1981: Gheorghe Stefanescu, the Walter White of wine

Add comment December 14th, 2019 Headsman

Romanian entrepreneur Gheorghe Stefanescu was shot at Jilava Prison on this date in 1981. He was at the center of one of the largest corruption scandals of the Communist period.

A Bucharest liquor-store administrator, Stefanescu built a vast network that sold unlicensed and adulterated wine throughout the 1970s. When arrested in 1978 — after a Securitate officer noticed that the wine he’d ordered for a wedding decayed into sludge when the festivity was delayed — Stefanescu had accumulated a villa, two cars, 18 kg in gold jewelry, and millions in lei. More than 200 other people, ranging from distributors to officials corrupted by bribes, were arrested when the operation was rolled up.

The way it worked was, a vineyards administrator would fraudulently declare part of his product a loss to natural disaster, and squirrel it away illicitly. This contraband was then multiplied in volume and profitability by diluting the highest-quality wine with cheap plonk. Stefanescu and friends moved some 400,000 liters of this stuff from 1971 to 1978, costing the Romanian government several million dollars in lost revenue — a laughably pinprick injury compared to Romania’s post-Ceausescu sea of corruption but as they say, a prophet is never welcome in his own country.

Bring your Romanian proficiency to enjoy the 1984 film about the affair, Secretul lui Bachus (Secrets of Bacchus).

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,History,Organized Crime,Pelf,Romania,Shot

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1954: Lucretiu Patrascanu, purged Romanian

Add comment April 17th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1954, Lucretiu Patrascanu was shot in Jilava Prison outside Bucharest.

The widow’s-peaked longtime pol was one of the first inductees of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) after its 1921 founding. Patrascanu (English Wikipedia entry | Romanian) was 21 years old then: the spirited politicking within the Communist movement would define the whole of his adult life.

By the 1930s, he held a position of national leadership. Patrascanu served in the Romanian legislature, and became a party representative to the Comintern.

It might have been at a Comintern road trip to Moscow in the 1930s that Patrascanu’s disillusionment with Stalin began. If so, it was beside the point: leftists in Romania (like everywhere else) had the more immediate threat of fascism to contend with.

After spending most of the war years under arrest, Patrascanu re-emerged as a state minister. He personally helped to author the August 23, 1944 coup that flipped Romania out of the Axis camp. But by the very next year he was under police surveillance.

He fell in the Soviet-driven late 1940s purge of Eastern European Titoists, for having such insufficiently internationalist notions as “before we are Communists, we are Romanians.” His time in prison was long enough for authorities to model his show trial on the 1952 Czechoslovakian Slansky trial, though Patrascanu himself disdained to denounce himself, or even to dignify the proceedings with a defense.

I have nothing to say, except [that I] spit on the charges brought against me.

He was posthumously rehabilitated in 1968 by Nicolae Ceausescu.

* Poignantly, Patrascanu was said to have read Koestler’s dystopian novel of the Soviet purges, Darkness at Noon, while an envoy to the 1946 Paris Peace Conference.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Politicians,Posthumous Exonerations,Romania,Shot,Torture,Treason

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1971: Ion Rimaru, the Vampire of Bucharest

1 comment October 23rd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1971, Romania’s most notorious serial killer was dragged to the stake at Jilava Prison — fighting all the way, and shrieking “Call my father, so he can see what’s happening to me! Make him come! He’s the only guilty one!” — and shot to death for a rape-murder spree that had terrorized Bucharest for more than a year.

Ion Rîmaru (or Ion Râmaru), an emotionally stunted, sexually perverted veterinary school dropout, began in 1970 preying on lone women perambulating the Romanian capital late at night.

Though a number of Rimaru’s targets escaped with their lives,* his attacks were noted for their bestial ferocity: biting into, perhaps cannibalizing, his victims’ sex organs; necrophiliac rapes; blood-drinking (hence the nickname). Authorities loathe to cop to a serial killer were initially tight-lipped about the monster in their midst, only heightening public terror, until a very visible May 1971 dragnet finally caught the Vampire.

Though he surely met someone’s definition of nuts, his attempt to claim insanity at trial was a predictable nonstarter, leading to this day’s scene on the execution grounds. Rimaru actually got himself turned all the way round, and took the firing squad’s barrage in his back. Unseemly, all in all.

But all that carrying on about his father? Evidently it was more than just unresolved Oedipal stuff.

The next year, his father fatally “fell” (read: was pushed by police) from a train. Forensic evidence taken from the body of Florea Rîmaru (Romanian link) implicated the Vampire’s dad in four unsolved 1944 murders in wartime Bucharest.

* His infamous spree’s official tally was four killed, plus six attempted murders, five rapes, one attempted rape, one robbery and three thefts. (Romanian source)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Murder,Popular Culture,Rape,Romania,Serial Killers,Shot

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1962: Gheorghe Arsenescu, Romanian partisan

Add comment May 29th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1962, partisan Gheorghe Arsenescu was put to death at Bucharest’s Jilava Prison.

Arsenescu was a leader and co-founder of one of Romania’s several bands of anti-communist resistance units. Arsenescu’s Haiducii Muscelului — the Muscel Outlaws — were a band of 30 to 40 in the Carpathian fooothills who scarcely posed a serious threat to the Romanian state, but who nevertheless managed to elude capture for nine solid years in the 1950’s.

(More about the Haiducii in this Romanian pdf.)

Arsenescu was finally nabbed in 1960, a few months after his former comrades Toma and Petre Arnautoiu had themselves been executed. According to Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe, Arsenescu’s wife and father were also given long prison sentences for aiding him.

This band was perhaps most especially notable for one of its members who not only survived capture, but outlived the Communist regime: Elisabeta Rizea.

Crippled by torture, Rizea became a potent symbol in post-Communist Romania of the resistance of Arsenescu and others.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Martyrs,Popular Culture,Power,Revolutionaries,Romania,Shot,Soldiers,Torture,Treason

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