Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Top Romanian lawmaker in corruption probe resigns

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A key lawmaker in Romania has quit Parliament after prosecutors announced they are seeking his arrest on suspicion of influence peddling two weeks before a presidential election.

Viorel Hrebenciuc, deputy speaker and a senior member of the governing Social Democratic Party, stepped down Tuesday, saying he wanted to maintain his "dignity." He said he would run for Parliament again.

Party leader and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who is favorite to win the Nov. 2 election, praised the move, saying he had taken "the justice (system) out of the electoral campaign."

Ponta later summoned a party meeting saying the party needs to clean up its image ahead of the elections. Three key party members who are embroiled in public scandals were suspended, including party spokesman Dan Sova whom prosecutors want to arrest on suspicion of trying to pass an amnesty law that would benefit politicians convicted of corruption.

Prosecutors want to investigate Hrebenciuc on suspicion he used his influence to propose the amnesty law that could benefit him in another case where he is suspected of using his influence in the illegal restitution of land seized by communists.

Another party member who apparently threatened journalists who approached him at a restaurant was also suspended as was an aide who publicly criticized the party.

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