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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Trial begins for Romanian premier charged with corruption

Romania's prime minister is on trial over corruption allegations
Romania's prime minister is on trial over corruption allegations

The trial has started for Romania's prime minister who has been indicted on corruption charges, including tax evasion and money-laundering.

The High Court for Cassation and Justice opened the case by discussing the legality of the indictment. Prime Minister Victor Ponta was not required to attend the session and did not appear.

Mr Ponta, who turned 43 on Sunday, is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted and have his assets seized. He denies wrongdoing and has refused to resign.

"It's important that we have stability," Mr Ponta told reporters on Monday, explaining why he did not want to step down.

"We must continue the government."

The ruling Social Democratic Party met to discuss the developments and party chairman Liviu Dragnea said the party will continue to support Mr Ponta, prime minister since May 2012.

The opposition Liberal Party will file a motion of no-confidence against Mr Ponta's government later.

Mr Ponta's ally Dan Sova, who is on trial in the same case on charges of forging receipts, tax evasion and money laundering, appeared in court.

Prosecutors first named Mr Ponta a suspect on June 5 and he was indicted in July on charges including tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and making false statements while he was working as a lawyer in 2007 and 2008. At the time, Ponta was an MP.

Prosecutors say Mr Ponta forged expense claims worth at least 181,000 lei (£30,000) from Mr Sova's law firm. They say he pretended to work as a lawyer to justify getting money from the law firm. The funds were used to pay for two luxury apartments and the use of an SUV.

After Mr Ponta became prime minister he appointed Mr Sova as a minister three times, which prosecutors say constituted a conflict of interest.

Press Association

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