Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta and a former transport minister in his cabinet have been indicted in a corruption investigation that has now been filed in court, the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office DNA said on September 17.
Ponta is accused of 17 counts of document fraud, complicity to tax evasion and money-laundering. Specifically, Ponta’s legal firm is suspected of issuing fictitious bills in 2007/08 to another legal firm, owned by fellow Social-Democrat, senator Dan Sova, which also paid the leasing bills for a car used by Ponta.
Sova, who served as transport minister in Ponta’s cabinet, faces the same accusations, as well as charges of accessory to abuse of office. Sova’s legal firm was hired to provide legal services for Romania’s largest thermal power plant, Turceni-Rovinari, in 2007/08 – during that period, the firm siphoned-off about 3.5 million lei (or close to one million euro at the exchange rate at the time) by signing additional contracts for services already rendered.
Ponta’s firm was a subcontractor for Sova, receiving about 260 000 lei for services allegedly rendered (about 60 000 euro at current exchange rates). In July, prosecutors impounded Ponta’s assets to ensure that the money could be recovered.
Prosecutors also sought, in June, to press charges of conflict of interest against Ponta, given that the prime minister appointed Sova to several ministerial positions in 2012/14 after having financially benefitted from his relationship to Sova.
Parliament rejected that indictment, but cannot prevent prosecutors from pressing money-laundering and tax evasion charges, which date back to a period before Ponta was elected as an MP.
Ponta has repeatedly denied the charges against him, accusing prosecutors of presenting incomplete information to the public. He has stepped down as party leader but has resisted calls to resign as prime minister.
DNA said that Ponta would remain free for the duration of the trial, a date for which has not been set.
(Victor Ponta photo by gov.ro)