Trial begins for Romanian premier charged with corruption

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2015 7:38 AM
Trial begins for Romanian premier charged with corruption

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The trial started Monday for Romania's prime minister who has been indicted on corruption charges, including tax evasion and money-laundering.

The High Court for Cassation and Justice opened the case by discussing the legality of the indictment. Prime Minister Victor Ponta was not required to attend the session and did not appear.

Ponta, who turned 43 on Sunday, is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted and have his assets seized. He denies wrongdoing and has refused to resign.

"It's important that we have stability," Ponta told reporters Monday explaining why he did not want to step down. "We must continue the government."

The ruling Social Democratic Party met Monday to discuss the developments and party chairman Liviu Dragnea said the party will continue to support Ponta, prime minister since May 2012.

The opposition Liberal Party will file a motion of no-confidence against Ponta's government later Monday.

Ponta's ally Dan Sova, who is on trial in the same case on charges of forging receipts, tax evasion and money laundering, appeared in court Monday.

Prosecutors first named Ponta a suspect on June 5 and he was indicted in July on charges including tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and making false statements while he was working as a lawyer in 2007 and 2008. At the time, Ponta was a lawmaker.

Prosecutors say Ponta forged expense claims worth at least 181,000 lei ($47,000) from Sova's law firm. They say he pretended to work as a lawyer to justify getting money from the law firm. The funds were used to pay for two luxury apartments and the use of an SUV.

After Ponta became prime minister he appointed Sova as a minister three times, which prosecutors say constituted a conflict of interest.