06 MAR 18
Romanian Court to Rule in Freemasons’ Graft Case
The Appeal Court in Timisoara, Romania, is set to rule on a graft case involving a former police chief and a former judge who failed to declare that they were Freemasons.
Ana Maria Luca BIRN Bucharest
Freemason Temple exhibition in Belgium. Photo: Lieven Van Assche/EPA
Judges in the Appeal Court should decide whether a former chief of Oradea police, Liviu Popa, 49, and suspended judge Ovidiu Galea, 49, are guilty of several counts of bribery.
But anti-graft prosecutors also say the two defendants concealed the fact that they belonged to Romania’s Great National Lodge – and used their connections with the organization to gain advantages, protect friends and cover up small crimes.
While countries such as Britain have already put the issue of possible conflicts of interests of freemasons in the police on the agenda, this is the first such case in Romania.
Under Romanian law, magistrates, policemen, as well as dignitaries and public workers may not join political parties but may belong to an NGO as long as it is not politically connected; they must, however, declare such affiliations in an official statement of interests.
The indictment says former Oradea police chief Popa joined a local masonic lodge in 2008 and helped initiate several other members, including judge Galea, who joined in 2015.
The indictment says they used their masonic connections to bribe others, request bribes and cover up crimes.
Both defendants have said they did not declare their masonic membership because they are just freemasons of the local lodge, not of Romania’s Great National Lodge, which is registered as an NGO.
The National Lodge did not respond to BIRN's questions about the case on Monday.
One of the leaders of the local lodge that the two defendants belonged to testified in court on February 12 that all members must abide by the law.
Dacian Salvador Palladi, a former prosecutor and leader of the Oradea-based freemasons, said none of the local lodges are registered as NGOs and only the national organization stands as an association.
Palladi also said that other members of the National Lodge are now concerned about not declaring their Freemasonry membership.
“I have never heard and have no knowledge of anyone in the leadership of the association telling freemasons that they are banned from declaring their membership of Freemasonry in their statements of interests,” he told the court.