A Credit Suisse Group manager, two Romanian officials and a Bulgarian citizen lost an appeal at Romania's High Court of Justice against an order extending their detention during a probe of state asset sales.
Vadim Benyatov Credit Suisse's managing director for central and eastern Europe, and the three other men were arrested by Romanian prosecutors November 29 for 20 days as part of the investigation into possible corruption associated with the sales of state-owned utilities and services. All four men have repeatedly said through their lawyers that they deny wrongdoing. The higher court today rejected the appeal by Benyatov and the other three over a decision December 14 by an appellate court in Bucharest to extend their arrests warrants by another 30 days.
The men will remain in custody until mid-January, according to prosecution spokesman Robert Cazanciuc. The probe is the first criminal investigation involving international investment bankers in Romania since the nation's break with communism in 1990. The country is preparing to join the European Union on January 1. The other three men jailed November 29 were Dorinel Mucea, the deputy head of the Romanian agency in charge of energy industry asset-sales, Stamen Stancev, a Bulgarian investment consultant, and Mihai Donciu, a Romanian Communications Ministry adviser.
Benyatov, a US citizen, and the others are being investigated for „undermining Romania's national security” and economic espionage related to the sale of Romanian assets, prosecutors said in a statement issued November 22. Benyatov's lawyer, Cristian Iordanescu, said his client is innocent of all allegations against him. „It's regrettable that this is happening again, especially as I raised several issues on faults concerning the court's procedures, which they didn't take into account,” Iordanescu said in a telephone interview after yesterday's ruling.
Mucea's lawyer, Viorel Spanu, said the extended detention would expire January 17 and that he expects prosecutors to ask for another extension on or around January 11. „It looks like it's going to be quite hard to see them being released anytime soon,” Spanu said in a telephone interview yesterday. „They need judges with a lot of courage and backbone to understand the circumstances.” Credit Suisse, the second-biggest Swiss bank, advised on the sale of Romanian energy assets in 2004 and also won a contract from Romania in January to advise the government on the sale of its remaining 46% stake in phone company Romtelecom SA.
„We take these allegations very seriously and are prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation,” Credit Suisse said in its November 29 statement. It said it had „no reason to believe that any Credit Suisse employee has acted inappropriately.”(Bloomberg)