Romanian anti-graft drive at risk, campaigners warn – 24/06/2007

Reuters

Rights groups warned on Sunday, June 24, that attempts by Romania’s government and parliament to pass laws protecting private interests risk undermining the new European Union member’s anti-corruption reforms.
“Laws … made for certain companies, persons … that is the most important problem in the fight against political corruption,” former justice minister Monica Macovei said at the launch of amonitoring study by seven non-government groups.
A move in February to temporarily postpone measures taken to make party financing more transparent was an example of “institutionalised corruption” said the study, released ahead of a June 27 report from the European Commission.
Romania and fellow EU newcomer Bulgaria face sanctions if the report finds they are not meeting requirements on fighting abuse.
The study also lists a move by parliament this year to remove some banking fraud from the criminal code, which forced prosecutors to halt over 50 investigations and annul several convictions.
“In Romania, black money is made through laws,” said Macovei, who lost her job in April due to deepening feuds among major parties.
Romania has introduced deep reforms of its judiciary, which earned it EU entry in January, but it remains the bloc’s most graft-prone country, according to monitoring group Transparency International.
Romanian officials have repeatedly denied any shortcomings.
STALLING TRIALS
Stalled fraud trials are another concern in the anti-graft fight, the study said, mentioning a case against former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase, charged in 2006 with blackmail and taking bribes worth 1.4 million euros ($1.9 million).
After months of postponed hearings, his lawyers got the case suspended and sent to the Constitutional Court for debate. Prosecutors expanded the case in May, alleging he gave jobs in return for help covering up malpractice. The second trial is expected to begin on Monday.
Party nominations to the board of an agency set up to monitor politicians’ wealth were a worry, the study said.
“You cannot nominate persons … with unclear wealth statements to the board of the agency that checks wealth statements,” said Sorin Ionita of think tank Romanian Academic Society, one of the study’s initiators.
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