Sunday, October 25, 2020

Romania money laundering prevention agency chief resigns over fraudulent diplomas

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Laurenţiu Baranga resigned from his job as head of the Office for Money Laundering Prevention as prosecutors opened an investigation concerning his diplomas. He resigned on October 8, the Finance Ministry announced.

He is under investigation for misleading several public authorities by submitting job applications using fake diplomas, which were later invalidated by the competent courts, the Police said in a press release.

He is suspected of having forged his high school diploma but also other study diplomas. The fake documents allowed him to occupy high-level posts in public institutions, including educational ones. This caused damages of RON 640,000 (EUR 131,417), the value of the gross salary he received from his employers, the Police said. This is only the sum calculated so far, and will be adjusted as the investigation advances.

After being detained for 24 hours this past weekend, he was placed under house arrest for 30 days.

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Prime minister Ludovic Orban appointed Baranga as head of the Office for Money Laundering Prevention on September 3.

His resume listed graduating from the Dimitrie Leonida Technical High School in Bucharest at the age of 32. Afterward, he went on to acquire several graduate and postgraduate degrees, including that of Ph.D. from the Valahia University in Târgoviște. His CV also listed studies at the National Defense College, the Higher Education Quality Insurance Agency (ARACIS), and the National College for Domestic Affairs.
Baranga admitted to using a fake diploma and told investigators he did not have the time to finish high school as he had several businesses ongoing at the time, Stirileprotv.ro reported.

He told investigators he studied until reaching the 10th grade, in 1984. One year later, he enrolled for evening classes at a vocational high school in Râmnicu Vâlcea. In 1999, he registered with the Dimitrie Leonida High School to sit the high school graduation exam. He told investigators he did not remember who brought him the graduation diploma as he did not go to collect it personally, Hotnews.ro reported. The diploma from Dimitrie Leonida High School showed he attended classes there from 1994 to 1999 as a part-time student but doesn’t reference a connection to the vocational high school in Vâlcea. The prosecutors could not find his high school graduation diploma or his name in the records of the Bucharest institution.

According to journalists from Vâlcea, quoted by daily Adevarul, before getting his high school graduation diploma, Baranga worked as a turner, at the Băbeni Mechanical Factory.

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The prosecutors are now looking into his university graduation diploma, which, according to his CV, was received from the Management Faculty of the Ecological University in Bucharest.

This is just the latest among several cases concerning fake diplomas of top-level public servants or politicians. Last month, the Court of Appeals issued a final, suspended three-year sentence against Marius Caraşol, the former head of Transelectrica. He was using a fake engineer diploma.

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