Romanian ruling party leader goes to jail after bitter defeat in EU elections
The High Court of Cassation and Justice sentenced Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democrat Party (PSD), to three years and six months in jail in the case of the fictitious hirings at the Teleorman Child Protection Service. The decision is final, G4media.ro reported. PSD lost the elections for the European Parliament on Sunday, recording one of the lowest scores in the party's history.
On Monday, the High Court upheld the sentence issued against Dragnea in 2018. The sentence was given by a panel of five judges, with 4 votes in favor and 1 against. The five judges who made the panel that convicted the PSD leader are Luciana Mera, Tatiana Lucia Rog, Simona Daniela Encean, Alexandra Iuliana Rus, and Rodica Aida Popa.
Liviu Dragnea needs to turn himself in today otherwise the Police will take him into custody.
The case concerns Dragnea arranging that the Social and Child Protection Service in the county hired two women who were in fact working at the PSD office in Teleorman. In other words, the public institution paid the two women and they worked for the party. The damage in this case, representing the salaries paid to the two women, was estimated at RON 108,000 (EUR 23,000).
The Court was initially supposed to issue a decision in the case last Monday, on May 20, but decided to postpone the verdict for today, May 27.
Last year, Dragnea appealed the decision and so did the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), which asked for a harsher sentence. He called the case against him a political one. Since then, the PSD has intensified its efforts to have the criminal law changed while also trying to prove that the anticorruption prosecutors had collaborated illegally with the secret services in corruption investigations and that the High Court had broken the law when judging corruption cases.
Liviu Dragnea, who has been regarded as the most powerful man in Romania and the shadow leader of the Government in the last two and a half years, has made desperate efforts to avoid conviction as his party made important changes to the justice laws and criminal codes by law and by emergency ordinance. These changes sparked unprecedented protests in Romania and were harshly criticized by the European Commission and foreign partners, and ultimately led to the Social Democratic Party's categoric defeat in the elections for the European Parliament.
In just two days, Dragnea lost both the elections and his freedom. When he went to the polls on Sunday, a reporter asked him if he was ready to go to jail. "Are you ready to go to jail? Nobody is ready, madam," he answered.
On Sunday evening, after the exit poll showed his party's defeat in the EU elections, Dragnea said he hoped the result wouldn't influence the judges' decision, hinting that the sentence might have been different if PSD had won the elections. He also asked prime minister Viorica Dancila not to resign, despite high pressure from president Klaus Iohannis and the opposition parties that won the EU elections.
(Photo: Inquam Photos/Lavinia Cioaca)