Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AP: Romanian Justice minister says high-level corruption cases still unresolved

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania's justice minister said Tuesday that hundreds of high-level corruption cases are still unresolved and are blocking justice reforms that the European Union has told Romania it needs to carry out.

"The situation would have been so much better if high-level corruption cases had been resolved; that would have sent a good political signal," Tudor Chiuariu told foreign journalists.

He said that some magistrates were still not free of outside interference. "A magistrate who wants to do his job has nothing to be afraid of. However, some are obedient to political and economic interests," he said.

Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, and was told to continue to implement reforms in the justice system, which has been blighted by political interference since communism ended in 1989.

The minister himself is under investigation in a real estate deal, where he allegedly sold public land to a private company. He denied wrongdoing and told journalists the case was politically motivated.

Labor Minister Paul Pacuraru; former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase; former telecommunications minister Zsolt Nagy; former agriculture minister Decebal Traian Remes; former economy minister Codrut Seres; and former transportation minister Miron Mitrea are all under investigation for corruption, but not one of the cases has been resolved.

Although there have been reforms, Chiuariu conceded that the system still does not work "effectively."

Some 300 corruption cases are blocked in the system, because of overlapping competencies of three institutions dealing with corruption, he said. At least 33 of them are deemed important cases, that "we would very much want to see resolved," said Chiuariu.

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