News 16 Nov 12

Romanian Ministers Reject Corruption Charges

Three ministers being investigated for possible conflicts of interest have rejected the claims, accusing the country's anti-corruption agency of playing politics.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Three ministers from the centre-left government are denying accusations from the anti-graft body, the National Integrity Agency, ANI, regarding alleged conflicts of interest and corruption.

“I am innocent. I’ve decided to contest ANI’s decision and await a final resolution from the justice system,” Tourism Minister Eduard Hellwig said on Thursday. “If I will am found guilty I will resign,” he added.

The ANI notified Hellwig and two other high officials, the Transport and Public Dialogue ministers, last week that they had wealth they could not account for, or had worked for institutions that dealt with their ministries, creating conflicts of interest.

On the other hand, they all have accused the ANI of trying to interfere with elections and with making politicised decisions.

“The ANI has to prove its allegations and, more important, it must remain an institution that is not involved in political games,” the Public Dialogue Minister, Liviu Pop, said on Thursday. 

For his part, the head of the ANI, Horia Georgescu, says his institution is facing political intimidation.

“The political pressures we have seen recently are the most aggressive since the Agency was founded. They are meant to discourage and intimidate the ANI’s ongoing investigations,” Georgescu told the RFI radio station.

The anti-corruption body, charged also with checking the income and wealth of public figures, was set up in 2007, soon after Romania joined the European Union. Since then, it has been praised by Brussels but is resented by politicians at home.

In the last four years, the ANI accused 42 lawmakers of conflicts of interest or of amassing dubious wealth. Two minister have resigned following ANI investigations.

Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting graft and organised crime since it joined the EU in 2007.

The country has faced repeated criticism from the European Commission for its failure to tackle the problem.

In recent months, the number of investigations and high-ranking officials investigated and sentenced for graft has increased significantly.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta, whose Social Liberal Union, USL, is likely to win a December 9 parliamentary election, has said he supports the ANI’s work and has urged all public officials under investigation to explain themselves.

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