Romanian PM Victor Ponta indicted in fraud case

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta was today indicted for fraud offences.

Ponta speaks in a file photo from last year.
Image: Social Democratic Party.

The move follows a previous charging, which sees Ponta accused of forgery, tax evasion, money laundering, and having a conflict of interest. He is set to become the nation's first Prime Minister to face trial while in power.

His party, the left-wing Social Democrats, support him. Ponta denies the accusations which emerged months ago, and has refused to resign. The Social Democrats lost the Presidential election last year and face a general election next year.

Ponta has thrice resisted censures proposed by the opposition. He has resigned the Social Democratic leadership and prosecutors say they have frozen some of his assets. President Klaus Iohannis has asked Ponta to leave office, saying "we must admit that Romania's image has the most to suffer from this issue." ((ro))Romanian language: ‍Trebuie să recunoaștem că imaginea României are foarte mult de suferit de pe urma acestei chestiuni.

The alleged misconduct predates Ponta's time in office and therefore avoids presidential immunity. The indictment indicates prosecutors have finished investigations and are ready to try Ponta and four others involved in the case. Ponta was a lawyer and member of parliament in 2008–09, the period covered by the indictment. He was elected Prime Minister in 2012.

President Iohannis, pictured in March, is a political rival and has called on Ponta to resign.
Image: European People's Party.

The case alleges Ponta forged expenses claims for 39,750 euros while working for political ally Dan Sova's law firm. Ponta gave Sova three different ministerial roles, the foundation for the conflict of interest allegations. The case is now sent to the country's highest court.

Ponta accused anti-corruption prosecutors of "manipulating public opinion" and withholding information. Romania is amongst Europe's poorest nations and has been grappling with corruption and political instability since independence from the Soviet Union in 1989. In recent years the rich and powerful have come under scrutiny by the nation's anti-corruption investigators, often claiming the cases against them are political.