The Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced well-known businessman Ioan Niculae, once considered Romania’s wealthiest, to five years in jail for corruption. The sentence is final and is tougher than the first one ruled by the Bucharest Court.
Soon after the court’s ruling, police officers went to Niculae’s residence in Zimnicea to take him into custody, but the businessman wasn’t there. Thus, the Police issued an arrest warrant on his name and added him to the Wanted list.
Later on Thursday evening, during a telephone intervention at news channel Antena 3, Niculae said that he was in Milano and didn’t intend to flee arrest. He also said that he would return to the country on Friday, according to G4media.ro. On Friday, Niculae landed at the Bucharest Airport on a flight from Rome, Economica.net reported.
Niculae stood trial for buying influence, instigation to tax evasion, and instigation to money laundering, in a case related to his flagship company, agri-business group Interagro. According to the accusations in the file, Interagro concluded fictitious contracts with another company to avoid paying some contributions due to the state budget. The damage, in this case, was calculated at over RON 11 million (EUR 2.2 mln), according to Digi24.
Ioan Niculae was once Romania’s richest (in 2014 he topped the Forbes 500 list of the richest Romanians with a fortune of EUR 1.1 bln), but his empire began to shrink after he was sentenced to two years and six months in jail in April 2015. He was found guilty of illegally financing Mircea Geoana’s presidential campaign in 2009. He was released conditionally in July 2016.
During his incarceration, the Interagro group went into insolvency. His assets also include six fertilizer plants in Romania, most of which are currently closed, a tobacco factory (also in insolvency), as well as real estate assets and a football club (Astra Giurgiu).