News & Analysis

Mysterious suitcase threatens to blow apart Romanian political scene

A Romanian journalist has revealed that she has come into possession of a suitcase containing hard drives, financial documents and photos belonging to TelDrum, a company linked to Liviu Dragnea, the country’s most powerful politician. The suitcase – found by a farmer in Teleorman county, in southern Romania – appears to have been dumped just days before the country’s anti-corruption unit, the DNA, searched TelDrum’s offices last year.

The suitcase has already been dubbed ‘TeleormanLeaks.’

“We have processed and analysed the contents of the suitcase and we will begin to publish our findings next week,” said Ana Poenariu of Rise Project, an investigative journalism portal which has a long history of breaking important stories. “We believe that the data in the suitcase, which includes financial documents as well as photos and films from within TelDrum, as well as photos taken on excursions, was hidden a short time before the DNA’s search of the company in the summer of 2017.”

Mr Dragnea is the leader of Romania’s ruling party, the PSD, although a conviction for attempted vote rigging prevents him from holding executive office. Earlier this year he was found guilty of using public money to pay party employees and sentenced to three years and six months in prison. He remains free pending an appeal.

Mr Dragnea has also been accused – although not yet formally charged – of using TelDrum to siphon off European Union funding when he was the leader of Teleorman county council. The DNA’s investigation into TelDrum began after it received information from OLAF, the EU’s own anti-fraud agency.

Neither Mr Dragnea nor any member of the PSD has commented on the contents of the suitcase. But with less than two months before Romania is due to take over the agenda-setting presidency of the European Council, the revelations are likely to be highly embarrassing and could force those within the party who oppose Mr Dragnea to remove him from the party leadership.

On November 3, before the existence of the suitcase was known, a former Romanian prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, said that the country’s government – formally led by Viorica Dancila, believed to be little more than a mouthpiece for Mr Dragnea – must be changed before the end of November.

“Otherwise, it will be too late,” he said.