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Two former Romanian ministers get prison terms for treason and corruption

Two former Romanian ministers get prison terms for treason and corruption
 

By Daniel Stroe - Bucharest

Codrut Seres, former minister of Economy (2004-2006) and Zsolt Nagy, former minister of Telecommunication (2004-2007) were yesterday sentenced by Romania’s High Court to six years and respectively five years in prison in the so-called strategic privatization file, with charges amounting to treason and abuse of office.

Seres was sentenced to five years for joining a criminal organization and six years for treason. The judges of the Supreme Court decided to join the sentences and passed a six year term for the former minister of Economy.

In the same file, Zsolt Nagy was sentenced to five years in prison for supporting a criminal group in the same file. Eight other persons received prison terms in the same file, an American and a Bulgarian being sentenced to 10 and respectively 11 years in prison for espionage.

Seres and Nagy were accused by prosecutors of using their positions in the Romanian government to favor several contenders in strategic privatization files. One of such privatizations concerns Electrica Muntenia Sud (electric power distributor), Petrom (oil and gas producer), Romaero Bucharest and Avioane Craiova (aerospace companies) and the Romanian Post.

Thus, the two former dignitaries passed classified information about the tenders their ministries were organizing amid these privatization processes and also tried, in several cases, to influence the outcome of the tenders. The investigation started after the Romanian domestic intelligence service SRI discovered the first evidence of this high-profile involvement.

The trial started in 2009 but only after the Romanian Senate, of which Codrut Seres was then a member, approved his indictment. The senators also decided to return the 70 volume file to the National Anti-Coruption Department (DNA) which could continue its investigation.

Though the verdicts are not final, leaving the two one single appeal, it is unlikely their sentences are annulled. Seres’ conviction deals a heavy blow to Dan Voiculescu, an influential Romanian politician and a media mogul, also sentenced to five years of prison for corruption in September. Seres is a member of Voiuclescu’s Conservative Party and their convictions come amid a wider struggle for political influence which pits Voiculescu against the Romanian President Traian Basescu. Voiculescu was the source of Basescu’s two impeachments in 2007 and 2012.

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