Romanian prosecutors seek graft probe against ex-finance minister

by Reuters
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 18:28 GMT

BUCHAREST, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors asked parliament on Tuesday to waive the immunity of ex-finance minister Daniel Chitoiu to enable an investigation against him on suspicion of abuse of power and setting up a crime ring.

The European Union has repeatedly raised concerns about a failure to tackle high-level graft in Romania and Bulgaria, its two poorest members, which have been kept outside the passport-free Schengen zone over this issue since their 2007 entry.

"There is reasonable suspicion that in Oct. 2013, (Chitoiu) initiated the approval of an emergency decree with the sole aim of backing a criminal group to favour the interests of (local insurer) Carpatica Asig in the absence of a real emergency," PNA, the anti-graft prosecution service, said in a statement.

Chitoiu, who resigned on Feb. 6, remains a member of parliament and so cannot be prosecuted unless his immunity is lifted by a vote. He has denied wrongdoing.

PNA also said it had issued an arrest warrant for Dan Radu Rusanu, head of financial supervisory body ASF, on suspicion that "he favoured Carpatica ... and pursued steps towards adopting a decree for personal and group interests".

Rusanu had been removed from office as a result of the warrant, ASF said in a statement later on Tuesday.

The PNA said Rusanu was believed to have masterminded the emergency decree to reorganise the ASF board in a bid to protect Carpatica's interests.

Rusanu has also denied wrongdoing.

Chitoiu resigned from the government after failing to keep his Liberal party informed about a plan by its coalition partners to reschedule bank debts of low-income borrowers.

Romania has had its justice system under special EU monitoring since its entry in 2007.

Judicial data showed 28 Romanian lawmakers are on trial on graft charges or serving jail terms, while hundreds of mayors, deputy mayors and councillors have falsified statements, faced conflicts of interest or had wealth they could not explain. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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