Romanian President Klaus Iohannis says corruption poses “a challenge to democracy” eroding trust in public institutions and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
”Romania needs clear, predictable and fair laws, which can work at a maximum capacity to sanction law-breaking,” he said Thursday in comments to mark International Anti-Corruption Day, News.ro reported.
With the focus on graft in one of the EU’s most corrupt member states, Romania’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor Crin Bologa pushed back against claims that the anti-sleaze fight had recently slowed.
Current laws prevent suspects from being publicly named in order not to prejudice investigations, he said.
“There are a lot of people in custody, more than in previous years. But the anti-corruption office is responsible for making sure the presumption of innocence is respected,” he told public radio, Radio Actualitati.
Corruption probes of senior officials are common in Romania.
On Thursday, the manager of the Sibiu Chamber of Commerce was detained on suspicion of embezzlement, paying bribes and divulging private information, a statement said.
Prosecutors said he made payments totaling about 170,000 euros to companies, foundations and associations for services to non-profit organizations that were not rendered. Prosecutors said the companies were either controlled by him or he stood to make a financial gain.
Three labor inspectors and a custom’s officer were detained on Wednesday on suspicion of repeatedly taking bribes from a company manager. Also Wednesday, anti-corruption prosecutors said a well-known surgeon had tried to bribe them in exchange for dropping a previous bribery case. He denied wrongoing.
The Romanian president said that strengthening the state’s capacity of states to fight corruption was “ one of the defining challenges of today’s democracies.”
He said graft had caused “incalculable damage to the way communities have developed and in today’s age is effects are stronger than ever,” he said in his message.
“Corruption erodes societies and trust in institutions, feeds poverty and inequality and makes public and private systems dysfunctional…. It distorts competition which affects the market economy”
Also Thursday, the head of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), Marin Mrčela, said risks of Covid-19 related corruption remain high and urged government to respond swiftly but lawfully to the pandemic.
“The risks of corruption related to the pandemic remain high, particularly in the health sector.. Public access to information continues to be crucial, as do effective whistle-blower protection schemes,” the statement said.
“Areas of particular sensitivity include the awarding of public procurement contracts, conflicts of interest and lobbying,” he added.
Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary were ranked the most corrupt countries in the EU by the Transparency International watchdog.