One of Bucharest’s most powerful district mayors arrested on bribery charges

Romania’s anticorruption prosecutors decided to arrest Bucharest District 2 mayor Neculai Ontanu on bribery charges, on Wednesday, March 23.

Ontanu will stay in police custody for 24 hours and the prosecutors have asked the court to approve a 30-day arrest warrant on his name. He is the fifth of the seven mayors in Bucharest who has been arrested in recent years. Bucharest’s mayor Sorin Oprescu, District 1 mayor Andrei Chiliman, District 5 mayor Marian Vanghelie, and District 4 mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone have all spent at least a day in arrest in the last two years, as they have been investigated for corruption. The only mayors elected in 2012 who haven’t been investigated for corruption yet are those in District 3 and District 6.

The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started an investigation on Neculai Ontanu after receiving an intimation earlier this year. The mayor allegedly received a 1,500 sqm land plot, to help a litigious rights owner get into possession of several land plots totaling 8.35 hectares located in Bucharest’s District 2. Ontanu received the land through fictitious transactions that were concluded through a lawyer. This all happened in 2006-2007.

The 1,500 sqm land plot is located on Barbu Vacarescu Boulevard one of the hottest areas in Bucharest for real estate development and were part of the 8.35 hectares for which Ontanu signed the property title. The person who got the property title was also the one who denounced the mayor, according to DNA.

Neculai Ontanu, 66, is one of the most powerful district mayors in Bucharest. He is currently serving his fourth mandate, as he was elected first in 2000. A former member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Ontanu moved to Gabriel Oprea’s National Union for Romania’s Progress (UNPR) in 2010. Ontanu became the party’s acting president earlier in March after Gabriel Oprea resigned. Oprea himself has been investigated by the DNA for abuse of office while he was Minister of Interior in the Victor Ponta cabinet. Neculai Ontanu, who had not been active in the army beyond the mandatory military service, has been promoted from being a first-class private to two-star major general, during former President Traian Basescu’s mandate.

Romania Insider 

23 March 2016