Romania general prosecutor quits over motorcade allegations

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2016 11:56 AM

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's general prosecutor resigned Tuesday over allegations he illegally benefited from the use of official motorcades, a topic which has provoked debate and outrage in Romania.

Tiberiu Nitu said he was stepping down after media reports alleged he had illegally and "unjustly used official motorcades." Nitu insisted he had not abused his position and said he had merely ensured himself of protection benefiting his high-ranking post. However, he said he was resigning to protect the reputation of the prosecutor's office.

President Klaus Iohannis accepted his resignation which came on the same day as a Romanian parliamentary committee approved prosecutors' request to lift the immunity of former Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea so he can be investigated on suspicion of abusing his position by allegedly overusing official motorcades.

Anti-corruption prosecutors say Oprea used a motorcade 1,607 times from Jan. 2-Oct. 21, 2015, an average of five times a day and three times more than Romania's president used the privilege. Oprea denies wrongdoing and Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to lift his immunity.

By law, the president, the prime minister and Romania's two Parliament speakers are entitled to a police escort in traffic, while other senior officials are allowed escorts in special circumstances. Many Romanians think government ministers and senior officials abuse their positions by overusing motorcades, which often block traffic in the busy capital.

There was public outrage when a policeman escorting Oprea died when his motorbike hit a pothole. Oprea resigned on Nov. 4 when the government collapsed following street protests over a deadly nightclub fire that killed 63.