Romania Jails First Serving Legislator

Romania jailed a serving parliamentarian for corruption for the first time in its history on Tuesday, another indication that the Eastern European country is getting ever more serious about combating corruption.

The country’s Supreme Court sentenced Virgil Pop, a deputy in the Romanian Parliament, to five years in prison after it rejected his appeal on charges of forgery, money laundering, and abuse of power this week.

Prosecutors said Pop used his influence to unfairly award public contracts to a private company from the northwestern city of Cluj.

Pop, 44, was a member of the small opposition Liberal Party, until he stepped down after the verdict.

 

The conviction is a sign that the Romanian government is finally acting on EU pressure to crack down on corruption.  It is one of the conditions for Romania, which joined the 27 member union in 2007, to enter into the visa-free Schengen travel zone.  Bulgaria is also barred from Schengen for similar reasons.

In its latest progress report, the EU said Romania had made progress on judicial reform but not enough.

Although former Prime Minister Adrian Natase and several other parliamentarians were convicted of corruption last year, some received suspended sentences or are free pending appeal.

Natase received a two year sentence for corruption last year, but he remains free awaiting appeal.  If the verdict is confirmed, he would be the first former prime minister behind bars since the fall of communism in 1989.