The UK’s Supreme Court has discharged Romania’s extradition request for businessman Gabriel Popoviciu.
This final decision by the Supreme Court, in response to Romania’s appeal against an earlier decision to refuse Popoviciu’s extradition to Romania, means that after six years of litigation, Popoviciu has won this lengthy court battle. The Supreme Court discharged Mr Popoviciu and will deliver its judgment on the appeal in due course.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes after the 11 June 2021 decision by London’s High Court to refuse Popoviciu’s extradition to Romania after British judge Lord Justice Holroyde concluded: “The evidence shows a real risk that the appellant suffered an extreme example of a lack of judicial impartiality, such that there can be no question as to consequences for the fairness of the trial.” Edward Fitzgerald QC also explained that Popoviciu would suffer a “flagrant denial of justice” if sent back to serve his sentence in Romania.
Popoviciu’s win this week in the London courts comes just two months after the Bucharest Court of Appeal suspended the seven year prison sentence he received in the Băneasa Project case. The court explained that there are “new facts or circumstances that were not known when the case was settled, that are likely to prove the groundlessness of the conviction”.
The Romanian court’s decision came after it became clear Popoviciu had faced false allegations of bribery, seriously undermining the charge of corruption that he had faced. In particular, the anti-corruption commissioner declared in court that no bribes had been received from Popoviciu, neither directly nor indirectly. The judge who ruled in the Bucharest Court of Appeal stated that that bag containing promotional materials and alcohol was not from Popoviciu, but from another individual and that Popoviciu was unaware of it. The court heard that on November 27, 2014, Ion Motoc, judicial police officer within the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) admitted in his witness statement that Popoviciu did not bribe him, stating “Popoviciu never offered me a bribe, directly or indirectly”.
At the time of the UK’s High Court 2021 decision to refuse the Romanian request for extradition, leading British legal expert Joshua Rozenberg said: “The real lesson of this case is a more chastening one: you don’t have to travel far to find judicial behaviour that would be unthinkable in the United Kingdom. It should also be unthinkable in the European Union.”
The Băneasa real estate development project, in which Popoviciu was instrumental, has brought great benefit to the metropolitan area and its infrastructure. Băneasa operates the largest shopping centre in Bucharest, with a $54m turnover. The 2005-2022 indirect impact generated through the commercial activity of Băneasa’s tenants totals $1,575m. The 2005-2022 net salaries and the related taxes and contributions sustained as a result of the induced effect of the Băneasa commercial, office and residential area account for $1,947m. The project is a major employer for the region. On top of the over 2600 direct salaries paid by the Băneasa entities, Băneasa’s tenants paid over 59,000 salaries. More than 160,000 salaries were sustained during 2005-2022 as a result of the induced effect of the commercial activity of the Băneasa entities and the development’s tenants. Out of the $555m of total direct impact, over 95 percent was generated after the economic crisis. All of this was achieved despite the conditions of the lengthy court sagas.
A human rights advocate based in Brussels said: “This case in Romania was always worrying. This has been re-confirmed by the UK courts’ final refusal to send Popoviciu back to Romania this week. Back in 2021, the UK’s High Court expressed concern about an undisclosed friendly relationship between a trial judge and an important prosecution witness. It seems the Supreme Court has had similar concerns.”