“Back then, in 2004, it was the first time that the Camataru brothers had been properly convicted. They were sentenced to five and six years’ imprisonment,” says Sintion.Did they stay in prison?“Yes, they did, and they hate me for it.”For Marian Sintion, his work to bring down the Camataru brothers underlined the corruption of the Romanian legal system. Time after time they had managed to get away with it, the evidence against them was said to be insufficient and charges were dropped on what seemed to be fabricated grounds.When the police and prosecutor continued to investigate the clan following the conviction in 2004 – which included extortion, rape, trafficking and GHB – and took a new case to court, a scandal ensued. Not least when the brothers attempted to thwart the investigation by informing on police officers who they had bribed over the years.
In 2008, the year after Romania became an EU Member State, the Camataru brothers were once again brought to justice. Vasile Balint was imprisoned for 13 years, while Ion Balint got away with just one year and seven months’ imprisonment in the extensive case that followed the 2004 conviction. However, their sentences were not extended to any notable extent. As they had already served time, their new sentences were incorporated with their earlier ones.Fullscreen Vasile Balint was released on probation in December 2011. Just over a year earlier, his brother Ion Balint had been released from prison. His gang was waiting for him outside the prison gates with a black stallion, its bridle adorned with Swarovski crystals.
Followed by television cameras, Ion Balint rode back to his country estate in Ferentari.
The brothers were once again free, but their time in prison had weakened the clan. In sector five in Bucharest, the Steoaca clan had gained ground and become one of the dominant gangs where the drug trade was concerned. In the same sector the Piano clan had seized the market for extortion and illegal money lending.Within the Camataru clan’s former area of speciality, prostitution, there was greater competition from several clans, who had also expanded their business by trafficking Romanian and Moldavian women to countries such as Italy and Spain.“They (the Camataru clan) lost their market. They no longer had the influence and strength they once had. New groups had taken over,” says prosecutor Marian Sintion.The strained situation meant that the Camataru clan desperately needed to prove that they were still a force to be reckoned with.