Laurentiu Baranga was appointed head of Romania’s office for money laundering in early September.
To all appearances, the appointment was merely the latest career advancement for the quietly-spoken man from a city in central Romania.
Prior to his latest job, he worked at the National Registry Office for Classified Information which also holds NATO secrets, but there were conflicting reports about how senior his position was.
But in the last few days, the money laundering chief’s stellar career built on top educational qualifications has come crashing down after police say the 53-year-old official didn’t even finish high school.
Mr. Baranga was put under house arrest Sunday amid an investigation over his high school diploma, master’s degree and doctorate and other qualifications and submitting fraudulent diplomas to obtain senior positions in public administration he wasn’t qualified for.
The official was known as a quiet and discreet operator who would slip into the conversation that he was a rare example of someone who had enjoyed success both in the business and academic world.
He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and moved in influential circles, dabbling in politics in 2012, joining a small party founded by former Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, and later moving on to other parties.
But there were things in his five-page resume that didn’t add up.
For a start, he didn’t appear to have been employed anywhere before the age of 41, although it has now been revealed he dropped out of school in 1984 and trained to be a machine tool operator, a detail missing from his CV.
Another odd aspect is that Mr. Baranga finished high school at the age of 32, significantly later than most Romanian students before going on to hold some of the most important posts in public office.
Journalists in the central city of Ramnicu Valcea where he comes from began to dig into his past in September after his promotion to money laundering chief. They discovered he completed 10 classes and then qualified as a machine tool operator in 1980s communist Romania and worked at a factory in Babeni, central Romania.
Interestingly, he obtained his doctorate in 2009, the same year that hundreds of people who were appointed to important positions, including in Parliament and local administration, were fraudulently awarded 15,000 false educational qualifications, according to an investigation.
He studied at several universities and acquired an array of qualifications in management, security, and good governance, according to his resume.
But Romanian investigators say his high school diploma allegedly from a Bucharest school was a forgery and he never attended courses. They said the actual diploma was filled out by a university rector.
“We would like to point out that on the basis of false qualifications, the person under investigation had an important post in a public institution, and was active in higher education and currently holds high public office,” police said.
Police said the damages resulting from false qualifications was at least 640,000 lei (one euro=4.87 lei), money he earned for public jobs he was no qualified for.
On Sunday, Simona Caraiani, the spokeswoman for the National Registry Office for Classified Information said Laurentiu Baranga had last been employed there in 2016. She said he had never served as the deputy chairman and the institution was cooperating with authorities.
Even if he really did obtain later qualifications, he will be stripped of them over his false high school diploma.
On Thursday, the game appeared to be up. He resigned as head of the National Office for Combating and the Prevention of Money Laundering, a job Prime Minister Ludovic Orban appointed him to on September 5.
Mr. Orban said he’d demanded his resignation. “I had his resignation on the table. He’s resigned and is no longer,” in the post he said, adding that he had passed the selection process for the job.
On Sunday, 11 October 2020, a court ruled he should be placed under 30 days house arrest pending the investigation.