Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Romania votes to investigate senators

By Thomas Escritt in Bucharest

Published: August 27 2008 14:57 | Last updated: August 27 2008 14:57

Romania’s senate has voted for the first time to investigate politicians after a sharp rebuke from the European Union on its failure to tackle corruption since joining the bloc last year.

The country’s upper house has requested an investigation into the Conservative senator and former energy minister Codrut Seres over alleged links to organised crime, while Paul Pacuraru, the labour minister and a senator for the governing Liberal party, is to be investigated by the country’s anti-corruption directorate (DNA) over allegations of bribe-taking.

Under the country’s constitution, serving or former ministers who are also parliamentary deputies can only be investigated for abuse of office at the request of the institution to which they belong. In 2006, parliament refused to grant prosecutors permission to search the house of Adrian Nastase, the former prime minister, in relation to corruption allegations.

Though getting the nod to investigate Mr Pacuraru is a coup for the DNA, the one institution the European Commission singled out for praise in its monitoring report on Romania’s judicial reform process, it comes shortly after the justice minister’s decision to sack Daniel Morar, the agency’s chief prosecutor.

Daniel Morar remains in office until a successor has been confirmed - potentially a long-drawn out process, since the country’s president has a veto.

Laura Stefan, an anti-corruption specialist at the Romanian Academic Society, a think-tank, said: ”It’s a good thing that they’ve approved the investigations, of course, but what really matters is the head of the DNA. It won’t help if the next DNA chief prosecutor kills all the files.”

Addressing the senate before the vote to approve his investigation, Mr Pacuraru questioned whether the allegations against him had been made in good faith. In 38 years of working life, not one allegation had been made against him, he said, but 11 files were opened against him the moment he was appointed a minister.

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