G4media.ro – EXCLUSIVE The General Prosecutor’s Office terminated a case on money laundering involving the company of businessman Costel Comana and the current Minister of Justice, Cătălin Predoiu

INVESTIGATIONS • 11 NOVEMBER 2020 • ALEX COSTACHE 

“The Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice terminated a file on money laundering involving the company Rail Force of the businessman Costel Comana, as well as the current Minister of Justice, lawyer Cătălin Predoiu, according to an official answer from the prosecutor’s office to the request of G4media.ro. 

The termination was ordered on 4 August 2020 by prosecutor RH, according to some documents consulted by G4media.ro.

According to riseproject.roCostel Comana was one of the best friends of Liviu Dragnea, with whom the former PSD Leader spent his vacations in Casa Grande in Fortalezza, Brazil.

On 25 February 2015, Costel Comana committed suicide in the toilet of an airplane on the route Brasil-Costa Rica, after the National Anticorruption Directorate had started a criminal investigation against him.

The story of a file which also concerned Minister Predoiu. On 29 June 2012, businessman Costel Comana – at that time one of the shareholders of the company Rail Force – employed the law office of Cătălin Predoiu for providing legal assistance in the sale of its operations to Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), according to the documents consulted by G4media.ro.

The lawyer’s fee was of EUR 50,000. Predoiu was no longer a minister, one month before the MRU Government had been dismissed further to a motion of censure.

On 11.07.2012, the lawyer cashed from the company Rail Force the amount of RON 111,103.71, and on 3.08.2012, the amount of RON 116,043.69.

Further to an inspection of 2015, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration Brașov notified the prosecutor’s office with respect to offences of tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering in the case of the company Rail Force.

A first criminal file was resolved by the National Anticorruption Directorate on 23 March 2018. The railway companies of businessmen Costel Comana and Iorgu Ganea – Regiotrans, Rail Force and RC CF Trans – were put to trial for allegedly having received illegal subsidies from the state in amount of EUR 54 million. The owner Iorgu Ganea was also put to trial, Costel Comana was not put to trial because he had committed suicide in 2015. 

Within the indictment of March 2018, the prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate ordered to terminate the accusation of tax evasion against the company Rail Force in relation to several invoices issued by companies of the group controlled by Iorgu Ganea and Costel Comana, but also by the law office of Cătălin Predoiu. The reason: the fact is not provided by the criminal law.

The terminated accusation referred to the fact that, between 2009-2015, Rail Force allegedly registered in its accounting records “fictitious expenses based on fictitious operations invoiced by (…) and by Cătălin Predoiu Law Office”. The prejudice claimed by the National Agency for Tax Administration would have been over RON 7.3 million, of which almost RON 900 thousand would have represented VAT and over RON 6.4 million – tax on profit.

In the case of the two invoices issued by Predoiu’s Law Office, the prejudice would have been of RON 36,027, representing tax on profit reduced and not paid by the company Rail Force.

However, the National Anticorruption Directorate has not found any criminal offence here, but only a fiscal matter regarding the company Rail Force.

Examining, in exchange, from a criminal, not from a fiscal standpoint, the commercial relationships between SC Rail Force SRL with those companies, we find that the fact exists in material meaning, with implications in terms of the fiscal liability, but there is no certain evidence allowing to identify, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the operations described in the invoices issued by (…), by Predoiu Cătălin Law Office have the nature of fictitious operations (…).

The deductibility or non-deductibility of certain operations does not have a criminal nature. The mere erroneous attribution of fiscal deductibility to a real non-deductible operation may not entail the criminal liability for perpetration of an offence of tax evasion, but entails fiscal consequences, by recalculating the taxes due by the taxpayer”, as the prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate state in the indictment of March 2018 in which they ordered to terminate the accusation of tax evasion which referred to the invoices issued by the law office of Cătălin Predoiu.

According to the documents consulted by G4media.ro, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration Brașov was not satisfied with the termination decision and challenged it in court, but the challenge was dismissed.

In this context, on 19 January 2017, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration Brașov filed a new criminal complaint against the company Rail Force in respect of the offences of tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering with the Prosecutor’s Office attached to Brașov Court. The file was afterwards taken over by the General Prosecutor’s Office.

On 14 March 2019, Cătălin Predoiu was heard by the police in this file.

“Today, I was heard as witness at the General Police Inspectorate. I was questioned and I provided clarifications regarding my presence as lawyer in a project of purchase of a Romanian group of companies by a foreign company. The negotiations between the two parties were held in the period 2012 (summer) – 2013 (spring), in the presence of two international law and consultancy firms and they failed because the two parties did not reach an agreement for performance of the project.

As a lawyer, I have advised the Romanian party in matters under the company law with respect to the contractual documents of the procurement. The legal assistance contract was lawfully concluded, the fee was lawfully invoiced, paid by a transfer and subject to taxation”, Predoiu posted on Facebook at that time.

Judicial sources explained for G4media.ro that Predoiu would have presented to the Police documents attesting the real nature of the services provided to the company Rail Force: 20 volumes of documents, over 200 e-mails.

One year and a half later, on 4 August 2020, after Cătălin Predoiu became the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court terminated the accusation of money laundering for the reason that the fact does not exist.

Because the predicate-offence for the alleged money laundering, namely the offence of tax evasion was terminated for the reason that the fact is not provided by the criminal law, it is clear that, in the case of the offence of money laundering the fact does not exist – prosecutor Rodica Hondor concluded in the ordinance for termination.

Background.

The Regiotrans file sent by the National Anticorruption Directorate to the Bucharest Court on 22 March 2010 is still in the procedure before the preliminary chamber (a procedure verifying the lawfulness of producing the evidence). The next hearing is scheduled on 9 December 2020.

In the meantime, the National Agency for Management of Seized Assets (ANABI) sold in an action several railway engines and railcars of Regiotrans, which were under seizure in the file with a prejudice of EUR 54 million. 

Note: Alex Costache is a journalist working also for TVR News. “

See EXCLUSIV Parchetul General a clasat dosarul de spălare de bani în care erau vizați compania omului de afaceri Costel Comana și actualul ministru al Justiției, Cătălin Predoiu (g4media.ro)

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