Romania on Brink as Prime Minister Urged to Quit Over Corruption Claims
Romania’s president has urged Prime Minister Victor Ponta to resign after prosecutors named Ponta in connection with allegations of corruption.
Ponta is a suspect in a criminal investigation launched by Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directive (DNA) into offenses from forgery to money laundering, tax evasion, and conflict of interest.
The allegations relate to his time as a lawyer for the Social Democratic party in 2007 and 2008. During that period, Ponta allegedly received up to US$ 44,460 from the law firm of a friend for fictitious legal work.
The money was then used to purchase two apartments in the capital city of Bucharest, according to prosecutors.
Reuters reports that Ponta has firmly denied the explosive allegations. Defiant, he said in a Facebook post that he would not resign and would only be dislodged if Parliament voted for it.
Ponta currently enjoys immunity from prosecution as part of his political role – a benefit that can only be removed by a parliamentary vote. Prosecutors have lodged a request with Parliament to hold such a poll.
According to The Guardian, Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis said it was “an impossible situation for Romania”, a country currently embroiled in dicey negotiations with the European Commission and International Monetary Fund over new deals on financial aid.
Observers are concerned that the dramatic development will diminish Romania’s bargaining position in the talks and could even destabilize the country.
The Balkan country, which joined the European Union in 2007, has long been struggling with widespread corruption as Brussels keeps a close eye on its progress.
There have been some successes; the DNA under the leadership of crusading chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi reported that in 2014 corruption indictments doubled, making it their most productive year yet.
So far this year, several high-ranking officials have been forced from their jobs by DNA investigations, including Regional Development Minister and executive chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party Liviu Dragnea, Finance minister Darius Valcov, and the director of an anti-corruption agency Horia Georgescu.
This article was amended on November 4, 2015