 12 years.

By limiting the value of the compensation payments, the government wants to avoid sanctions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Romania has to solve the restitution of properties confiscated by the Communists (1946 – 1989) by July. ECHR in Strasbourg has notified the authorities that if they do not observe the deadline, they will have to apply sanctions.

Romania ranks first among the member countries of the Council of Europe (CoE) which do not respect the property rights. Romania risks to be ousted from CoE, an international body of 47 European states.

So far, Romania has solved only about 11 per cent of all restitution claims, whilst many properties have been illegally given back to people who forged the ownership documents or the inheritance papers.

A recent audit revealed that illegal payments worth hundreds of millions of Euros have been made to fake owners in the past years while the files of real owners dispossessed by the Communists have been abandoned in the archives of the Property Restitution Agency.

The audit revealed that 80 per cent of the payments representing financial compensation, the so-called owners did not have the inheritance documents and that there were over 21,000 files still unsolved.

Mid-March, the PM had decided to suspend the payments for the next six months and had notified the Prosecutor’s Office as well.

The amount of financial compensation Romania has to pay to former owners totals 16 billion Euros, according to Finance Minister Bogdan Dragoi.




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