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Romania PM faces trial after indictment for graft

Prosecutors in Romania Thursday formally indicted the current prime minister on charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and conflict of interest. 

Victor Ponta, 42, will face trial. But he can keep his job until the case is over, Deutsche Welle said.

Ponta, 42, pictured left, doesn’t have immunity because the crimes he’s accused of happened in 2007 and 2008, before his term in office.

He’s the first Romanian head of government to be tried while in office, DW said.

Prosecutors said Ponta forged expense claims for $45,000 when he was a member of a private law firm headed by Dan Sova. He allegedly used the money to pay expenses for homes and cars.

After Ponta became prime minister, he appointed Sova to three ministerial posts, constituting a conflict of interest, the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office said.

Earlier this month, police arrested the mayor of the Romanian capital of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu, for taking a bribe of €25,000 ($28,000).

Oprescu, 63, has held office since 2008. He allegedly took bribes and kickbacks in exchange for public contracts.

Late last year, the Romanian parliament stripped immunity from former communications minister, Valerian Vreme. Prosecutors said he should be tried after they investigated alleged bribes and kickbacks from re-sellers of Microsoft software.

Vreme was the communications minister from 2010 to 2012.

So far, six former government ministers have been stripped of immunity in the Microsoft-reseller case.

In Thursday’s action, Ponta denied the allegations and said prosecutors are “manipulating public opinion.”

Romania’s next parliamentary elections are in 2016.

Prosecutors sent Ponta’s case to Romania’s top court, which will set a trial date, DW said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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