On the 11.08.2016, the Prosecutors within DIICOT – Central Structure ordered the commencement of the criminal prosecution and the 24 hour-arrest of the defendants SZANTO AURELIAN-MIHAI, PÁNTICS ATTILA-CSABA and PANTICS LEVENTE, for the commission of the offences of setting-up of one organised criminal group, the violation of regulations on weapons and ammunition and submission of false information.
Following the TV program, broadcast by one TV channel in the United Kingdom and retransmitted by the central and local mass media, having as object the members of one organised criminal group specialized in arm and ammunition smuggling, DIICOT – Central Structure commenced one criminal prosecution focused on the commission, by several individuals, of the offences of setting-up of one organised criminal group, aggravated smuggling and violation of regulations on weapons and ammunition.
Within this case, it was ordered the carrying out of enquiries, on an urgent basis, with a view to rapidly identifying all individuals described as “gunrunners” in the mass media material, in relation to those weapons which were to be sold to people, to identifying the off-road vehicle, as well as with a view to gather all data and information necessary to solve the criminal case.
The TV program, broadcast by the British TV channel, was retransmitted by the mass media in Romania and other EU Member States. According to the review of the related news, as well as to the commentaries disseminated within the public environment, the described offences generated, on the one hand, some reproachful feelings towards Romania, and, on the other hand, insecurity among the Romanian nationals, considering some possible threats against the national security.
Thus, the actions produced within the journalistic investigation, carried out by the British TV channel, and the answers of the so-called gunrunners to the questions made by the reporters generated a strong fear among the civilians, as well as a high insecurity feeling.
Following the investigations and enquiries, carried out within the case, there have been identified the individuals described as “gunrunners” in the mass-media material. Those individuals wore hoods and sunglasses for them not to be identified.
Likewise, there have been detected and seized the weapons described in the material of the British reporters. Within the investigation carried out, it could be settled that the three people in the mentioned mass-media material are the defendants SZANTO AURELIAN-MIHAI, the so-called “dealer” and the one who ensured the translation from/into English and into/from Romanian, PÁNTICS ATTILA-CSABA and PANTICS LEVENTE, individuals who described and offered the fire arms for sale.
In fact, according to the enquiries carried out, the so-called journalistic investigation did not rely on real actions and circumstances, but it was created on reporter initiative, by producing some false data and information as real. Thus, it could be established that, in the early days of July, 2016, the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai, Romanian citizen, living as a resident in the United Kingdom for several years, was called by a British journalist, who he had met before, who proposed him to work as a translator for the British TV channel.
The journalist told him that he wanted to make a documentary film on gunrunners and asked him to find people willing to show fire arms. Although the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai replied that he had no possibility to produce military weapons, but only sporting rifles, which a friend of him lawfully possessed in Romania, the mentioned reporter agreed. Subsequently, the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai got into contact with his friend, the defendant Pántics Attila-Csaba, who agreed to do so. Thus, he was to make the weapon presentation together with his cousin Pantics Levente. The British journalists offered to defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai 2000 Euro in exchange for the “journalistic investigation”. He took 1000 Euro, while the remaining amount of 1000 Euro was to be divided between the defendants Pántics Attila-Csaba and Pantics Levente. As from the 29.07.2016, several British reporters arrived at the airport in Targu-Mures, in order to make the journalistic documentary report. The defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai waited for them with one car specially rented to develop that activity. Subsequently, the reporters and their companion talked about the details of the documentary report and the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai was told that he should ask the people, who were described as “gunrunner”, to wear hoods.
Likewise, he received the questions and the answers he was supposed to provide to the so-called smugglers, including the prices for some weapons. The reports had the following requirements: to do the filming in one isolated wooded area surrounded by hills, the car, used by the smugglers, not to carry the registration plates and the weapons to be covered with a blanket. As the British reporter asked to be produced AK sporting rifles, the defendant Pántics Attila-Csaba asked a different person to borrow him one UM SADU, cal.7,62X39 weapon, arm which was part of the “collection” which that person legally held. Although the mentioned weapon was lawfully held, its holder was not authorized to take it out from the place of residence or to borrow it, according to the law (Act No. 295/2004 on Arm and Ammunition Policy).
