Romania: PM indicted over corruption claims

Romanian prosecutors indicted prime minister Victor Ponta yesterday as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation and seized his assets, putting further pressure on him to resign.

Romanian premier Victor Ponta walks up the stairs of the national anti-corruption prosecutors office in Bucharest to be questioned. Picture: AP

Prosecutors said Ponta had been indicted on charges including tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and making false statements while he was working as a lawyer in 2007 and 2008. At the time, Ponta was a lawmaker. He denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors also said in a statement yesterday that they temporarily froze Ponta’s personal assets which include shares in a house, an apartment and several bank accounts. He sold two apartments in May for €150,000 and also sold a car.

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Ponta, who took office in 2012, is the first sitting Romania prime minister to be indicted and have his assets seized.

The accusations against Ponta include forging expense claims from the law firm of political ally Dan Sova. Prosecutors say he pretended he did work as a lawyer to justify getting money from the law firm. The funds were used to pay for two luxury apartments and the use of an SUV. Prosecutors say that after Ponta became prime minister in May 2012, he appointed Sova a minister three times.

Ponta, 42, who is recovering from a knee operation, was questioned at the offices of anti-corruption prosecutors yesterday morning. He walked up the steps on crutches into the building and he emerged about 30 minutes later, but declined to respond to questions, citing his right to remain silent.

Ponta has immunity for some of the charges, including the conflict of interest accusation. He doesn’t have immunity for tax evasion and money laundering charges. He can’t be arrested without Parliament’s approval, the prosecutors’ office said.