Real estate mogul Puiu Popoviciu gets 7-year jail sentence for dodgy land deal

Ovidiu Posirca 02/08/2017 | 17:24

Romanian property investor Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu received a 7-year jail sentence in a case involving the transfer of 224 hectares of land for an undervalued value. The land was controlled by the state and was located in the northern part of Bucharest, which has developed at an impressive pace in the last decade.

Update: Popoviciu has not been jailed yet and the businessman has probably fled abroad, according to media reports. Authorities were set to issue an international search warrant for him, say sources quoted by the media.

Popoviciu has appeared on the most wanted list of the Romanian Police.

Anti-graft prosecutors had accused Popoviciu of complicity to abuse in office and bribery. His trial had started in 2012 and he was initially sentenced to 9 years in jail, a decision that was appealed.

In short, investigators said that Baneasa Investments, the firm owned by Popoviciu, entered in a deal with the University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV) through which the land was illegally transferred in the share capital of the private firm. The land transfer was made at a price of USD 1/hectare, while the market price in that area stood at EUR 150 per sqm. The transaction was carried out in the 2000-2004 period.

Profile: Puiu Popoviciu – one of Romania’s most discrete moguls

The land belonged to the former Baneasa farm and is located near the busy road DN 1, which links Bucharest and Ploiesti cities.

The loss for the state from this deal stood at around RON 335 million, while the for the university the total loss amounted to RON 619.4 million.

The rector of USAMV got a jail sentence of six years, while other public sector officials will spend less time in jail.

In late 2016, Popoviciu started to invest in a new residential project in the Barbu Vacarescu area, in the northern part of Bucharest. The businessman has investments in restaurants chains, hotels, malls and retail networks.

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