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Exclusive: Von der Leyen’s Brother, a U.S. Betting Giant, and Romania’s Insurance Scandal

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The granting of a licence to sell motor insurance in Romania to a company associated with by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s brother is raising eyebrows in Brussels. It comes just weeks after the Commission refused access to MEPs to view an official report relating to irregularities by the primary Romanian insurance regulator and an alleged campaign of harassment against one firm in particular.

German MEP Lars Peter Berg, one of the MEPs who have raised concerns over the Commission’s handling of the affair, said in a comment to The European Conservative,

Given the evasive replies of the Commission to parliamentary questions on this whole issue, I wonder whether it is time for an independent investigation into exactly what is happening in Romania, and the abilities of the Commission to oversee the industry.

“Eazy Asigurari,” a company connected to the European gambling giant Superbet by way of its shared Romanian owner Sacha Dragic, shocked pundits earlier this month when it was given a licence to sell motor insurance by the Romanian insurance regulator ASF against the expectations of most industry experts.

Superbet, one of Europe’s largest online gambling consortiums specialising in betting technology, has an annual turnover of $1.1 billion. The company announced the appointment of Hans-Holger Albrecht, von der Leyen’s brother, as chairman in February, coinciding with a global expansion plan.

Financially backed by the American asset management firm Blackstone, Eazy Asigurari’s entrance into the Romanian insurance market comes after years of financial and political intrigue in the sector which culminated in the forced departure of one of the country’s largest insurance companies, Euroins, after what it claimed was a campaign of regulatory harassment by ASF.

In March of this year, ASF removed Euroins’s trading licence on the grounds of a €400 million capital deficiency, a fact contested not just by the company but also by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Bulgarian regulators, and an independent auditor who all claimed that the company was solvent.

The Romanian motor insurance industry has undergone intense turmoil in recent years with four major firms going bankrupt and endemic links to organised crime and political corruption. 

Euroins claims it had its cards marked by ASF and Romanian authorities when it refused to purchase failing insurance company City Insurance in 2019, despite political pressure, and that this triggered a four-year campaign of regulatory harassment against it, resulting in its licence to trade being suspended in February. 

While a report by the EU’s primary insurance regulator EIOPA backed ASF in its assertion that Euroins was essentially insolvent, the matter was complicated by the unusual refusal of the Commission to allow MEPs to examine an unredacted report into the affair, prompting a flurry of parliamentary questions.

AfD MEP Gunar Beck considers the EU’s conduct murky enough to refer the matter to the European Ombudsman, directly citing the relationship of von der Leyen’s brother to the Romanian insurance sector. 

In a statement, Beck decried the potential ramification on ordinary Romanian drivers who may be left without insurance at home and abroad as he claimed that the affair was further evidence of von der Leyen’s incompetence for the Commission top job.

As it stands, a Superbet owner, Sacha Dragic, associated with von der Leyen’s brother, would gain from a large gap in the market left by the departure of Euroins. Questions have been repeatedly raised about Brussels turning a blind eye to corruption in Romania on the grounds of the ruling Romanian government’s relative Europhilia.

Lars Patrick Berg described the revelations as “alarming” in correspondence to The European Conservative, adding,

The replacement for Euroins, a European insurance company, appears to be an American backed company with a questionable ethical record. 

Responding to The European Conservative, Superbet clarified it was a “completely distinct legal and commercial entity” from Eazy Asigurari and denied any influence by Superbet on the Romanian motor insurance market.

Separately,a spokesman for Euroins confirmed to The European Conservative that the company is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Romanian regulators at an EU and domestic level, adding that they believed that EU institutions were ignoring evidence that their firm was solvent.

At this stage, there is no suggestion of professional misconduct by von der Leyen, Hans-Holger Albrecht or Superbet. Neither the European Commission, EIOPA, nor ASF responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

This article was updated on October 3, 2023 to incorporate a statement from Superbet and to make clear that Eazy Asigurari is not a subsidiary of Superbet.

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