Brit, 75, begs court not to extradite him to Romania over £120m scam

Brit dubbed Paul of Romania, 75, who has a claim to the Romanian crown begs French court to refuse ‘nightmare’ bid to extradite him to Bucharest to serve sentence for £120m property scam

  • Paul claims he is the rightful heir to the Romanian throne, abolished in 1947 

A Briton claiming to be heir to the defunct Romanian throne has urged a French court not to extradite him to Romania to serve a sentence for his involvement in a £120million royal property scam.

The self-styled ‘Paul of Romania’ was slapped with the extradition warrant in 2020 after he was sentenced to three years and four months in jail for his role in illegally  selling on properties confiscated from the royals during Romania’s communist era.

‘King Paul’, 75, claimed that he was justified in taking back lands that were rightfully his as the heir of Carol II of Romania. Fighting not to be extradited back to Bucharest, he told the Court of Appeal in Paris: ‘I have done nothing illegal or wrong. I trust France to get me out of this nightmare.’

The French court delayed its decision on Wednesday and will now rule on the case on November 29. 

Paul – who has British, Romanian and French nationality – is among 18 people convicted over the schemes, including Israeli businessmen Tal Silberstein and Beny Steinmetz.

Paul Philippe de Hohenzollern, son of late Carol Mircea Grigore, poses at his house in Bucharest on February 14, 2012

The Peleş Castle in Romania, which Paul ceded his claim to among dozens of other lands

Defending Paul in France, lawyer Laurent Pasquet-Marinacce said that the legal action is ‘impossible to separate from what (Paul) represents to the Romanian state, in light of its history’.

Pasquet-Marinacce pointed to Interpol’s March 30 decision to withdraw a wanted notice against Steinmetz in the same case over ‘serious political concerns’.

How the Romanian royals were ousted under communism 

Romania fought alongside the Nazis against the USSR in World War II. But in 1944, a coup led by King Michael I toppled the government and led to a ceasefire with the Allies.

When the war finished, Romania was among the countries swept up into the Soviet sphere of influence, beginning a new era in the country’s turbulent history.

Occupying Russian forces ousted the royal family and forced them into exile from 1947 onwards.

In 1990, with the USSR on its last legs, the former King was rehabilitated by former communist officials – but then expelled when they feared his return might spark another revolution.

Since then, monarchists have revived calls to reinstate the Kingdom of Romania, an institution that had lasted almost from its 1878 independence from the Ottomans until the end of WWII.

‘The acts that got (Paul) convicted are directly connected to the status as royal heir that he claims,’ the lawyer added.

The extradition appeals court in Paris has asked on three occasions for further details from Romanian courts to help its work, most recently in October.

‘The deeper we get into this hearing, the more numerous and evident the authorities’ contradictions become,’ Pasquet-Marinacce said, calling on the court to reject the Romanian request.

Paul became an international fugitive in 2020 after an international warrant for his arrest was issued, following the decision of the Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice to prosecute him for in the so-called ‘Băneasa Farm Folder’.

He was accused of having worked with Romanian and Israeli businessmen to ‘reclaim’ highly-expensive properties outside the capital of Bucharest, among them parts of the Royal Farm Băneasa (28.6 hectares) and Snagov Forest (47 hectares).

He then sold the lands to a company controlled by diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz in 2006, which prosecutors said he had no right to do. They noted that he was only recognised as one of the legitimate heirs of Carol II by the Romanian Supreme Court of Justice in 2012.

Steinmetz and Remus Truică, the former chief of staff for Prime Minister Adrian Năstase, both received seven years for their involvement in the scheme, which was estimated to have cost 145,398,569 euros in damages.

Prosecutors claimed that Steinmetz had transferred Paul four million euros to be used in the acquisition of the property, reportedly in exchange for ceding his claim to royal lands and ensuring media support.

Paul’s grandfather, Carol II, was the penultimate King of Romania before the monarchy was ousted by occupying Soviet Forces in 1947. 

Paul’s father was recognised Carol’s son in Portugal in 1955 and in France in 1963, but the link was only acknowledged by Romania in 2012.

The decision was also recognised by the United Kingdom in 1964, entitling Carol Lambrino to a British passport under the name ‘Prince of Hohenzollern, Prince of Romania’.

The Snagov Monastery in Romania, dubbed ‘Dracula’s Tomb’, was among the lands claimed

The main building of the Ferma Regală Băneasa – Baneasa Royal Farm – which was nationalised by the communist regime in 1948, its lands passed to the Ministry of Agriculture 

Paul himself – who has British, French and Romanian citizenship – returned to live in the country in the 1990s.

His uncle Michel, the last king, did not acknowledge him as part of the royal family and died in 2017.

Paul now claims that his attempts to reclaim his royal inheritance of property, land and classic artworks are the real reason for his prosecution. 

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