Gala BURSA "Deceniul European din Centenarul României"
CRISTINA CHIRIAC:
BURSA 15.03.2017

Recorded by ANCUȚA STANCIU (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
 
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     WTCB was created in 1994, as a joint Romanian-French company, in which the Romanian party held 55% of the shares. The World Trade Center București complex also includes the 4-star Pullman hotel, which is part of the Accor international network. World Trade Center București is a member of the World Trade Centers Association since 1994.
     In June 2011, the County Court of Bucharest opened the insolvency proceedings for WTC România in order to protect it from a historic debt of 40 million Euros. That debt originates from a syndicated loan taken out in 1992-1994 from three French banks. For that loan, Credit Lyonnais, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale have asked for a sovereign guarantee from the state, according to Mircea Ursache, former CEO of WTC. The state the equivalent in lei of more than 110 million lei, in service of the WTCB debt, which made WTCB a debtor to the state. In 2014, bankruptcy trustee Euro Insol was replaced with Valor SPRL.
     The main shareholders of WTCB were initially French company Bouygues, Swiss firm Debarth and the former Bancorex, all of them with stakes slightly above 20%. In the following years, WTCB lost The French Village and the French Club, which were acquired y General Council of the City of Bucharest for approximately 15 million dollars.
     Since then, the shareholder structure of World Trade Center has come to include the Proprietatea Fund (19.9%), the Romanian Chamber of Commerce (6.27%), the Mayoralty of Bucharest (5.15%) and Tarom (2.6%), together with Bouygues Batiment International (21,51%), Debarth SA (20,23%), Financiara SA (7,91%), Astra SA (5,78%), TC Carpați SA (3,43%) or SIF Muntenia (2,68%).
     Last week, Mrs. Cristina Chiriac was awarded a final and irrevocable ruling in her lawsuit against WTC București, and the court ruled that she should be reinstated as general manager, after she was dismissed in 2014. She granted us an interview about the current situation of WTC București.
     Reporter: Please tell us how you were dismissed and why?
     Cristina Chiriac: In 2014, immediately after the end of the company's biggest event - the World Trade Center General Shareholder meeting - which was attended by WTC representatives from all over the world, I was dismissed by special administrator Pavel Avrămoiu, without any prior notice or justification, and in violation of the legal provisions of the Labor Code.
     Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu was special administrator at the time. He had been challenged by the trustee in bankruptcy of WTCB SA, Euro Insol, respectively, for discrepancies in his activity of special administrator.
     According to the law of insolvency, a company in that situation, during the observation period, can have a special administrator appointed upon the shareholders' proposal. It also needs to be said that the special administrator takes over the roles of the Board of Directors. The special administrator and the trustee in bankruptcy manage the operations of the debtor together.
     Reporter: Who appointed Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu?
     Cristina Chiriac: Pavel Avrămoiu was proposed by the mayoralty of Bucharest, at the time when Sorin Oprescu was the general mayor of Bucharest, and Mr. Avrămoiu was his personal advisor. He was elected by the shareholders in 2012 as special administrator of World Trade Center and then he was suspended, due to conducting activities that violated his mandate. I remember that his suspension was decided by the syndic judge at the time, following a trial.
     I was hired later, in 2013 by the trustee in bankruptcy, Euro Insol, respectively, who was replaced in 2014, by syndic judge Mircea Moldovan, upon the request of some of the creditors.
     Reporter: Which creditors?
     Cristina Chiriac: I think we are talking about the mayoralty of Bucharest, which plays a double part, both as a shareholder, and as a creditor.
     After Euro Insol was replaced I have continued my activity within the company. At that time I was organizing the most important event that WTCB was involved in, the general meeting of the WTC association, which means that Romania hosted the annual meeting of all the WTC organizations in the world.
     The next day after the event was over, I came in to work in the morning and the secretary brought me the decision with my dismissal. If the two administrators were real "men" they shouldn't have waited for the end of the event, they could have fired me ahead of it.
     Reporter: Did you have a contract?
     Cristina Chiriac: I had an individual employment contract, according to the law. I was not hired with a mandate contract, I was dismissed illegally, which I have proven in court definitely and irrevocably.
     Reporter: What justifications did the special administrator provide?
     Cristina Chiriac: None. The day I received the decision of my dismissal, I had to clear my desk. I took all my personal belongings and I was not asked to conduct a procedure of transferring the responsibilities to my successor. Perhaps they knew I'd be back.
     I was simply fired and required to leave the institution on the same day. I challenged that decision in court and after more than three years, I earned the right to be rehired on that position.
     Starting with November 1st , I returned to World Trade Center as general manager.
     Throughout all this time, Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu, the special administrator, managed the activity of the company, managed the activity of the company, but did so in a very strange manner. I've seen documents he's signed both as general manager, as well as manager - invoking a management contract between himself and Valor SPRL (the current trustee in bankruptcy) - as well as special administrator.
     Reporter: Was he allowed to do that?
     Cristina Chiriac: That will be up to the court or the competent entities of the state to decide. All I can say is that I have seen that kind of documents and that they exist. My statements can be proven.
     What I find even stranger is that Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu argued in his argumentation in court that I was fired for financial reasons, but during all this time, the special administrator or the manager made hirings that were not justified from a financial point of view. For example, in the position of advisor to the manager was appointed Dragoș Bîlteanu, former president of SIF Banat - Crișana.
     I wonder: why did the manager feel the need to hire, most likely for a large wage, Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu, a person involved in the shareholder structure of SIF Banat Crișana. Is it because that company controls SAI Muntenia Invest which is the manager of SIF Muntenia, and the latter is a shareholder in WTC?
