Monday, May 23, 2011

Romanian anti-graft raid targets top ministry official


BUCHAREST — An anti-graft raid in Romania on Monday targetted a top internal affairs ministry official and a customs checkpoint in Constanta, Romania's main Black Sea harbour, prosecutors and media said.

The internal affairs ministry's general secretary, Laurentiu Mironescu, confirmed to the Agerpres news agency that his house was searched.

The operation targets smuggling and tax evasion, judicial sources told Romanian news agencies.

"There is a raid going on at the checkpoint of Constanta South/Agigea. There are also searches carried out at houses," a spokeswoman for the anti-corruption prosecutors told AFP without elaborating.

Since January, Romania launched the biggest clean-up operation of its customs and border police in years.

Dozens of border officials were arrested in just a few weeks at crossings with Moldova, Ukraine and Serbia and indicted for receiving thousands of euros in bribes from cigarette smugglers.

Some 234 among them will face trial in the coming weeks and Romania's customs chief Radu Marginean has been sacked.

The Balkan nation had hoped to join the visa-free Schengen area in March 2011 but countries such as France and Germany blocked its entry, stressing that Bucharest must make more progress in the fight against corruption.

Romania still hopes to join the Schengen zone in 2011.

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