Romania indicts ex-PM Nastase on corruption charges

Romania's anti-corruption prosecutors indicted former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on Tuesday on charges of siphoning $2 million in state cash to finance his presidential election campaign in 2004.

Romania indicts ex-PM Nastase on corruption charges

Previous attempts to prosecute the politician, a senior member of the ruling coalition's Social Democrat Party (PSD), on corruption charges have faced obstacles in parliament or been effectively killed by deputies.

Such delays have fuelled concerns in the European Union that Romania is failing to implement judiciary reforms and to weed out graft, a rampant problem in the new EU member.

In the EU since 2007, Romania is subject to monitoring from Brussels but it has so far failed to convince the bloc that it can bring top level officials to justice effectively.

Nastase, prime minister in a PSD government in 2000-2004, denies any wrongdoing, saying prosecutions against him are groundless and politically motivated.

Prosecutors said the state budget lost some $2 million in 2004 when profits from an event organised by a state construction watchdog were used to finance Nastase's campaign, which he later lost to then Bucharest mayor Traian Basescu.

"This event had been a covert fundraiser for Adrian Nastase," prosecutors said in a statement.

"The former head of the Social Democrat Party has been charged with using his authority as party leader to obtain money, goods and other undue profits."

In other investigations, Nastase had been indicted on charges of blackmail and taking bribes worth 1.4 million euros, as well as giving bribes to cover up potential abuse.

These cases lag in parliament, awaiting approval from deputies to continue the investigation which is necessary under Romanian law.

Last year, parliament did not approve a prosecutor's request to investigate allegations of murky real estate deals.

Civil society observers and diplomats say high level corruption has resisted reform in Romania where too many politicians are entangled in powerful interest groups that oppose change while others simply protect their own practices.

Fighting corruption has also lost its bite in public debate ahead of the November parliamentary election which gave power to a coalition government between Basescu's Democrat-Liberals and the PSD.

Most politicians tapped into many Romanians' fears of the global economic crisis and turned their attention to welfare giveaways and promises of jobs, while voters appeared disenchanted with anti-corruption efforts of the outgoing government.

If found guilty, Nastase faces up to five years in prison. The first hearings in the case were set for Jan. 26.

Reuters

Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2009, 12:39
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