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British Action on European Arrest Warrant Sparks Criticism

  • Luis Ramirez

Adriana Constantinescu, wife of Alexander Adamescu, weeps as she reads a statement to reporters after his arrest in London, June 13, 2016.

Adriana Constantinescu, wife of Alexander Adamescu, weeps as she reads a statement to reporters after his arrest in London, June 13, 2016.

The dramatic arrest in London this week of a prominent Romanian businessman's son is raising questions about the European Arrest Warrant, which obliges member states to carry out arrests on their soil on the orders of foreign governments.

Human rights advocates say the Romanian government's case against Alexander Adamescu is politically motivated, and critics argue British police should not be carrying out the dirty work of governments such as Romania, rated as one of the most corrupt in Europe.

The arrest came a week before Britain votes on whether to remain in the European Union, in which sovereignty is one of the key issues.

Adamescu, 38, was on his way Monday to deliver a statement to reporters at London's Frontline Club, a well-known gathering spot for journalists, when London Metropolitan Police officers stopped him and took him into custody.

Police officials told VOA they arrested Adamescu on a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Romanian government, which accuses Adamescu of bribery.

Denies charges

Adamescu’s wife, Adriana Constantinescu, later read a statement in which Adamescu denied the charges.

Reading from the statement, a tearful Constantinescu asked a visibly stunned audience at the club, "How can this happen in Europe?"

"I saw him in the car, I wanted to approach him and the officer came and said, 'Step back,' and I said, 'Why?' ” she said in describing the arrest to VOA.

"You are in London. You think, we all know that [we are] in a democratic country where the rule of law is respected and you come to an event where the freedom of speech is a must, in the rule of law in a democracy, and your husband is taken away. So he cannot participate, so he cannot be seen by the people that he is not a criminal. He's a writer," Constantinescu said.

Adamescu, his wife and their two young children have been living in London where he studies at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Critics say Adamescu is being targeted by the Romanian government as retaliation for his father's activities.

Alexander Adamescu is the son of Dan Adamescu, a Romanian insurance magnate now imprisoned in Romania on corruption charges. Observers say Dan Adamescu was targeted after a newspaper he owns criticized the government.

"It's easy. His newspaper is a very conservative newspaper," said Radu Moraru, a prominent television opposition commentator in Romania. He said Dan Adamescu's newspaper criticized left-leaning politicians such as then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

"The prime minister, being socialist, he couldn't close the newspaper. He couldn't attack the journalists. He was upset at this guy and he destroyed his business," Moraru said.

A court in Romania sentenced Dan Adamescu to more than four years in prison after finding him guilty of bribing judges who handled insolvency cases involving his companies.

Romanian government officials said charges against Alexander Adamescu stemmed from the same case.

Critics accuse Romania's government of frequently using the country's National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) to target the opposition.

EU membership

Neil Barnett, a corporate investigator with Istok Associates, a risk consultancy group retained by Alexander Adamescu, expressed outrage at the arrest and said Britain's EU membership is the underlying problem.

"A single internal arrest warrant is not suitable for mixing the judicial standards of Sweden, Britain, Germany with Romania and Bulgaria, and those countries in particular are the offenders," Barnett said.

"Their standards are radically different. And it's the same problem as the euro, just transferred from finance and economics into justice," he said, referring to the eurozone, in which troubled economies such as Greece are seen as a drag on those of richer members.

"The notion of pan-European standards of justice have been called into question," said Eeva Heikkila, a London human rights attorney and critic of the European Arrest Warrant treaties. She said it is difficult to forecast what improvements a British exit from the EU would bring.

"However, from my standpoint, things can only get better. The European Arrest Warrant expedited the procedures at the expense of human rights and justice," Heikkila said.

The younger Adamescu, who also holds German citizenship, appeared Tuesday before London's Westminster Magistrates Court, where a judge set bail at $568,000. He remained in jail Wednesday night as the family scrambled to wire the funds to the court.

Alexander Adamescu's case will be heard in November.