Historical Moment: The First 9 Romanians to Renounce their Doctor of Science

Allegations of plagiarism have led nine high-level Romanian government officials and lawyers to apply for a voluntarily renunciation of their doctoral degrees from the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI).

The press had previously published evidence for five of these people proving that they had plagiarized their doctoral thesis. Eight out of the nine coincidently had Gabriel Oprea as a supervisor, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Romania who allegedly has plagiarized his own PhD thesis in 2000.

According to a press release by the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information (ANIMV), the nine requests were made between March 3rd and March 7th of 2016. ANIMV then sent the requests to the Ministry of Education, the institution legally empowered to withdraw doctoral titles. The requests were recorded on March 10th 2016.

The official provision that allows doctorates to voluntarily renounce a scientific title was adopted in December 2014 by the government lead by Victor Ponta and was published in the Official Gazette (Romanian Monitorul Oficial) on December 30th 2014.

Moreover, Victor Ponta, former Prime Minister of Romania, signed the Emergency Ordinance No. 94/2014 regarding the amendment of the Education Law No. 1/2011 two weeks after he announced publicly, through Facebook, that he will renounce his doctor of science title. Technically, there was no legal ground for this to occur, thus it should have not been possible.

Victor Ponta was accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis in 2012. Shortly thereafter, the Council for Authenticity of Scientific Titles (Romanian CNATDCU) delivered a plagiarism verdict, a decision which could not be implemented because the then Minister of Education, Liviu Pop, abolished the Council. CNATDCU’s responsibilities were transferred to the National Ethics Council (Romanian Consiliul Naţional de Etică), which decided very quickly that Victor Ponta, then Prime Minister, did not commit plagiarism.

The 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information press release states the nine withdrawn doctoral theses have never been verified by the scientific council of the institution because, after the request has been submitted, “it was canceled, by law, the subject of evaluating the theses of the nine graduates of the Doctoral School.”

However, the officials of this Academy subordinate to SRI recognize that, after the analysis of the theses presented to the Academy, they discovered “some errors or deviations from the academic and political standards that apply nowadays”, regarding some papers that “were mostly completed in 2010 and 2011.”

The press release of the SRI also mentions that “the authors of those papers have been asked to respond and correct the theses, under the law’s implications, after the Ethics Commission is informed for imposing measures, as appropriate, in accordance with the methodologies in force.”

Asked about the meaning of “correcting” the theses and the legal ground around this practice, the press office of SRI has not yet responded. The Ministry of Education responded with the names of the people who requested the withdrawal of the PhD title after a formal inquiry based on free access to public information law 544/2001.

Eight out of the nine doctors had Gabriel Oprea as a supervisor, while the ninth, Mihai Tudose, former Minister of Economy in Victor Ponta’s Government, had a supervisor named Constantin Onișor, a former director of the ANIMV Doctoral School until September 2015. Constantin Onișor was replaced after several plagiarism incidents were reported in the press.

Who are the Nine?

Bogdan Licu was a member of the Superior Council of Magistracy (the institution responsible for guaranteeing the independence and integrity of the judicial system) in Romania in 2011 when he defended his thesis.

Now, Licu is the Deputy General Prosecutor of Romania. On August 31st 2015, he was accused of plagiarizing most of his doctoral thesis. His name also comes up in another file opened by the Supreme Court that has been prosecuted in rem, meaning that everybody involved would have been investigated on charges of incitement to plagiarism.

Bogdan Licu announced in March, a few months after the file was opened, that he would give up his doctoral title “for personal reasons.”

“More than a month ago I made a request to the Ministry of Education to withdrawal my doctoral title. I did it out of personal reasons and it was a hard decision, but I want to mention that I do not consider that I have plagiarized my thesis”, said Bogdan Licu.

Neculai Ontanu was the Mayor of Sector 2 in Bucharest when he defended his thesis in 2010. He was a general secretary for the UNPR party in Romania and a good friend of Gabriel Oprea.

Mr. Ontanu is now in custody of the police on accusations for taking bribes in order to facilitate the restoration of property rights to a plot of land, out of which 1,000 meters got to Gabriel Oprea through his niece, Loredana Radu. Information about the plagiarism of Neculai Ontanu’s doctoral thesis was made public on August 11th 2015.

Loredana Radu is Gabriel Oprea’s niece and a lawyer when she defended her thesis. As a lawyer, she defended Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the Rovinari-Turceni file. Loredana Radu was the legal representative of the company Dalli Exim S.R.L., a company established by Dorin Cocos, the ex-husband of Elena Udrea, another controversial political figure in Romania. She also handled the legal requirements of the legal registration of a new party called USL – Social-Liberal Union.

Radu was arrested at the same time as Neculai Ontanu, on the same file, and afterwards placed under house arrest. Recently, she requested to drop her title as a lawyer so that her file will not be judged under appeal on the High Court of Cassation and Justice (Romanian Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie). Accusations about Loredana Radu’s plagiarism first appeared in the press on August 26th 2015.

