As if Bucharest didn’t have enough problems, with its mayor Sorin Oprescu currently on remand facing a raft of corruption charges, the Romanian Anti-Corruption Unit – the DNA – announced at the weekend that the city’s entire council (that being, for the avoidance of about, every single councilor) was on the take. Of course, to anyone who has lived in this remarkable country for more than five minutes such news will not come as a huge surprise. Romania’s politicians are in general thought to be highly approachable, and local politicians are known to be the most accommodating of all.
Even so, for the DNA to issue a statement which in no uncertain terms accuses the entire Bucharest city council of taking bribes for one thing or another is nevertheless startling in its sheer bluntness.
According to the DNA, a large number of those councilors have allegedly been on the pay roll of Apa Nova, the nominally French-controlled company which has had a monopoly on Bucharest’s water supply since 2000. The price paid by consumers for water in Bucharest has risen by 125 per cent since 2008, something which the DNA claims has been possible only with the knowing, and utterly illegal compliance of the city council. What’s more, Apa Nova is alleged to have operated the most sophisticated industrial espionage network Romania has ever seen. Staffed with former members of the secret services, Apa Nova spied on its own employees to ensure that they did not reveal – unwittingly or otherwise – any of the company’s illegal activities.
The total value of bribes paid by Apa Nova to members of the Bucharest City Council apparently tops €12 million. Much of this went to Oprescu’s former advisor Costin Berevoianu, and to Vlad Moisescu, leader of the PNL members on the council the former right-hand man of Andrei Chiliman (erstwhile mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 1, currently awaiting trial for corruption). Moisescu is perhaps best known for a fictitious loan of €670 million his mother-in-law made his wife. Both Berevoianu and Moisescu were arrested last week, along with Ovidiu Semenescu, Apa Nova’s ‘unofficial’ representative.
Part (or indeed all) of the above might go some way to explaining why the Bucharest floods every time it rains. The city’s drainage system is old, decrepit and has seen little investment in decades.
Now guess which company has a 25 year monopoly on drainage and sewage in Bucharest?
Answers on the usual postcard.