Ex-Romanian strongman Liviu Dragnea indicted of embezzling European Union funds

The former leader of the Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea has been indicted of embezzling millions of euros of European Union funds by forging documents to ensure a company won contracts to build roads during his term as the chairman of the county council.

The Anti-corruption Directorate late Friday said Dragnea, currently serving a 3 ½ year sentence for corruption, conspired to privatize the state road construction company Tel Drum SA through intermediaries.

They then made sure the firm won several public contracts, either without tenders or thanks to benefiting from confidential information that helped it defeat other bidders.

Romanian prosecutors named Dragnea a suspect in the Tel Drum case in November 2017, following a complaint filed by the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF.

Prosecutors said Dragnea formed an organised criminal group in 2001 that is “active even today”, consisting of officials drawn from public institutions and businessmen.

He is charged with establishing a criminal group, official misconduct and illicitly obtaining funds for personal use, instigating others to make false, incomplete or inexact statements in documents, by which he illicitly obtained European Union funds and tax evasion.

Dragnea unsuccessfully sued the European Commission in an attempt to quash the case.

Dragnea, the once feared leader of the Social Democratic Party was brought to the Anti-Corruption Directorate on Thursday to be informed of his indictment.

He is serving a sentence in a fake jobs case, where he made the local social welfare office pay the salaries of two women for six years who were actually working for the Social Democrats.

The indictment came a day after Dragnea gave an interview from jail to his former adviser, where he insisted he was innocent and claimed that charges against him were a ploy to be used in the upcoming electoral campaign.

Tel Drum was established 20 years ago by the Teleorman County Counci and privatized in the early 2000s, when Dragnea was the county council chairman.

Investigators say that Dragnea controlled Tel Drum, through intermediaries, and attracted tens of millions of euros from the state budget and EU funds, winning most of the public tenders it participated in.

Prosecutors said as chairman of the county council, Dragnea set up the group using local officials and members of the local business community.

It said that from 2001 to 2017, Dragnea coordinated the group which defrauded significant sums of EU and state funds by using confidential information or allowing unauthorized people to access the information.

One example of alleged wrongdoing was a 114 million lei contract to repair 55 kilometers of road on the county, of which more than 13 million euros came from EU funds.

Tel Drum artificially pumped up the cost of building work in two projects to obtain more money causing total damages of 31.3 million lei (now worth 6.5 million euros) to the state.

Teleorman is one of the poorest counties in Romania, with high unemployment. One-fourth of employed people work for the state.


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