Adela Popescu (Neagu) was the Secretary for Gabriel Oprea while Mr Oprea was the Minister of National Defense and then Interior Minister. She was decorated twice by the former president of Romania, Traian Basescu and once by Klaus Iohannis, with “Steaua României", the oldest national recognition of honor in Romania. Adela Popescu (Neagu) was also the General Secretary of UNPR, a political party in Romania.

Once evidence of her plagiarism appeared in the media, on September 2nd, president Klaus Iohannis stopped the negotiations with Gabriel Oprea about forming a new parliamentary majority between the liberal party PNL and UNPR and also ended the discussions with Gabriel Oprea about becoming Prime Minister.

Mihai Stănișoară was a member of Chamber of Deputies in Parliament when he defended his thesis in 2011. He was the President of the Defense, Public Order and National Security Committee within the Chamber of Deputies. He was a presidential adviser on defense and security issues during Tariceanu’s governance. Evidence of his plagiarism was made public on September 7th, 2015.

Radu Stroe was a member of the Chamber of Deputies in Parliament when he defended his thesis in 2013. He later became Minister of Interior Affairs and a member of the Parliament Commission for the Security and Information Service.

Daniel Andrei Moldoveanu was the head of the National Information Community, subordinate to the Supreme Defense Council while defending his thesis in 2013.

Romeo Raicu was the vice president of PDL, the democratic liberal party, when he defended his thesis in 2011. Before that, he was a deputy and president of the Parliament Commission for Control of the External Information Service (SIE).

Mihai Tudose was a member of Chamber of Deputies when he defended his thesis. He was President of the Commission for Economic Politics, Reform and Privatization in Parliament. Evidence of his plagiarism was published on August 18th 2015.

His situation was somehow special, considering that one year after he defended his doctoral thesis he applied for an examination to become an associate professor at the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information. The title was a mandatory requirement in order to be eligible to candidate for an associate professor role.

Asked if Mihai Tudose will lose his professorial status at the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information, the SRI press office has not yet replied at the time of publication.

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PressOne published a list of the 21 people who obtained a doctoral title under the supervision of Gabriel Oprea between 2004 and 2013. To that list we add a new name, Gheorghe Muscalu, public prosecutor and member of the Superior Magistracy Council.

Nine people have presented their theses at the 'Alexandru Ioan Cuza' Police Academy and the other thirteen at the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information.

Out of the twenty-two people supervised by Gabriel Oprea, seven have been disclosed as plagiarists: Neculai Onțanu, Bogdan Licu, Loredana Radu, Adela Popescu, Mihai Stănișoară, Dumitru Pârvu and Adrian Petrache.

The same support committees

PressOne wrote about the fact that all the supervision committees coordinated by Gabriel Oprea had the same members: associate professor Dr. Luca Iamandi, associate professor Dr. Ștefan Gheorghe Teodoru, associate professor Dr. Costică Voicu, associate professor Dr. Ion Suceavă, associate professor Dr. Vasile Mihai Ozunu and associate professor Dr. Gheorghe Toma.

The situation was similar in committees supporting the twelve doctoral theses coordinated by Gabriel Oprea at the National Academy of Information, where the same professors assessed the presentations: associate professor Dr. Vasile Dîncu (current Deputy Prime Minister, associate professor at the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information), associate professor Dr. Constantin Onişor (former director of the Doctoral School of the 'Mihai Viteazul' National Academy of Information), associate professor Dr. Ion Neagu (coordinator of the doctoral thesis of Gabriel Oprea), associate professor Dr. Teodor Frunzeti (former rector of the 'Carol I' National University of Defense, currently working as a presidential adviser), associate professor Dr. Florin Râpan, associate professor Dr. George Toma, associate professor Dr. Marius Hanganu, associate professor dr. Mihai Vasile Ozunu, associate professor Dr. Ţuţu Pişleag, associate professor Dr. Ștefan Gheorghe Teodoru and associate professor Dr. Cristian Barna.

As previously mentioned, Gabriel Oprea is suspected to have plagiarized his own doctoral thesis as well; the paper is still under verification procedure at the Council for Authenticity of Scientific Titles in Romania.

PressOne has previously written about Gabriel Oprea’s career as a university professor. In the fourteen years Oprea had been a professor he did not teach a single course in front of students. Gabriel Oprea became a professor after chain of illegal practices abetted by several state institutions including the Ministry of National Defense of Romania, The Ministry of Education, The 'Carol I' National University of Defense, The Police Academy and The National Academy of Information.

Additionally, Gabriel Oprea transferred from the National Defense College to the Police Academy of Romania and late to the National Academy of Information even though the legislation explicitly prohibits the transfer of professors from one higher education institution to another. This succession of unlawful practices was never investigated by the Ministry of Education while it was led by Adrian Curaj.

Epilogue

Romanian law allows for the possibility to renounce the title of doctor of science, but fails in its procedure. There was no precedent of voluntary renunciation of doctorates until these nine submitted their requests.

**Translated by Alexandra Ciobotaru**