Friday, August 1, 2008

Romania: Prosecutors want charges against ex-PM

Thursday, July 31, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Prosecutors asked Parliament on Thursday to approve the filing of corruption charges against former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase.

The anti-corruption prosecutors office said it wanted to finalize a pretrial file on Nastase on charges that he bribed an anti-money laundering official in 2000.

Prosecutors also charge that Nastase received bribes worth €1.3 million (US$2.03 million) while he was prime minister from 2000 to 2004.

In May, prosecutors concluded an investigation and charged Nastase with appointing the head of the anti-money laundering task force in 2000 in exchange for him ending an investigation into his wife's bank accounts.

However, in June Parliament failed to approve prosecutors' request to launch a prosecution against Nastase, as too few lawmakers were present for the vote.

Parliament needs to approve any prosecution because Nastase is a lawmaker and has automatic immunity. Parliament announced Thursday it would meet to vote on the request on Aug. 13.

Prosecutors have charged that Nastase, who was in office from 2000 to 2004, appointed Ion Melinescu to head the anti-money laundering task force in exchange for the termination of an investigation into US$400,000 that was deposited in the bank account of his wife, Dana.

According to prosecutors, Melinescu contacted Nastase in November 2000 and warned him there was an investigation into the money.

A month later, two days after Nastase became prime minister, he appointed Melinescu to the position. The investigation into Dana Nastase's bank account was stopped.

Nastase is also accused of receiving bribes when he was prime minister in an unrelated case, including merchandise shipped illegally from China. The trial was postponed earlier this year for technical reasons.

He has denied wrongdoing.

The move by prosecutors comes a week after the European Union criticized Romania for failing to tackle high-level graft. Romania joined the EU in 2007.

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