Radu Mazare is one of more than 3 million Romanians who work outside the country. But he’s a little different to most of them.
He first started to visit the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar as an alternative to his usual holiday destination of Brazil. “I felt amazing from the first visit back in 2011,” he told Euronews. When he decided to move to the island more permanently last year, however, another feature of the island was at the forefront of his mind – the fact that it had no extradition treaty with his native country.
Mazare, a former mayor of the Black Sea port of Constanta, was sentenced to six years and six months in jail for abuse of office. In one of the cases, he is accused of selling municipal plots of land at undervalued prices, with a total estimated loss for the city of Constanta of €3 million.
He disputes the charges, pointing out that an appeals court had earlier acquitted him of the same charges. However, he says he has no confidence in the judicial system and is therefore seeking political asylum in Madagascar.
“My current status is that of an asylum-seeker in the African country as I stand no chance of a fair trial in Romania”, he told Euronews via Whatsapp. “In Romania, the justice system is under the control of the Romanian Intelligence Service,” he added.
Mazare became a celebrity during his fifteen years in office, partly as a result of his flamboyant behaviour. He was seen leading parades dressed as a pharaoh, a sultan or even as a Nazi officer. The latter stunt drew a fierce rebuke from the Anti-Semitism Centre in Romania, which considered Mazare’s gesture to be “outrageous and provocative” and made an official complaint to the Prosecutor’s office.
And in moving to a new country, Mazare has not adopted the typical lifestyle associated with an asylum-seeker.
A water sports enthusiast, he has a stake in a kitesurfing resort on the island and holds a long-term lease on land containing 16 luxury bungalows.
Keen on his way of life and not looking to exchange his tropical ocean view for that of a Romanian courtroom, or jail cell, the ex-politician said he has no plans to return to Romania. “My rights have constantly been infringed by the Romanian parallel and occult state where there is no fair justice”, Radu Mazare concluded over WhatsApp.
The European Union praised the progress made by Romania in tackling corruption following its accession. However, during the past few months, it has warned about attempts by politicians to undermine the powers of judicial investigators and reduce their ability to hold wrong-doers to account.