Former British PM Tony Blair’s name appears in corruption case targeting former Romanian PM
The name of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appears in a corruption case in Romania, which involves Romania’s former Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The anticorruption prosecutors are investigating the circumstances of Tony Blair's visit to Romania in 2012 during which he met with Victor Ponta.
Prosecutors from the Ploiesti National Anticorruption Department (DNA) decided on Tuesday, September 6, to place former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta under judicial control for 60 days. The judicial control means that Ponta can't talk to other people involved in the case, can't leave the country, and must periodically go to a local police station.
Ponta is being accused of using his influence or authority to obtain for himself or somebody else money, goods or other undue advantages, and complicity to money laundering. Victor Ponta was questioned in this case at the DNA Ploiesti on Tuesday morning.
According to DNA, Victor Ponta, who was the president of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in the period targeted by this investigation, allegedly received EUR 220,000 from a local businessman to organize the visit of a foreign politician to Romania. In return, Ponta was supposed to put the businessman’s name on PSD’s list of candidates for the parliamentary elections.
By having the meetings with the foreign politician covered by the media, “Victor Ponta sought to gain electoral capital given that, in 2012, according to the electoral calendar, both local and parliamentary elections took place,” reads the DNA statement.
According to judicial sources cited by local Mediafax, Sebastian Ghita is the businessman who allegedly paid for the visit. Ghita, who is also one of Ponta's firends, actually won an MP seat in a college in Prahova county in 2012. Ghita was also called in for questioning at DNA Ploiesti.
As for the foreign politician, he seems to be former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met Victor Ponta in 2012.
To create the appearance that that the visit of the former foreign leader in Romania did not take place at Ponta's initiative, it was included in a conference organized by a non-profit and apolitical organization. The organization transmitted the idea that the meeting between Victor Ponta and the foreign politician took place at the initiative of the latter, according to DNA's statement.
Thus, Ponta and the businessman allegedly asked the non-profit organization’s president to find a way through which the foreign politician would be invited to Romania without letting people know that this was, in fact, Ponta’s idea. The businessman was to cover the event organization’s costs via a company controlled by intermediaries.
Victor Ponta made no statements when going out of the DNA Ploiesti headquarters. However, he later wrote on his Facebook page: “The prosecutors’ decision was this one: not to make statements to the media about the subject of the case or the prosecutors handling the case, about other people investigated in this case, or the witnesses heard. I will challenge this decision before the High Court of Cassation and Justice tomorrow! After the Court’s decision, I will be able to express my point of view and state my innocence!”
This is the second corruption case in which Victor Ponta is being investigated. He is currently on trial for forgery, complicity to tax evasion, and money laundering. The charges are related to Ponta’s activity as a lawyer, a few years before he was appointed Prime Minister.
Irina Popescu, [email protected]