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Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Room 212/210 of the Senate Visitor Center in Washington DC, the US Helsinki Commission held hearings on the Romanian Anti-Corruption Process. The list of invited witnesses scheduled to speak that day was of the first order of magnitude and it reads as follows:
* Ambassador Mark Gitenstein, Special Counsel, Mayer Brown Law Firm; Member Board of Nominees at Fondul Proprietatea SA, Romania
* Heather Conley, Senior Vice President CSIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies, director for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic
* David Clark, Foreign Policy Commentator and Consultant; Founder and editor of Shifting Grounds, ex-special adviser UK Foreign Office
* Philip Stephenson, Chairman, Freedom Capital, ex-deputy CEO Rompetrol, owner of Phil’s Texas Barbecue — south of Interstate 10 on Heights Blvd.

I was not invited.

Beyond the reasonable question of who am I to have been invited to the forum in the first place, let’s get a rundown of the four invited guests’ qualifications as opposed to mine. They all belong to a club in which I have absolutely no chance to join, yet, in this particular case, the club should represent not only its members, but, even more so, here on US soil, the American citizens fallen victim to the institutionalized corruption in Romania, and, definitely, I am one of them. Mr. Philip Stephenson is one of such victims as well (the only real victim present), and his testimony was both compelling and straightforward.

While I felt a twinge of sharing grief listening to Mr. Stephenson’s horrible experience, I also had to face reality. He is a multimillionaire lawyer and investor with a lobbying firm and an army of international lawyers at his service. His (only too real) plight undoubtedly became a regular subject of discussion at the US Embassy in Bucharest and its periodic cables to Washington, discussion ongoing as well during the tenure as Ambassador to Romania of the first co-speaker at these recent US Helsinki hearings, Mr. Mark Gitenstein, another multimillionaire lawyer and investor (when in private life). Involved as well on Mr. Stephenson’s behalf I have to add the State Department, as Mr. Stephenson’s multinational company Rompetrol and its investment in Romania and across Europe became worth billions in a few years and it had reached true strategic importance in oil extraction and oil refineries.

Judging by the transcript, all four guests talked at length about the impact of corruption in Romania, and especially ambassador Gitenstein stood on very firm ground, as he was basing his well nuanced presentation on thorough research, its facts vetted by a native Romanian present at the proceedings, Ms. Corina Rebegea, from CEPA, a non-profit policy institute from Washington, dedicated to the study of Central and Eastern Europe.

I double checked my situation a few days ago with Ms. Rebegea. I called and introduced myself; she definitely had no idea who I was. And yet, just recently, since May 8 2017, my name, always in tandem with ex-President’s Băsescu’s name, was featured in all the TV news bulletins and in dozens of other media outlets in Romania and the Republic of Moldova on nearly weekly basis. Ms. Rebegea though, an analyst exposed daily to a steady stream of information coming from Romania because this is her job description, could only blithely inform me she had never heard my name in any context. So maybe there’s nothing to my claim of victimization. Maybe I’m deluded; I wouldn’t be the first example. Still, all I ever asked for (and never got) was an official clarification of my status from a US source. Am I crazy? Have I ever done something wrong that I’m not even aware of? Despite dozens of requests and even an FBI interview (they said I should have gone to the State Department), I never received a line. Ever.

Since September 2003, the US Embassy in Bucharest is fully aware of my plight and the incessant accusations of imposture against me raging not only through the Romanian media, but even in official tribunal transcripts. No, I’m not my grandfather’s, a famous politician over 80 years ago, grandson, yet, yes, I’m many other things at the same time though: an African-American, and therefore not of Romanian parentage; a housing Mafia enforcer; no one had heard from me in years; an enemy of the people; a phantom invented by Romania’s president Basescu just so his cronies could embezzle dozens of buildings from the rightful owner, the city of Bucharest; I’d died years ago; even the reliable (in Romania) „a former CIA agent” was thrown in and so on. This whole blog, is dedicated to this ordeal and I am the first to admit that my convoluted style of writing and presentation might be my worst enemy.

On November 7, 2003, the US consular officer Stephanie A. Bunce signed an affidavit declaring the US Embassy opinion upon my identity (confirming it, of course). However, since that singular accomplishment, all my following messages to any US official fell on deaf ears and the only person who ever answered me in writing, albeit after he became a private citizen, was Amb. Mark Gitenstein, who promised to take the issue with the embassy personnel during his 2014 visit in Romania. He wrote immediately after receiving my email: Subject: RE: American citizen needs help in Romania Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2014 Nicolae, thanx for forwarding your very disturbing note. I have forwarded it to the new charge at the embassy. I am having dinner w/ him tonite and will discuss. Thanx Markg.

That was his last communication to me. I don’t have a quarrel with Ambassador Gitenstein personally. I am disappointed of course as, afterwards, nothing followed, although I’m sure someone at the US Embassy briefed him about who I was and assured him my case was not worth pursuing. What else could have they told him but that: the Romanian „investigation” was justified and the 2003 affidavit (which I asked to be reissued in 2014) should not be replaced with a more up-to-date version.

I witnessed therefore with great interest Chairman Wicker’s efforts two weeks ago to get a single straightforward answer from some of the skilled speakers in front of him. He asked repeatedly: Is the fight against corruption in Romania in a better shape now than before or it isn’t? I didn’t perceive a single case of straight yes or no reply in the transcript. Just obfuscation.

“Romania’s anti-corruption efforts have garnered international attention and have been held up as an example for other countries, such as Ukraine,” said Chairman Wicker. What about my case then? Oh, I forgot. I do not exist.

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