Romanian party leader denies wrongdoing in corruption case

AP News
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Posted: Feb 14, 2017 9:40 AM
Romanian party leader denies wrongdoing in corruption case

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The chairman of Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party on Tuesday denied wrongdoing in a trial where he is charged with putting no-work jobs on the government payroll.

The case against Liviu Dragnea, one of Romania's most powerful politicians, comes from the time when he was a regional party chief. After a hearing, Dragnea said he was innocent and that testimony against him was false.

Prosecutors say Dragnea intervened to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, though they were working for the Social Democratic Party. The women have pleaded guilty. The next hearing is March 28.

Romania's center-left government passed a decree last month decriminalizing official misconduct, which would have helped Dragnea. But the decree sparked huge protests, with critics saying the government wanted to dilute the anti-corruption fight.

Premier Sorin Grindeanu withdrew the decree but protests have continued.

Dragnea is barred from being prime minister because of a two-year suspended sentence last year for vote rigging. He calls the ban deeply unfair.