Romanian Transport Minister Convicted of Corruption
Romania’s high court convicted Relu Fenechiu of corruption on Friday for illegally selling secondhand electrical equipment as new, Balkan Insight reported Monday.
Fenechiu was sentenced to five years in prison and Prime Minister Victor Ponta immediately removed him as transport minister. He will not, however, resign from his seat as a member of Parliament.
Fenechiu controlled the state-owned power maintenance service company SISEE Moldova, through which he sold old transformers at the price of new ones. He is expected to appeal his sentence and seek a better defense.
Several others were also sentenced, including Fenechiu’s brother who received the same jail time, the English-language publication Romania-Insider reported Friday. Ioan Turbatu, general manager of SISEE Moldova between 2002 and 2004, and Ion Mrghidan, general manager between 2004 and 2005, were sentenced to six years in jail.
Estimated damages amount to €1.7 million.
Fenechiu is the first Romanian minister to be convicted of corruption while still in office.
The European Commission has been to Romania to address cases of high-level corruption and has monitored Fenechiu’s trial. Since joining the EU in 2007, Romania’s lack of progress in combating corruption has led to strict monitoring and cost it entrance to the passport-free Schengen zone.
Prime Minister Ponta has taken the interim post of transport minister until a replacement is appointed.