Romanian PM under criminal investigation, rebuffs resignation calls
BUCHAREST – Reuters
Ponta exits the anti-corruption prosecutor?s office in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, June 5, 2015. Ponta told media that he was suspected of making false statements, money laundering and being an accomplice to tax evasion while working as a lawyer from 2007 to 2008 when he was also a lawmaker for the Social Democratic party. Romania?s president on Friday urged Prime Minister Victor Ponta to resign over corruption allegations but Ponta refused, saying that only Parliament could dismiss him. AP PhotRomanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta rejected calls for his resignation on June 5 after prosecutors named him in a criminal investigation into forgery, money-laundering, conflict of interest and tax evasion.
Ponta denied wrongdoing and his office said in a statement that the accusations brought against him had previously been put forward by his political enemies and “meticulously dismantled ... through clear proof and certified documents.”
Romanian prosecutors have made a series of high-profile arrests this year in what remains one of the poorest and most graft-addled countries in the 28-member European Union.
A former prosecutor who took office in 2012, Ponta faces a general election next year. His government is now pushing a series of disputed tax cuts through parliament and is in fraught talks with international creditors over an aid deal.
The shock investigation of Ponta could increase instability in a country with a history of it in the quarter-century since the overthrow of Romania’s Communist dictatorship, although he has survived several previous scandals. Ponta was bruised after a surprise defeat at the presidential election in November.
The opposition filed a no-confidence vote against Ponta’s left-leaning government on Friday, a move which had been in the works for some time. However, although he lost allies in the wake of his presidential defeat, Ponta still commands an overall majority in the Balkan state’s parliament.
The inquiry into Ponta mainly concerns his time as a lawyer and accuses him of colluding with Dan Sova, a former transport minister in Ponta’s cabinet who was previously subject to a corruption investigation.
A separate inquiry announced on Friday targets suspected conflict of interest on the part of Ponta during his tenure as prime minister.
President Klaus Iohannis, who defeated Ponta at the ballot box on an anti-corruption platform, called on Ponta to resign over the investigation, saying his position was untenable.
“I respect his public position but I was appointed in the job by Romania’s parliament and only parliament can dismiss me,” Ponta wrote in a Facebook post after a discussion with Iohannis.