Romanian ex-minister arrested on corruption charges

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2015 4:00 PM
Romanian ex-minister arrested on corruption charges

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A former tourism minister, one of Romania's most talked-about politicians of the past decade, was arrested Wednesday on charges of money laundering and influence peddling in a case that has riveted the country.

Romania's top court ruled to arrest Elena Udrea, a center-right lawmaker who ran for president and finished fourth in November's presidential election, for 30 days, according to one of her lawyers, Marius Striblea.

The investigation of Udrea has dominated the country's media, which have had non-stop coverage of the developments for the past few days, eclipsing other news in the region.

Fascinated by the fall from grace of the glamorous lawyer who former President Traian Basescu described Wednesday as his most loyal political ally during his 2004-2014 term in office, commentators have pored over her every gesture. They have discussed her opulent wardrobe and expensive purses, and her meteoric rise to power from a small town in poor eastern Romania.

Udrea, 41, is being investigated on charges of influence peddling in the illegal licensing of software in schools, involvement in illegal financing of a boxing gala and money laundering. She has denied wrongdoing.

Since the probe began last week, she has named journalists she said took bribes and accused a senior intelligence officer, Florin Coldea, of meddling in political life, something he denied to Parliament this week. In a speech to Parliament on Monday, she also warned that other lawmakers faced arrest for wrongdoing, calling the vote to allow her detention "an abuse."

"You can handcuff Elena Udrea, but you cannot handcuff the truth," she said Tuesday.