Monday, December 10, 2007

AP: Romanian justice minister to resign amid corruption probe

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania's justice minister, under investigation for allegedly abusing his position in a real estate deal, said he would hand in his resignation Monday.

Tudor Chiuariu, who became justice minister earlier this year, announced his intentions Sunday, two days after President Traian Basescu had publicly asked for his removal.

In September, anti-corruption prosecutors accused Chiuariu and a former telecommunications minister, Zsolt Nagy, of corruption in a real estate deal and asked Basescu to approve an investigation.

Investigations of public officials and former ministers must be approved by the president.

Prosecutors say Chiuariu and Nagy abused their positions when they sold real estate owned by the national post office in April to a private company reported to be linked to the ruling Liberal Party, of which Chiuariu is a member.

Chiuariu and Nagy have denied the allegations and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu resisted pressure to fire the justice minister.

"I do not want personal and political disputes to affect the activity and the credibility of state institutions," Chiuariu said Sunday. "But I promise you that when this ridiculous set up is over, I will come back to continue" the reform of the justice system.

Chiuariu's predecessor, Monica Macovei, was widely credited with having pushed anti-corruption reforms. The prime minister fired her in April.

A month after he took up his position, Chiuariu came under criticism when he called for the removal of a senior anti-corruption prosecutor who is investigating several politicians.

Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1 and was told to clean up high-level corruption.

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