A Romanian court has acquitted a former mayor of an onerous real estate deal involving a royal palace and a 1930s casino sold to a private company which cost the state millions of euros.
In 2018, a lower court sentenced Radu Mazare, the former mayor of Constanta, to six and a half years in prison for the 2004 real estate deal.
But the Constanta Appeal Court acquitted the former mayor on January 18 of underselling two lots of land where the casino and palace stand. They are both considered to be national heritage.
The palace and casino were built in the Black Sea upmarket resort of Mamaia during the reign of King Carol II.
Prosecutors say Mr Mazare sold land where the Queen Maria Palace stands for just 23.56 euros a meter, far less than 100 to 300 euros rate at the time. The transaction cost the state 1.1 million euros.
He was also convicted of selling land on which the casino stands for a considerably lower than market value, depriving the state of almost 3 million euros.
Both sales were to friends of the mayor, daily Adevarul reported. The land was later transferred to another company, controlled by the same person.
The ruling, which is final, has caused outrage among prosecutors and magistrates.
Former Justice Minister Ana Birchall on Monday appealed for a thorough inquiry into the verdict. „You can’t have one court handing a 6 1/2 year sentence and another court acquitting him,” she told Universul.net.
“Acquittals like these seriously affect the image of the justice system and (damage) Romanians’ confidence that laws are applied, which should be equal for everyone.”
She urged for judges suspected of corruption to be investigated. One of the judges who acquitted Mr Mazare built a house on land that the former mayor misappropriated and is now serving a prison sentence for, Ms Birchall told Universul. net.
Bogfdan Mateescu, who heads the Superior Council of Magistrates ordered a judicial inquiry after criticism about the ruling.
Radu Mazare, who was mayor from 2000 to 2015, is currently serving a nine-year sentence for the fraudulent return of property and is fighting other corruption cases. He fled to Madagascar but was repatriated in 2019. When Ms Birchall was minister
The Constanta chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Andrei Bodean, said the cases were lost and the land could now be sold.
The state has file a lawsuit to regain ownership pf the Queen Marie Palace which was built from 1924 to 1927 by Italian architect Mario Stoppa and decorated by Marie herself who was known for her love of interior design.
The palace was illegally expropriated from the state although it was put on the country’s national heritage list in 1992.