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"Undercover" Foreign Businesspersons

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Autor: Vasile Surcel 04 Apr 2006 - 00:00


The law project regarding the national security makes the secret services more powerful. They couldn’t complain about the lack of freedom until now. There weren’t too much remarkable results however. During the last 15 years, our terrible secret services’ agents haven’t been able to "discover" their fellow "undercover" businesspersons.

A lot of the foreign businessmen that came to Romania after 1990 have proved to be coordinators of certain mafia networks. Moreover, no matter their origin, some of these people have had double lives; they were former employees of several foreign secret services. Muslims, Jews or Europeans from many countries, the soldiers that came "dressed-up" as honest businessmen moved freely in Romania, managing to create real "financial empires". Huge sums of money from the national budget have been "wrinkled" with their help and transferred to other countries. Theoretically, any of the former foreign soldiers should have been watched by our secret services. Practically, the "undercover businesspersons" have acted with the tacit agreement of the authorities many times. Awkwardly, the double identity of such people has been "revealed" only after their affairs have been brought to light and caused huge scandals. These scandals often led to occult fights between the secret services or between different sides of the same service. The secret services remembered they have been monitoring those businessmen for a while only in crisis situations. There were also situations in which, after the scandals burst, there were voices saying that part of these "undercover businesspersons" have benefited from the protection of several politicians.

UNDER THE SERVICES’ SURVEILLANCE. The strange kidnapping of the three Romanian journalists last year in Baghdad, brought the eyes back on the Muslim mafia groups as well as on Omar Hayssam, a businessman with double citizenship, Syrian and Romanian. Traian Basescu assessed that Hayssam had been under the attention of the Secret Services for a long time, which have made more than 80 reports about him between 1997 and 2004. The President says no one gave any attention on these papers. In the same time, we found out that Omar Hayssam had been one step away from becoming a SDP member. We are still to find out whether he is a member of any foreign secret service. All we know is that he arrived in Romania in 1980, being brought here by Mahmud Farzat. He is his uncle and was the chief of the Syrian secret services that were active in Eastern Europe back then. However, the close connections between Hayssam and some of the representatives of the power in Bucharest look very much alike the ones other foreign businessmen had recently. They are the businessmen that weakened the state budget with their financial schemes, and affected the national security. The Romanians have often been informed by similar organizations in other countries about these subsidiaries that produce dirty money in Romania. This is the money that, after complex routes, gets in the hands of the terrorists.

"THE SYRIANS ARE THE BRAIN". Right after 1990, the foreign businessmen got involved in fair trades especially. All kinds of fair trades, from cigarettes, coffee and alcohol to drugs and guns. In the following years, some of them started to collaborate with the autochthonous mafia, the "white necks". With the help of some representatives of the authorities, the most "efficient" of them got involved in the fraudulent privatization of certain enterprises. Another category of businessmen, as "efficient" as this one, is formed by the ones that, with the help of some important people in the lead, have taken huge sums of money from the budget that came from unpaid taxes, illegal drawbacks from the customs or VAT. As for the "honest" Muslim businessmen, most of them came into the country as students during the times when Ceausescu was in the lead. This was the period in which, as everybody knew, they have been kept under control and often offered jobs from the secret services. Most of them have double citizenship now, the Romanian one being one of them. A prosecutor that took care of many files that included Arab businessmen, stated for us: "The Syrians and the Lebanese form the brain of the mafia groups. The Palestinians are the connections, and the Iraqis, since they are less intelligent, are used only for creating the phantom companies that produce and do the "money laundry"; when they finish their parts they leave the country and disappear without a trace". Besides the vast experience gained when working for those cases, the words of the prosecutor are confirmed by the fact most of the foreign soldiers that came to Romania for business and hit the jackpot are Syrian.

THE NASSAR BROTHERS: "BETTING" ON GUNS AND CIGARETTES. One of the first after-the-Revolution scandals, that were connected to a combined fair trade, with guns and cigarettes, was called "Tigareta 1". The "activity" took place in 1992 and the scandal started from the Army probably in the autumn of that year. Then, they found out that a transportation of Romanian guns, that had been exported, was partly traded for cigarettes. When in the country, the "stash" was taken to the warehouse in Clinceni of the Ministry of National Defense. The Lebanese company ELAM TRADING, led by brothers Elie and Mike Nassar, took care of the fraud under the cover of Romtehnica and Romtrade. Afterwards, they found out that the brothers were members of the Lebanese Army, as well as agents of the Syrian Secret Services. Then, they have also found out that the Nassar brothers had taken over from their father, who, in the mid-eighties, cooperated very well with the Ceausescu regime. After the Revolution, Elie and Mike create also some other ways to communicate with the representatives of the new power, as well as with the Department for the Army’s Equipage and with the Customs’ Directorate. There you have enough reasons to consider the Nassar brothers as dangerous "enemies" and to see the Romanian Secret Services investigate them. But it didn’t ever happen. They arrested the "big fish", Ellie Nassar back then, but he remained in prison for a short period of time. His brother, Mike, got him a "high-level" agreement, which got him free for a 3 million US dollars bail. Afterwards, Mike got back to Damasc, Syria. In the summer of 2002, Elie Nassar’s life ended with a bullet to his head in a gas station in Sao Paolo.

"CONNECTED" TO SRI. The surprise came in 1998, when the central media received a tape with a conversation between Virgil Magureanu, former SRI (Romanian Secret Services) director, and Mike Nassar. Very important persons in the leading board of SRI confirmed the authenticity of the conversation, and stated it had taken place at the end of 1993 in a mansion in Poiana Brasov. Colonel Dragos Caraiman assisted Virgil Magureanu for this meeting as translator. That discussion showed the complexity of the relation between SRI and Mike and the one of Mike’s connections in the entire world and with Arab mafia. He also complained to the SRI chief about the unfair competition from the other Arab illegal groups. SRI collaborated to the brothers and even helped them when they were in trouble.

"SMULIC" BERARU. To be fair, we must say that the Arab-born foreign officers are not the only ones that caper in Romania disguised as big bosses. Controversial businessman Sorin Beraru got to control a vast "economical empire" by the year 2000. He also has much more vast businesses in Southern Africa, the Balcans, and everywhere else from Western Europe to the USA. The fall of his "Romanian empire" started with the scandal regarding the fraudulent privatization of the CI - CO company. In the first moths of 2001, more files regarding Beraru’s deals got under the investigation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was related to Beraru’s deals through the Phoenix Med company, and to his participation to the privatization of the companies Reco, Flamura Bucuresti and CI - CO. Unofficially, they found out he was an officer in the Israeli Army. There are people close to him that say he is an important member of the South African Army as well. He has three citizenships: Romanian, Israeli and South-African. When the investigation in the CI - CO case started, "Smulic" Beraru (sentenced to 7 years in prison), ran away and they couldn’t get him back, not even with the help of Interpol. The Romanian Secret Services were never bothered by Beraru’s affiliation to the armies of other countries or by the fact that he had been accused of undermining the national economy and they let him go away from the country when he wanted to.

Translated by SORIN BALAN
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