Romanian Prosecutors Re-Open Ponta Conflict-of-Interest Case

Updated on
  • Pressure to resign grows for Ponta, who's already facing trial
  • Little reaction by leu, bonds to latest probe into premier

Anti-corruption prosecutors re-opened a conflict-of-interest probe into Prime Minister Victor Ponta a day after announcing he’d become the first sitting head of a Romanian government to face criminal trial.

The investigation, which was halted in June after lawmakers failed to lift Ponta’s parliamentary immunity, has resumed and will "technically" be deemed a new case, a press officer at the anti-corruption directorate said Friday by phone, declining to give his name in line with policy. Prosecutors are currently gathering information, rather than targeting specific people, and Ponta’s status hasn’t been determined yet, he said.

Several issues still need clarification and the involvement of other people is being examined, the officer said.

The move raises pressure on Ponta to resign, a step demanded repeatedly by President Klaus Iohannis, and may prompt another attempt to remove his immunity. The conflict-of-interest case alleged Ponta appointed ally Dan Sova to several cabinet positions based on their business dealings before they joined government. Ponta denies wrongdoing.

Judicial Independence

Ponta will face trial in the coming weeks on charges of forgery, money laundering and complicity in a tax fraud from the time he was a lawyer. He’s accused of faking documents to justify illegal income at his private legal practice, with the help of a law firm owned by Sova, who also denies wrongdoing.

Separately, prosecutors sought an investigation into whether Ponta harmed judicial independence on Thursday when he called the prosecutor in charge of his case unprofessional and accused him of falsifying information, according to a statement published on their website.

The leu was little changed at 4.4210 against the euro, leaving this year’s gain at 1.3 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. The yield on the government’s euro-denominated debt due 2024 fell five basis points to 2.57 percent, the lowest level since Aug. 19.