After having fulfilled the requirements of the British reporters, on the 31.07.2016, in the morning, the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai drove to the hotel in which four people of the British TV channel team were accommodated. Those people and he travelled by car from Targu-Mured to the city of Jeica, Mures County, where they met with the defendants Pantics Atilla Csaba and Pantic Levente. The two individuals got into the same off-road car and travelled together with the British reporters. Two kilometers away from the meeting place, the defendant Pantics Atilla Csaba stopped the Suzuki Samurai vehicle and the defendant Pantics Levente and he got out. Subsequently, they put the hoods on (hoods seized during the house searches) and one of the British reporters asked the defendant Szanto Aurelian-Mihai to wear also a hood, as he was “the dealer of the gunrunners”. As he had no hood, some people of the film crew handed him one hood, one cap and one jacket.
Subsequently, they made the video material, by asking the questions and by receiving the already prepared answers. The Romanian citizens were expressly asked to speak in Romanian, even if the mother tongue of the defendants is Hungarian. In this context, all data and information verbally communicated and recorded in the video material of the British TV channel, which were disseminated by means of many TV channels and mass-media components, including online, being aware of their fake contents (the people in the video were no gun runners, but hunters, and the weapons they possessed and produced were sporting rifles duly held), jeopardized the national security.
To the same effect, by acting in bad faith and by being aware that the sporting rifles which the Romanian defendants (who held firearm permits for some of these, as mentioned above) provided to them and which they described as weapons of war in the video material, the general public (the documentary report was broadcast by the British national TV channel) was provided one scenario which, if it had been real, it would have given the impression that the Romanian authorities did not manage or they had no interest in managing a so-called problem generated by the weapon selling in their country, for incompetence or corruption related reasons.
Besides the turn of phrase, absolutely unacceptable and unreasonable, used by the British reporters and accepted by their employer, the TV channel, the actions of the British journalist group in Romania can jeopardize the Romanian state’s national security, by misguiding the European authorities and the general public in Europe and Romania regarding the readiness of the Romanian authorities to handle the smuggling of weapons, originating from conflict areas, adjacent to Romania, which could enable the providing of extremely dangerous war weapons to some terrorism groups in the Western Europe (target of many terrorist attacks in the last years) and in the Middle East.
Thus, if these actions were real, they would be part of the Islamic terrorism financing by Romania, by means of the coward and passive complicity of the authorities of this country.
If the Romanian authorities had not had a rapid and effective response, all these issues would have remained in public memory as their authors wanted to describe them.
In this respect, it is taken into consideration the national security concept, as it is provided by Art. 1 of Act no. 51/1991, this law governing all actions related to the national security of Romania.
The false information, as above mentioned, have generated an insecurity feeling among people, and the institutions and agencies, with competence in the filed of public order and security, have made big efforts, by involving logistic and human resources, in order to identify, as soon as possible, the people in the video material and to counter a possible threat.
The Prosecutors within DIICOT – Central Structure will proceed, by one letter of request, to the summoning of the British reporters, for them to be interrogated about the above-mentioned issues, pursuant to the provisions of the criminal law and of the law on international legal co-operation.
The action was carried out with the assistance of the Romanian Police.
The specialized support was provided by the Special Operation Directorate.
The specialized support was provided by the Romanian Intelligence Service.
The action was carried out with the assistance of VLAD ŢEPEŞ Special Intervention Brigade within the Gendarmerie.
There should be mentioned that, throughout the criminal proceeding, the suspects and defendants benefit from the procedural rights and guarantees, provided by the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as from the presumption of innocence.