• Romanian Minister Gabriela Firea Resigns After Shocking Retirement Home Scandal

    July 14, 2023
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    Gabriela Firea, former Minister of Minister of Family, Youth, and Equality, Source

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    Social Democratic Party (PSD) Minister of Family, Youth, and Equality Gabriela Firea resigned Friday after meeting with Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu. Firea also resigned from her position as chairwoman of the PSD organization in Bucharest and the National Permanent Bureau.

    Gabriela Firea's resignation came more than a week after the "retirement home of horrors" scandal broke.

    This is the second resignation in the government after the one of Labor Minister Marius Budăi, who announced his departure from the executive on Thursday before a government meeting.

    Gabriela Firea's resignation from the government was also confirmed by Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu, who described her move as "voluntary." Ciolacu also called for the resignation of all those who knew about the "retirement home of horrors."

    In the past few days, investigative journalists reported that one of the people arrested in connection with the so-called horror retirement homes case, named Ștefan Godei, used to work at the City Hall, headed by Gabriela Firea, as well as at her senatorial office.

    Gabriela Firea blames the journalists and the way she was depicted in the media in a Facebook post following her meeting with Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu, without taking any accountability.

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    She claims that both she and her husband were portrayed in a "negative" light precisely because she annoys others with her "good deeds" and her behavior.

    "My friend and colleague Ligia has been at my side throughout my professional experience. We worked together until we were exhausted and felt ill. We both paid a high price for the stress we picked up in television, politics, and, especially, during my tenure as mayor. She, too, is suffering the price for putting her trust in others. She wanted to help rather than gain money or cause harm,” said Firea in her Facebook post.

    The Romanian investigative media is refuting her claims

    According to Europa Libera newspaper, Ligia Gheorghe was cited by the anti-mafia prosecutors who are probing the case involving the abuse of around 100 elderly people in three retirement homes near the capital. As part of the investigation, 24 people were taken into custody on Wednesday morning, and two social inspectors from the Ilfov Payments Agency were detained on Thursday.

    From 2020 to March 2023, Ligia Gheorghe was the Vice President of the “Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz” Association, which manages one of the problematic institutions.

    However, it has been discovered that Ligia Gheorghe did not reveal this fact in her asset statement or her disclosure of interests to the ministry.

    Gabriela Firea maintains that she, her family, and her close friends were not involved in or had any knowledge of what was going on in these retirement homes. She claims that had they known, they would have reacted and "defended the lives and dignity of these people!" She cites the DIICOT prosecutors' report in support of her claims.

    Firea describes a "total war" being launched against her, with the goal of "demolishing" her with as much false information as possible. She talks about a media assault aimed at her husband, intending to put them both on a "pedestal of infamy."

    An investigation conducted by journalists from the Center for Media Investigations, Buletin de București, and Libertatea reveals that Gabriela Firea's sister was aware of the horrors taking place in the retirement homes, despite Firea's denial.

    Her sister, Nela Vica Andrieș, worked as an inspector in the Voluntari City Hall's Social Assistance Department for nine months out of the five years she was there, between April and December 2021.

    During this time, her colleagues conducted seven inspections at one of Voluntari's retirement homes. Furthermore, her job description stated unequivocally that she was in charge of managing issues and programs pertaining to the elderly and those with disabilities.

    These details became public when multiple journalists officially requested data from the Voluntari City Hall.

    Gabriela Firea declared in a Facebook post on July 9th that her sister was in charge of educational programs for children, that she was not under investigation by the DIICOT, and that her only crime was being her sister.

    Furthermore, Stefan Godei, who was in charge of the NGO that managed two of Voluntari's retirement homes, worked at Gabriela Firea's senatorial office and earned a monthly salary of 3,000 lei in both 2002 and 2023.

    His last salary was paid at the end of February, specifically on February 27, 2023, according to Gândul, G4Media, and Digi24.

    What are the “retirement homes of horrors”

    The first frightening pieces of information regarding the horrors taking place in the retirement homes of Voluntari and Afumaţi shook public opinion. A DIICOT investigation showed a horrific reality in which patients at these so-called "care centers" were subjected to years of torture and were treated like animals by asylum employees.

    Four of the 24 suspects who appeared in court with a request for pre-trial arrest were ordered to remain in custody for 30 days, while the others were placed under house arrest:

    • Stefan Godei, the administrator of one of the two "Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz" Association centers for the elderly or people with disabilities in Voluntari and Afumaţi.
    • Dan Godei, his brother, and the coordinator of a different geriatric center inside the same organization.
    • Andrei Răzvan Ticu, Director of Social Assistance and Child Protection in Ilfov.
    • Ovidiu Dumitra, a former police officer in the Ilfov Police Criminal Investigations Service, is the husband of Cristina Dumitra, the administrator of one of Ilfov's retirement centers, the Care and Assistance Center Casa Maria SRL, and Grandmother Anastasia's House SRL.

    In addition to insults, verbal abuse, and humiliation, sick and disabled patients were subjected to harsh beatings and forced work by those who were supposed to care for them.

    Individuals with disabilities were kept hungry, filthy, and confined to their quarters, while certain rooms were infested with bedbugs, cockroaches, or even lice.

    According to investigators, Stefan Godei was aided in favorably selecting elderly or disabled individuals for whom large monthly sums were allocated for care and assistance by officials from the General Department for Social Assistance and Child Protection in Ilfov and the Social Assistance and Child Protection Department of Sector 3 Bucharest. However, when these people came to the centers run by Stefan Godei, they did not receive the care and treatment they were entitled to. Instead, they were beaten, held in filth until they developed serious wounds on their bodies, and were deprived of both medicine and food.



    Diana Livesay

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