Businessman in Romania gets 7 years in jail for land scam

Romania's top court has handed a businessman a 7-year prison sentence over a real estate scam, after he illegally obtained land where he built the capital's best-known mall.

The High Court for Cassation and Justice on Wednesday sentenced Gabriel Popoviciu to jail for illegally acquiring 224 hectares (554 acres) from the state University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine to build the Baneasa mall in north Bucharest. The ruling is final.

Prosecutors said from 2000 to 2004, Nicolae Alecu, the ex-rector, illegally signed over the land at a vastly undervalued price to SC Baneasa Investments SA, which was controlled by Popoviciu. The court also sentenced Alecu to six years for official misconduct.

The contract stated the developer would plant trees on the land, raise animals and provide financial benefits to the university.