Abuse of service and Embezzlement in Romania’s agency for Forestry

USR MEP Vlad Gheorghe has filed a complaint today at the National Anticorruption Directorate against Romsilva – Caras-Severin Forestry Directorate represented by director Ion Tabugan and Nera Forestry represented by chief Andronache Marcel for committing several corruption offences under the Criminal Code in conjunction with Art. 1 para. (1) and art. (2) of Law no. 78/2000 for the prevention, detection and punishment of corruption.

Vlad Gheorghe mentions facts that may constitute offences of embezzlement and abuse of service under the Criminal Code. In particular, the denunciation was made in relation to illegal timber deals in the forests of Caras-Severin county. The information on the abuse were made public following checks carried out by the Timisoara Forestry Guard.

The MEP, a member of the Renew Europe group, cites official communications from the Guard. According to the report, problems were found in all the forestry offices in Caras-Severin county. Most of the issues concerned forestry work carried out only on paper and yet settled in full.

Vlad Gheorghe believes that the refusal of the Forestry Offices to participate in the control and to collaborate with the Forestry Guard, despite orders received from the director of Romsilva Caraș-Severin, is an abuse of service.

Checks carried out in 2021 at the Nera Forestry Office show that a company was paid to execute 129 hectares of forestry work. However, only 11.3 hectares were carried out in the field, with a loss of 65,684 lei (including VAT). The head of the forestry office took no conclusive action in response to the irregularities. In particular, Director Tabugan has not investigated the issues with any of the parties concerned.

Illegal logging is a threat to national security

The Caras-Severin Forestry Directorate, as a unit of the National Forestry Administration – ROMSILVA, administers the largest area of public forest – about 26% of all virgin forests in Romania, and is responsible for and coordinates the work of 17 forestry offices.

“Illegal logging is not only an environmental crime, but also a threat to national security, for reasons that any honest Romanian can understand. The legislation is very clear in this respect”, stresses the USR MEP, a lawyer by profession, quoting Article 3 of Law no. 51 of 29 July 1991: The following constitute threats to Romania’s national security: lit. m) any actions or inactions that harm Romania’s strategic economic interests, those that have the effect of endangering, illegally managing, degrading or destroying natural resources, forestry, hunting and fishing funds, waters and other such resources, as well as monopolising or blocking access to them, with national or regional consequences.

Not the first case of corruption

This is not the first time that Ion Tabugan’s work as the Head of the Caras-Severin Forestry Directorate has been publicly challenged. Former USR sub-prefect Andrei Plujar drew attention last autumn to the numerous sanctions already received by director Tabugan.

“In 2021, the period in which you officially led the Directorate, a total of 66 offences were detected, 232 fines were imposed, amounting to 432,500 lei, an overwhelming number in the forestry offices administered by you. You are incapable of running the Forestry Directorate and the forests of the county, Mr Tabugan! Let dedicated foresters do their job, manage the forestry in Caras-Severin!”, Andrei Plujar said in a press release to local publications in September 2021.

Official data shows that the percentage of virgin forests in Romania has quadrupled in the last 50 years. In addition, illegal logging causes an annual loss of about 6 billion euros, according to a European Commission report.

Read the full press release

Read the full complaint against Romsilva – Caras-Severin Forestry Directorate