Prosecutors of the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) have detained three of the Romanian citizens who were featured in Sky News’ feature report on gun trafficking shot in Romania. They were put under criminal investigation under three charges.
The three are Aurelian Mihai Szanto, who acted as fixer, and Attila Csaba Pantics and Levente Pantics, who were featured in the video. This is the second time the prosecutors call the men involved in the Sky News scandal to the DIICOT headquarters for hearings. The first to be heard and detained was Attila Csaba Pantics, whose lawyer spoke to the press upon exiting the DIICOT headquarters. “All defendants were heard again, and the detainment measure was taken against my client, Pantics Atilla Szaba, and tomorrow morning it will be decided if the court will also be notified,” Marcel Vrabie said on Thursday evening. For now, he is the only one detained in this case, but I suppose the others will be detained as well. There are three charges: setting up an organized crime ring, violation of the arms and ammunitions regulations and communication of false information,” the lawyer said upon exiting the DIICOT premises. The charges were extended to the other two, and the three men were detained for 24 hours.
According to a DIICOT statement, the prosecutors will investigate the three under a new chapter, that of crimes against national security by communicating false information under Art. 404 of Romania’s Criminal Code, which, under the headline “Communication of false information” states that “Communicating or disseminating, by any means, false news, data or information, or counterfeit documents, knowing that the respective information is false and thus endangering national security, carries a prison sentence of one to five years.”
According to DIICOT prosecutors, the feature report was staged. “The inquiry also showed that, in fact, the so-called journalistic investigation was not based on facts and real circumstances, but was created at the initiative of the journalists, with false information and data being presented as true. Thus, our information revealed that at the beginning of July 2016, defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai, a Romanian citizen who resided in the United Kingdom for several years, was contacted by phone by a British journalist he had met previously, who proposed he work as a translator for the British TV station. The journalist told him that he intends to shoot a documentary on arms dealers and asked him to find individuals willing to present firearms. Although defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai told him he is not able to present military-grade firearms, only hunting weapons legally owned by a friend of his in Romania, the said journalist agreed. Under such circumstances, defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai made contact with his friend, defendant Pantics Attila-Csaba, who agreed to the request, with the presentation to be made together with his cousin, Pantics Levente,” a statement by the DIICOT shows. The investigation had pointed out that the arms were lawfully owned and used for hunting.
DIICOT prosecutors also announced the British journalists who traveled to Romania to shoot the Sky News feature will be brought in for hearings.