Thursday, January 29, 2015

Romania jails ex-ministers, banker over privatisation plot

(Reuters) - Two former Romanian government ministers and a Credit Suisse banker were jailed on Tuesday for espionage and treason related to planned privatisations.

Former communications minister Zsolt Nagy was given a four-year sentence and formereconomy minister Codrut Seres was sentenced to four years and six months by the court in Romania, which has come under EU pressure to clean up its government and judiciary.

They were convicted of leaking confidential privatisation data and joining an organised crime group that prosecutors said targeted a string of planned privatisations in 2005 to 2007.

The European Commission, which has the judiciary under special monitoring, is expected to release a new assessment on Wednesday. Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

Credit Suisse investment banker Vadim Benyatov was sentenced to four years and six months for espionage, while Bulgarian Stamen Stanchev, who consulted for the bank, received five years and two months.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: "We are disappointed with the verdict and will continue to support our current and former employees."

Six other people, including a Turk and a Czech citizen, received prison terms for joining an organised crime group targeting confidential data related to privatisations.

Seres and Nagy said the documents they were accused of passing on were not confidential, nor prejudicial.

Prosecutors said the organised crime group targeted, among other things, the planned privatisation of the Romanian postal service and the sale of a minority stake in oil and gas group Petrom, majority-controlled by Austria's OMV. None have yet happened and there is no current firm commitment to sell them.

Also targeted was the sale of power distributor Electrica Muntenia Sud, which has since then been bought by Italy's Enel.

The case has reached its last appeal and Tuesday's rulings are final.

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