     Reporter: So SIF Muntenia is a shareholder in World Trade Center?
     Cristina Chiriac: Yes. The fact that Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu was hired as advisor to Mr. Avrămoiu can create reasonable suspicions concerning the ties he still has with people from the management of SIF Banat Crișana. The son of Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu is a member of the executive structure of SIF1 and sometimes had meetings with Mr. Bîlteanu at the WTCB, during that time.
     Reporter: Maybe he isn't hired on a full time schedule.
     Cristina Chiriac: As a general manager, I wrote to Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu and to the trustee in bankruptcy a letter requesting an explanation for the hiring of Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu. I received an answer two days ago which said that it wasn't my job to ask that kind of questions.
     Reporter: Are you sure he works at WTCB SA?
     Cristina Chiriac: I am sure he is!
     Reporter: Perhaps he works pro-bono at WTCB SA because he probably has enough money.
     Cristina Chiriac: According to the law, labor has to be compensated. If you are hired, you can't come in and work pro-bono. You have to make some money. Therefore this reasoning doesn't work.
     Reporter: But you didn't personally see Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu together with Mr. Octavian Avrămoiu.
     Cristina Chiriac: All of the employees saw them go in and out of the hotel one after another. It would have been ridiculous for them to invite me to their talks, which I wouldn't have participated in anyway.
     Reporter: What will you do from now on?
     Cristina Chiriac: I have been reinstated as managing director in November, according to the ruling of the court, and I had to take over all my duties, but strangely, once again a coincidence, Mr. Pavel Avrămoiu changed the organization structure in such a way that my roles have been reduced or restricted. Since November and up until this day, I did not have access to all the documents of the company.
     Reporter: Shouldn't a management discharge be performed?
     Cristina Chiriac: I wasn't asked to do that. Furthermore, I can tell you that the latest decision made by Mr. Avrămoiu was to ban me from speaking publicly about the activity of World Trade Center.
     Reporter: And yet you have agreed to grant us this interview, you are violating his directive.
     Cristina Chiriac: I am speaking out now because I want for the company to make a recovery. I am speaking about an abuse, about an illegality. In the beginning of my work as CEO of WTC, the company's profit rose 1 million Euros, the occupancy rate of the retail gallery exceeded 90%, the occupancy rate of the office spaces had surpassed 70%. The numbers are approximate.
     All of these things have been published in the activity reports of the former trustee in bankruptcy. I can tell you on the other hand that in November, when I was reinstated at World Trade Center, I found drastic differences concerning the occupancy rate of the retail gallery or of the office spaces.
     Reporter: We received a notification, from a former employee of World Trade Center, that you have been fired again.
     Cristina Chiriac: I wasn't notified of this. I have been informed that there is an initiative of the special administrator to fire certain employees. I am curious, like any woman, to find out if that will include Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu, who never comes in to work, or only does so every now and then, and who has some secret duties, that I, as general manager, know nothing about. I suspect that he is the person that Mr. Avrămoiu trusts the most because during his leave he delegates the entire activity of the company to the advisor.
     Reporter: Are you referring to Dragoș Bîlteanu?
     Cristina Chiriac: Yes, I am referring to Dragoș Bîlteanu. There are those documents. One of them says: "Between June 15th and June 24th 2016, in my absence, Mr. Dragoș Bîlteanu, advisor to the General Department, will be allowed to sign, if needed, in my name, the following documents: the mail of the company, cash advances, reimbursement requests, procurement requests and/or other contracts, orders strictly within the limits of the approved budget, holiday leave requests, documents pertaining to the activity of the Pullman hotel, any other documents for the normal functioning of the World Trade Center București and Hotel Pullman with the exception of payments made from the company's bank accounts. All the employees, including the management of World Trade Center and Hotel Pullman will comply with the requests promptly. No information will be supplied to the third parties without prior approval from advisor Dragoș Bîlteanu. Signed, Pavel Avrămoiu, manager".
     Reporter: What is the subordination/coordination relationship between the trustee in bankruptcy, the special administrator and the general manager?
     Cristina Chiriac: I would like to make a clarification: even if a company is insolvent, the provisions of the law no. 31/1990 concerning companies continue to apply. Thus, the moment a company files for insolvency and has operations, the special administrator can't take over the roles of the general manager as well. The law no. 31 of companies states that any company is led by a general manager. For now, the law does not recognize the term of manager or any other title as replacement for general manager.
     The provisions of the law of insolvency state that the special administrator must be paid by the shareholders. In other words the compensation package of the special administrator must be borne by the shareholders. At World Trade Center, there is an anomaly happening. The special administrator is paid out of the debtors' assets. And what's more, that special administrator has two positions: special administrator and manager, I wonder if he gets two salaries as well?
     Reporter: What percentage does the Mayoralty of Bucharest hold?
     Cristina Chiriac: A significant percentage, but it is on the creditors' committee together with the Finance Ministry. We are talking about public funds, we are talking about the effectiveness of a special administrator who manages a company with large debts towards the state.
      Reporter: Who is the biggest creditor?
     Cristina Chiriac: The Romanian state, through the Finance Ministry.
     Reporter: What do you intend to do from now on?
     Cristina Chiriac: My intentions are to fulfill my obligations.
     Reporter: Did you win in court the right to be paid the wages for the duration of the lawsuit?
     Cristina Chiriac: On that issue we are still in court, there is a hearing scheduled in April. It is simply a matter of time.
     Reporter: Thank you! 
 

 
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