Romanian Graft Battle Puts Record Number of Officials on Trial

  • More than 1,250 high-ranking officials charged with corruption
  • Prosecutors pledge to continue fight against graft in 2016

Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors sent more than 1,250 high-and medium-ranking officials to trial last year, including a prime minister and five ministers, as the country pushes further with a campaign to root out graft.

The Anti-Corruption Directorate seized assets worth more than half a billion euros ($551 million), with 200 million euros waiting to be recovered by the state after final sentences given last year, Head Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said in a speech on Thursday. Prosecutors still have more than 7,100 cases in the works, she said.

“There are public institutions where corruption is growing every year and the number of those sent to trial that have public funds under administration has tripled,” Kovesi said, adding that the directorate would need more prosecutors from the current 97 and a national strategy to fight graft. “We have to continue investigating corruption acts and dedicate our activity to cleaning up the country. We must be brave and determined.”

Once deemed the European Union’s most corrupt country along with neighbors Bulgaria and Greece, Romania has embarked on an extensive anti-graft drive, similar to Italy’s Clean Hands campaign in the 1990s. It ensnared former Prime Minister Victor Ponta last year, while dozens of suspects were paraded openly before cameras as they left the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office.

Justice Minister Raluca Pruna has said she’ll propose extending Kovesi’s mandate, according to Hotnews.ro. The country ranked 58 among 168 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index last year, and has pulled ahead of Bulgaria. The European Commission praised the anti-graft results in January, and commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said it may end supervision of Romania’s judiciary by 2019.

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