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The Popoviciu conundrum

Romanian justice is taken to task. Harshly.

There are of late new developments in the Popoviciu case mentioned at the end of my previous article about James Comey. I decided to amplify this story and bring it to the front. There’s an obvious connection here with my own situation through Mr. Popoviciu’s attorney, Louis J. Freeh, the fifth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (James Comey was the seventh with Robert S Mueller III sandwiched in between).

As noted by the press, in early August, Gabriel Popoviciu, one of the owners of the Baneasa Shopping City mall in Northern Bucharest, was sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison, no parole, in a fraud and corruption case over how he received a 550 acres parcel of land on which he built the mall together with the headquarters for Ikea and other major international companies, all nestled between other office or residential buildings located north of the city.

Included on an internationally wanted list, after the Bucharest Court of Appeal issued a European arrest warrant on his name, Popoviciu was detained in London on Monday, August 14. His lawyer, Louis Freeh accompanied him to the police headquarters and secured his release on bail.

Louis Freeh’s list of clients reads as an extended Who’s Who:  Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan (the Al-Yamamah arms deal), Nasser Kazemuny of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), the FIFA Ethics Committee (the Jack Warner bribery scandal) and many other well-known names of individuals and organizations. All had retained the former FBI director to conduct a truly independent inquiry into a given set of facts, blazing a path his successor at the FBI helm, Robert Mueller, had undertaken for his clients as well (among others, the NFL: the Ray Rice case; Deflategate and Tom Brady).

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Louis J. Freeh is himself a well-known figure of international stature, and not only for his FBI directorship. He has served in the Southern District of New York (exactly as Mr Comey did afterwards), first as an Assistant United States Attorney, then and as a United States District Judge. He is now the Senior Managing Partner of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP and the Chairman of Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC.

In November 2011, Louis J. Freeh was hired by Penn State University to conduct an investigation and file a report on the school’s response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The Freeh Report, which blamed senior Penn State leaders for not being responsive to the scandal involving former Penn State coach Joe Paterno and his assistant, Jerry Sandusky, was in itself controversial, especially as the main client wasn’t pleased with the results, and only grudgingly had decided to accept them.

In August 2012, Freeh, 67, joined the 500-lawyer Philadelphia-based firm Pepper Hamilton, became its chairman in 2013, but the Jerry Sandusky controversy spilled over to his time at his new firm, as Pepper Hamilton itself became a part, due to discovery disputes in a lawsuit filed by the family of coach Joe Paterno against the NCAA.

In the aftermath, Louis J. Freeh stepped down as Pepper Hamilton chairman and left a little more than a year later to re-form Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan. His reputation as someone not afraid to ruffle feathers with the results of his investigations has remained high and his firm seems nimbler as a 12-man team.

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On Aug. 8, 2017, Louis J. Freeh issued a statement about his involvement in the Popoviciu case. His comprehensive reading of Romania’s High Court of Cassation and Justice (HCCJ) brand of judicial practices, „not supported by either the facts or the law,” made headlines in all the major newspapers in both Romania and the Republic of Moldova.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Freeh’s statement applies as well to my own situation, practically word for word.

Even if disregarding that, two months ago, the HCCJ had finally cleared me (they hadn’t even tried to depose me to hear my side of the story and used only hearsay from „concerned citizens”), but what about the 14 years of meaningless investigation? On charges (if one could call them charges, the HCCJ uses the term Reasonable Suspicion, although no RS can survive a decade a failing to prove anything, reasonable or not), on charges, I insist, no one sane being would ever produce.

In 2014, then premier Victor Ponta discussed my case on Romania TV in a highly orchestrated pre-presidential election interview. I was presented then as being African-American, a „negro” and therefore not really a Romanian.

In 2015, top HCCJ prosecutor Anca-Mihaela Țilimpea asserted I must have entered the country illegally in 1990, because my Romanian passport had been issued a month after the date of that entry.

So what? I had been properly recorded at the border using my US passport and I did register at the US Embassy on arrival to Bucharest. Seems Mrs. Țilimpea did not believe that people can hold dual citizenship.

In 2003, the same US embassy issued me an affidavit of identity, exactly because the Romanian police had started to call me an impostor. Then in May 2017, a subservient press announces the sudden end of the „Jordan” investigation, that its other target, ex-president Basescu „can finally breathe easier” and that we’ve been both spared by the HCCJ from further questioning. I was never questioned to start with. So, why did the HCCJ spare me?

Maybe the HCCJ spared me because I don’t own a shopping mall?

I need to know.

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WILMINGTON, Del., /PRNewswire/

“I am deeply disappointed in the recent decision of Romania’s High Court of Cassation and Justice to affirm the criminal conviction of Romanian businessman, Gabriel Popoviciu, and sentence him to seven years in prison. This sentence and conviction are not supported by either the facts or the law. In July 2016, I was retained to conduct an independent review of Mr. Popoviciu’s conviction before the Romanian Court of Appeals.  I conducted that review with the assistance of a team of experienced former federal prosecutors and former FBI Special Agents, one of whom speaks Romanian fluently.

Our team thoroughly reviewed the evidence presented against Mr. Popoviciu at trial, including documentary evidence and surreptitious tape-recordings of his conversations.  That review documented numerous factual and legal deficiencies in the case against Mr. Popoviciu. For example, the prosecution’s main witness, who repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to make Mr. Popoviciu incriminate himself using secret recordings, admitted in court that he was not bribed by Mr. Popoviciu — with the alleged bribe including two bottles of liquor and corporate promotional materials (such as a pen, notebook, and calendars). The former Minister of Education, as well as other witnesses, testified that the Baneasa land parcel was never a publicly owned asset and therefore cannot support the legal charge of abuse of position. Many other serious factual and legal deficiencies, inconsistent with fundamental principles of the rule of law, were also highlighted in my report. I am hopeful that courts and reviewing authorities will review this case and decide that justice and the rule of law demand another result.”

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I only hope that one day my case would finally receive a similarly thorough review. Compared to the Penn State brass, Mr. Freeh and his team can be sure that I would never ever complain regardless of the results.

 

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