Saturday, March 28, 2015

NYT: Romanian Ex-Minister Suspected of Accepting Renoir as Bribe

BUCHAREST, Romania — Prosecutors detained Romania's previous finance minister Wednesday on suspicion that he took bribes, including gold bars and a painting by French Impressionist Auguste Renoir, when he was mayor of a southern town.

Prosecutors said Darius Valcov had hidden the painting, three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of gold and stashes of cash worth $410,000 in a friend's safe from 2011.

He was detained for 24 hours.

Valcov resigned as finance minister on March 15 after prosecutors charged him with taking 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in bribes when he was mayor. He denies wrongdoing.

In another development Wednesday, a parliamentary vote ruled against lifting the immunity of a Romanian senator from the ruling party who prosecutors say is suspected of corruption.

Senators voted 79-67 in favor of lifting the immunity of Dan Sova, a former transportation minister, but fell short of the 85 votes required.

The vote was criticized by the U.S., British and Dutch embassies in Romania who said the legislature should not prevent anti-corruption probes.

Prosecutors want to arrest Sova on suspicion that as a senator he illegally earned 3.5 million lei ($870,000) as a lawyer in the privatization of several electricity companies in his constituency and destroyed computer files to cover his tracks. He denies wrongdoing.

After the vote, Sova left leadership positions he has held in the ruling Social Democratic Party.

Prosecutors in Romania have launched a series of high-level corruption investigations in the past year.

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