Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

Romania's PM in corruption and money laundering charges

Romania’s prime minister Victor Ponta is facing charges of corruption, forgery, money laundering, tax evasion, and conflict of interest.

Prosecutors from the DNA, Romania's anti-corruption agency, on Monday (13 July) "temporarily seized assets" belonging to the leftist leader following a five week investigation.

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A DNA statement said “prosecutors ordered a stepping-up of the penal action against the defendant Ponta, a lawyer at the time of the deeds”.

Romania’s latest crackdown is part of a larger effort to shake off its widespread reputation for corruption since it joined the European Union in 2007. Hundreds of others have been targeted over the years.

But Ponta, who has dismissed calls for his resignation from president Klaus Iohannis, is now the first sitting prime minister in Romania with a possible criminal wrapsheet.

“I am the prime minister of this coalition and I am presenting myself in a disciplined way,” he said after the indictment.

Iohannis, who is Ponta's political rival, at the time said “it is an impossible situation for Romania to have a prime minister charged with major offences”.

Despite the charges, Iohannis says he'll maintain an institutional relation with the prime minister.

The 42-year PM old on Sunday stepped down as leader of the governing PSD social democrat party in order, he says, to clear his name.

The party and its allies meanwhile managed to block parliament moves to strip him of his immunity after prosecutors announced the launch of the investigation in early June.

Ponta can claim protection from charges like conflict of interest for his time as prime minister but is not immune from money laundering and tax evasion.

The leader of a junior ally from the liberal ALDE faction voiced support to the troubled PM, reports Reuters.

"Our plan is to get together in the coalition government until the 2016 parliament election," said Calin Tariceanu.

The alleged criminal acts stem from Ponta's time as a lawyer before he became prime minister in 2012. He is also accused of accepting some €55,000 from a member of parliament who is also a close ally. He allegedly used some of the money to buy two luxury apartments in Bucharest.

Ponta, who returned to Bucharest after a month long stint in Turkey to recover from a knee surgery, says the charges against him are politically motivated.

He arrived at the DNA office on Monday in crutches.

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