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As Romania shows signs of taking the campaign against official graft more seriously, supreme court upholds long jail term for former minister.
Romania's Supreme Court on Monday uphelded an earlier ruling jailing former Agriculture Minister Ioan Avram Muresan for seven years for embezzlement.
Muresan is the first high-ranking official to be jailed in Romania for corruption.
Two other co-defendants, former advisers in the Agriculture Ministry, were also convicted of stealing public funds. They all have to pay nearly 3 million dollars in damages in total.
The convictions centered on the embezzlement of 1.2 million US dollars in grants from the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.
In February, a court sentenced Muresan to seven years in jail for corruption.
Agriculture minister between 1998 and 2000, Muresan was found guilty of peddling influence when he was an intermediary in a case involving another agriculture minister, Decebal Traian Remes, who received €15,000 and food products, such as sausages and spirits, from a businessman. The businessman in question in return sought preferential treatment in a tender process managed by a public institution. The decision was appealed.
Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting corruption and organised crime since it joined the EU in 2007. Bucharest has drawn repeated criticism from the European Commission for its failure to tackle the issue.
But in recent months, the number of high-ranking officials sentenced for graft has increased significantly.
Besides, the cases of the former agiculture ministers, on January 31 former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was sentenced to two years in prison for siphoning off state funds worth around €1.6 million to fund his 2004 election campaign.
The trial lasted over three years and involved 900 witnesses and 48 court hearings. Nastase, 62, was Prime Minister from December 2000 to December 2004 and stood as the Social Democratic Party, PSD, candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
He has faced other corruption allegations, including claims that he secured an artificially low price to build a luxury home in return for giving a top ministerial post to the head of a construction company. He denied all the charges.
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