Embattled Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta is charged as a defendant in a corruption investigation by Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors. He has since resigned from party leadership, however he remains prime minister.
In the beginning of June, Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started a criminal investigation against Ponta over allegations of money forgery, tax evasion, money laundering, and conflicts of interest which date back to before Ponta was elected as prime minister.
The DNA anti-corruption prosecutors released a statement saying that “prosecutors ordered a stepping-up of the penal action against the defendant Ponta, a lawyer at the time of the deeds ... on charges of forgery of documents - 17 counts - accessory to tax evasion... and money laundering."
The DNA prosecutors believe Ponta is also guilty of having a conflict of interest during his duty as prime minister. In order for DNA to further investigate Ponta’s deeds as prime minister, his immunity has to be lifted by the Romanian Parliament.
DNA prosecutors announced that they filed a petition to waive Ponta’s immunity. The Romanian Parliament rejected the DNA’s request to lift Ponta’s immunity regarding graft investigations during his time as prime minister.
The prosecutors announced on Monday, Ponta’s assets were seized over the charges from before he became prime minister.
After returning from Turkey, where he underwent knee surgery, Ponta announced he left his duty as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader. Ponta rejected all accusations and stressed he will continue his duty as prime minister.
Ponta wrote on Facebook, "In order not to let this situation affect the PSD, I have decided to suspend my leadership role in the party until I have proven my innocence."
The DNA has accused Ponta of using fabricated documents from a law firm to purchase apartments and a vehicle during his time as a lawmaker in the PSD, between 2007 and 2008.
The investigators added, the law firm belongs to Ponta’s friend and former Infrastructure Projects of National Interest and Foreign Investment Minister Dan Sova, and Ponta received 55,000 euros from the firm, although he did not work there.
Ponta’s questioning was part of a general DNA investigation which resulted in the arrests of several politicians, judges, prosecutors and media moguls. During the arrests, Elena Udrea, the former minister of tourism and a former presidential candidate, was detained.
Ponta’s family members are also being investigated regarding the same allegations.