Romania Detains Customs Officials on Corruption Charges

The Romanian Anticorruption Directorate said it detained in the past two days at least 97 police officers and officials in the country’s western customs office on suspicion of cigarette smuggling and corruption.

An application was made to the Bucharest Appeal Court that they be kept in custody for 29 days, the directorate said in a statement on its website. The court decided to hold 86 of the suspects, according to Mediafax news service .

Prime Minister Emil Boc said yesterday that the head of the customs agency will be dismissed.

Romania is working to secure its borders and fight corruption as it seeks to join the European Union’s passport-free area, known as Schengen. Countries in the Schengen system, named for the Luxembourg village where the border-free plans were crafted in 1985, must meet border-security standards.

They must also clamp down on document forgery, issue biometric passports and show they are fighting organized crime. Countries hoping to join Schengen need the unanimous endorsement of those already in the area.

Romania’s President Traian Basescu said recently that the country meets all “technical criteria” to join; France and Germany have asked for a delay, on the ground that there are serious gaps in the country’s border controls.

Since October, the anticorruption investigators have discovered a criminal group of customs employees who took money from people illegally bringing cigarettes and alcohol from Serbia into Romania.

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