Bucharest Court Lifts Freeze on Rompetrol Rafinare Shares

Last Friday a Bucharest Court decided to lift a freeze on 25.8 percent of the outstanding shares of Rompetrol Rafinare SA (RRC). This represents approximately 5 billion shares held by RRC’s Netherlands-based parent company The Rompetrol Group NV (TRG).

After almost 5 months of legal wrangling, TRG succeeded in getting the abusive freeze lifted by demonstrating:

-- there is no solid evidence that criminal acts were were committed, and therefore civil remedies could have been sufficient (e.g., claims by Romania’s Ministry of Finance); and
-- the prosecutors did not bring prove, using technical or expert testimony, the quantum of damages alleged, though they froze shares with a market value at the time of approximately USD 225 million

“The Bucharest Court’s decision confirms the fact that the freeze ordinance at Rompetrol Rafinare represented nothing but another attempt of illegal and abusive intimidation by the prosecutors, a pattern which started almost two and a half years ago,” said Rompetrol attorney Ovidiu Budusan.

TRG Chairman Dinu Patriciu considered that the decision confirms the trust of financial partners and investors in the correctness of the actions undertaken by TRG managers. TRG continues to request that the prosecutors act in accordance with Romanian and international law and finalize their investigation as soon as possible. The criminal investigation had been ongoing for almost three years.

 Last week, General Prosecutor Ilie Botos appeared on Romanian television and foreshadowed the conclusions of the investigation by saying that the Rompetrol case would shortly go to trial, even in a matter of weeks. Making such a public statement even before the prosecutors have finished collecting and analyzing evidence both presupposes the guilt of the defendants and sends a not-so-subtle message to the investigating prosecutors of what they next steps should be, regardless of the evidence and conclusions in expert reports.

“We believe the statements of the General Prosecutor of Romania are severely damaging, and bring negative consequences to the rights of the parties in the case. They are a gross violation of the principles of impartiality and presumption of innocence, and are meant to deter the case prosecutor from finding out the truth and giving a correct solution in the case”, said Ovidiu Budusan.