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25th Aug 2019

Fresh financial scandal hits EU parliament

  • The European Parliament is seen as dragging its feet over internal reforms (Photo: EUobserver)

A fresh row broke out on Monday as allegations of embezzlement to the tune of €40,000 by a Romanian far-right MEP came to light - just days after the working group on transparency finalised a code of conduct following a cash-for-amendments scandal in March.

In a letter sent to the European Parliament's administrative services, Romanian MEP assistant Catalin Marin claims that he never received any payment from his boss Corneliu Vadim Tudor, for whom he worked as a locally employed assistant in Romania.

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"From July 2009 until today I have not received any sum of money for the work I did as an a locally hired assistant to the parliamentary office of Tudor," the letter reads.

Marin claims that he was stunned to find out in June, while trying to get a loan from a Romanian bank, that his signature was forged on three working contracts and that he was supposed to pay taxes for some €40,000 that he supposedly cashed in since 2009.

After filing a criminal complaint with the Romanian police for forgery and embezzlement, the assistant is asking the European Parliament to send him any documents proving that he was hired or fired as a local assistant.

Tudor retorted violently in a phoned-in tv intervention on Monday night, calling Marin "a stupid moron" whom he helped because his father used to be a "decent spy".

Romania's Communist intelligence service, the infamous Securitate, used to be one of the most dreaded repression tools behind the Iron Curtain.

"I would strangle him with this hand, which supposedly forged his signature," the far-right leader threatened, calling the whole case a "politically motivated" affair.

These fresh allegations come just as the European Parliament is trying to recover from the so-called cash-for-amendments scandal in March, when Sunday Times journalists posing as lobbyists videotaped three MEPs willing to take money for amendments.

Two of them - Ernst Strasser from Austria and Zoran Thaler from Slovenia - resigned immediately.

But Romanian MEP Adrian Severin who had invoiced the journalists for his 'extra work', kept his seat and has signed in this week during the plenary session in Strasbourg, despite having his immunity stripped and an ongoing criminal investigation by the Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors.

A new Code of Conduct for MEPs banning any side activities and pressing for more transparency in their expenses is to be adopted by the end of the year. But experts are sceptical that this paper will work, so long as there is no strong will to enforce and to sanction wrongdoings - a point where the EU Parliament so far has been dragging its feet.

Natacha Cingotti from Friends of the Earth Europe - an NGO pressing for more transparency in EU institutions - told this website that "is impossible to assume that all MEPs automatically behave in an ethical way, and this is why tight rules and related monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are needed."

If the Tudor case proves to be true, Cingotti says, this will only widen even more the "gap" between citizens and the EU bodies. "It's odd that these people who are elected directly by the citizens seem to care so little about their constituencies," she said, pointing to comments made by Severin that his behaviour was "normal".

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