The Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) requested permits to start prosecution against Economy minister Varujan Vosganian and former minister Adriean Videanu, accusing them of providing cheap gas supply contracts to Interagro, the agri-business group, controlled by Romanian billionaire Ioan Niculae.
Prosecutors claim that Vosganian and Videanu pushed in government orders that saw Romgaz, the state-owned gas producer, supply heavily discounted gas to indebted Interagro. The DIICOT said the operations took place between 2006 and 2010, causing a loss of USD 130 million to the state.
“According to the report of DIICOT prosecutors there is the reasonable suspicion that the criminal group co-opted Varujan Vosganian, Economy minister between December 2006 – December 2008 and Videanu Adriean, Economy minister between December 2008 – September 2010, which supported the crime group initiated, set up and coordinated by Ioan Niculae, with the purpose of undermining the national economy,” said the DIICOT in a statement.
Romgaz supplied domestic gas – which is four times cheaper than imported Russian gas – worth USD 500 million, out of which USD 92 million were illegal discounts.
Prosecutors argue that Romania’s energy security was put on the line because of the ministers’ decision to funnel gas to the five fertilizer plants controlled by Niculae. In this way, Romgaz was turned into a gas supplier for a “private specialized client.”
The DIICOT will notify the Senate for starting prosecution against Vosganian for “plot and undermining of the national economy”. A request will be forwarded to the Romanian President in the case of Videanu, who faces similar accusations.
Niculae tops Forbes 2012 billionaire’s list with an estimated fortune of between EUR 1 to EUR 1.1 billion.
The InterAgro group comprises fertilizer plants, hotels, vegetable oil processing plants, meat and bakery factories. It reported profits of EUR 36 million and a turnover of EUR 1 billion in 2011.