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Prime minister has assets seized in corruption investigation

By Agencies in Bucharest, Romania | China Daily | Updated: 2015-07-14 08:06

Prosecutors indicted Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Monday as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation and seized his assets, putting further pressure on him to resign.

Ponta, 42, said on Sunday he was stepping down as leader of his leftist PSD party until the investigation was completed, but he has made it clear he will not resign despite calls from President Klaus Iohannis for him to quit.

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations against him are politically motivated.

Prosecutors said Ponta was charged with 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, he also was a lawmaker.

Prosecutors also said in a statement on Monday that they temporarily froze Ponta's personal assets, which include shares in a house, an apartment and several bank accounts. He sold two apartments in May for 150,000 euros ($170,000).

Ponta, who took office in 2012, is the first sitting Romania prime minister to be indicted and have his assets seized.

The accusations against him include forging expense claims worth at least 181,000 lei ($45,000) from the law firm of political ally Dan Sova. Prosecutors say he pretended he did 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 vehicle. Prosecutors say that after Ponta became prime minister in May 2012, he appointed Sova a minister three times.

Ponta has immunity for some of the charges, including the conflict of interest accusation. But he doesn't have immunity for the tax evasion and money laundering charges.

AP - Reuters

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