Launch of Ploiesti terminal followed by inspections
In 2017 the Group made an investment into the only one of its kind in Romania high capacity, ultramodern fuel delivery terminal for civil and military aviation which was formally commissioned in the city of Ploiesti. At its inauguration the ribbon was cut by Hank Klemm, the American Ambassador in Romania at the time, in the presence of officials from Pentagon and NATO. The event was also attended by former Romanian Ministers of Defence, Minister of Finance as well as representatives of Conpet and the Romanian Ministry of Energy.
After this event, during the period 2017 – 2022, the Master Chem Oil Group of companies, in particular Jetfly Hub and their representatives were dragged into an endless series of absolutely ill-grounded judicial and extrajudicial proceedings of civil, administrative and criminal nature, as a consequence of illegal procedures taken by a local county prosecutor in Romania, with the purpose of undermining the proper functioning of the company’s activity. The type of illegalities which took place ranged from unlawful seizure of cutterstock product to imposition of excise duties related to transactions with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which the MoD honoured and paid, allowing the company to continue its activity.
In the beginning of 2018, Jetfly Hub SRL won a public tender and entered into a four-year Framework Supply Agreement with the MoD of Romania – Romanian Air Force for the supply of JET A1 fuel.
Immediately after signing the contract with the MoD and throughout the contract duration (1 March 2018 – 31 July 2021) Jetfly Hub was subject to 74 groundless inspections, carried out by a variety of the Romanian Government authorities, from the National Agency of Tax Administration up to the Environment Agency and many others. The inspections that did not acknowledge anything relevant and which each time culminated with the abusive illegal actions, which was subsequently appealed against in court by Jet Fly Hub and irrevocably cancelled. While not finding any irregularities, these inspections led to the blocking of the company’s businesses and caused multiple delays in fuel deliveries with serious consequences. However, information about these groundless inspections is used against the Group of the companies and its owner for the purposes of creating a negative tax evasion image.
Helicopter incident leading to the Prosecutor’s attacks
Starting from 2020 JetFly Hub was submitted to a concerted subversive attack from the local authorities with the aim of closing down the business. Three years after a military helicopter crash which took place during military trainings in 2017, the Romanian prosecutors initiated an investigation claiming that these planes belonging to the MoD were damaged due to low quality kerosene delivered by JetFly Hub, thus putting in danger national security of the country with the estimated damage of approximately 6.5 million euros. A criminal case was opened into the shareholders and directors of Jetfly Hub Dan Florin Berendel and Cristian Berendel on the following charges:
- constituting a criminal group under Art. 367 of the Romanian Criminal Code;
- false statements criminated by art. 326 of the Romanian Criminal Code;
- forgery in private writings and signature incriminated by art. 322 of the Romanian Criminal Code;
- deception incriminated by art. 244 of the Romanian Criminal Code and
- acts of diversion incriminated by art. 403 of the Romanian Criminal Code.
On 12 July 2021 house searches and 24 hours preventive detention of Dan and Cristian Berendels were ordered by Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) PRAHOVA. Next day DIICOT issued a report on the proposal for preventive arrest of Dan and Cristian Berendels to the Court of Appeal and on the same day the Court rejected in full the demand and allegations and set them both free with no other additional measures. The Court then stated that the conditions for ordering this precautionary measure are not met, and that there are no solid indications and evidence regarding the perpetration of the crimes charged by the Public Prosecutor. Prosecutor’s office contested the decision, but the Romanian High Court rejected this appeal and maintained the Ploiesti Court of Appeal ruling.
On 20 July 2021 Ploiesti Customs proposed to revoke Jetfly Hub’s tax warehouse permit. The company requested to participate in the Commission meetings but Ploiesti Tax Office informed JetFly Hub that it is not necessary for its representative to participate and provide additional clarifications. On 28 July 2021 JetFly Hub’s fiscal warehouse permit was revoked, thus making it impossible to finalize the supply contract with the MoD. This decision was appealed against in the court by JetFlyHub and was irrevocably revoked due to the measures being deemed excessive.
Despite this, on 30 July 2021 the MoD Air Force sent a letter of contract termination without further notice. The officially communicated reason was “because of the repeated delays in delivering the contracted quantities of fuel.”
Thus, the illegal actions taken by the Ploiesti Tax and Customs Office had negative consequences, leading to the termination of JetFly Hub’s contract and financial damages given that USD 200,000 performance bond was enforced as a result.
One year later, it turned out that all these events were a consequence of the actions, pressure and letters issued by the Prosecutor’s Office of DIICOT Ploiesti to the Ploiesti Tax Office, Ploiesti Customs Office as well as to the Romanian Court of Accounts with the sole purpose to block the activity of the Company.
Bad publicity and fake news about non-compliant fuel
Four years after the helicopter incident, a negative press campaign was initiated against the Company. On 3 October 2022 breaking news spread all over the Romanian media, saying that eight Romanian air force jet fighters have been grounded due to bad quality fuel delivered by Jetfly Hub. This was despite the fact that the supply contract has been terminated in July 2021 and all alleged accusations in the prosecution file mentioned above have been overruled by the Court of Appeal of Ploiesti and by the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
As a response to the media attack, the MoD issued a press release confirming that no jet fighter has been grounded due to bad quality fuel and all the missions have been completed successfully.
Yet, despite this confirmation from the MoD, and the fact that the High Court confirmed that evidence or solid indications of the two defendants committing the actions they were accused of are missing, the Ploiesti Prosecutor continued the “witch hunt” with the obvious aim of destroying the business of Jetfly Hub in Romania.
As the news spread, it was important to remind everyone that the Romanian Air Force has extremely rigorous procedures that are applied prior to receiving the product, which means it is practically impossible to deliver non-compliant fuel. The samples from the reservoirs are tested multiple times, in the lab as well as before entering shipment units, which eliminates all risks of contamination during the logistics chain, and which means that the Jetfly Hub does not supply the planes directly on the runway.
Besides, as in any commercial relationship, the customer has the contractual right to refuse the unsuitable goods. The units were not refused and JetFly Hub has all verifying documents clearly specifying that they complied with the contractual provisions, fulfilled all the terms of the contract and caused no damage.
Nevertheless, a few days after the media scandal, the same prosecutors whose actions lead to the blockage of the JetFly Hub’s activity and delays in the execution of the contract with the MoD extended the criminal proceedings for the delays in deliveries, which have been caused by its own doing. It is worth mentioning that delays in executing a commercial contract cannot be defined as criminal acts, and in any case the delays are clearly defined in the commercial supply contract.
Questions which remain
JetFly Hub at all times carried out its activity in strict compliance with all the legal, tax and contractual obligations. The judges acknowledged the lack of evidence for all the crimes incriminated by the Public Prosecutor, including acts of sabotage. Sabotaging the air force with non-compliant kerosene was also dismissed by Prime Minister Ciuca and other defence ministers, in full knowledge of the strict circuit of multiple fuel checks.
Besides, the facts that JetFly Hub for years had a good collaboration with high standing American officials and that it is currently supplying fuel to Ukraine should not be underestimated.
While JetFly Hub reserves the right to initiate all the legal proceedings against the authors of these defamatory actions, some questions remain following all the illegal activity which took place:
- Why did the Prosecutor take all these actions?
- Where did the negative publicity come from?
- Who is sponsoring these campaigns?
- Was it all deliberate?