Romania: Investigators Question Suspect in Royal Property Restitution Scam

Romanian investigators Monday questioned Ioana Valmar, the former wife of parliament speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu, regarding her alleged involvement in a high-profile real estate restitution scam which resulted in the arrest of Prince Paul of Romania last week.

Prince Paul of RomaniaPrince Phillipe Paul of Romania was ordered into house arrest Saturday on suspicion of illegally claiming 28.6 hectares of land in Bucharest under property restitution laws. The laws govern the process of returning property nationalized by the Communist regime in the 1940s - or its cash value - to the families of its original owners.

Prosecutors say the illegal restitution scheme cost the state nearly € 136 million (more than US$ 149 million).

According to BalkanInsight, Prince Paul unsuccessfully attempted to claim the property in 2002, arguing that it belonged to his grandfather, King Carol II, before it was nationalized.

Prosecutors say that in 2006, he contacted Remus Truica – a businessman who has connections with various Romanian political leaders – and offered him and his associates up to 80 percent of the value of the property in exchange for their help with the restitution claim. 

Prosecutors say Truica and his associates influenced the relevant decision makers to grant Prince Paul the land in 2008, even though the required documentation he submitted was incomplete.

Last week, a court in Romania ordered Truica and his alleged associates – Dan Andronic, Lucian Mateescu, Robert Rosu and Andrei Marcovici Marius – into 24-hour custody. Members of the group are accused of establishing a criminal organization, trading in influence, money laundering, complicity in abuse of office and bribery.

Investigators suspect that Valmar, acting as a notary, legalized the required paperwork for the restitution scam. She denies the allegation, according to local news portal Digi24.