Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors ask president to approve probe of ex-minister suspected of bribery

Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Romania’s anti-corruption office on Monday asked the president to give the go-ahead to the prosecution of the former environment minister who is suspected of bribery in exchange for handing out carbon credits to a factory.

The former environment minister is suspected of receiving 22 tons of metal products in bribes in exchange for giving the carbon credits to a plant and also for approving measures taken by the factory to shut down a warehouse of non-compliant landfills, according to a statement on Monday.

The approvals came from the environment ministry which was headed by Costel Alexe in 2020.

Although anti-corruption office did not specifically mention Mr. Alexe by name, the former minister denied wrongdoing in a statement on Monday and insisted he had never benefited from ”illegal gains to break the law.”

President Klaus Iohannis needs to sign off on a probe against any former minister, who is no longer a lawmaker.

The case is an embarrassment for the Liberal Party which heads the center-right ruling coalition which came to power after December parliamentary elections promising to crack down on corruption.

Prior to the elections, the Liberals had a minority government for a year after the Social Democrats were ousted in a parliamentary vote following years of corruption scandals and a judicial overhaul that diluted efforts to fight graft.

Mr Alexe, 37, is no longer in the government but he is chairman of the Iasi County Council for the Liberal Party. The opposition Social Democratic Party demanded his resignation after news of the probe.

“From March-April 2020, the defendant directly demanded from the manager of a steel works several products made of sheet metal in exchange for granting carbon credits certificates for free and monitoring the measures taken by the plant to shut down a warehouse of non-compliant landfills,” a statement said.

It said he received in “benefits”  22 tons of sheet metal worth about 103,000 lei or 21,000 euros between April 23 and July 7, 2020 , at the offices of a private company managed by one of the minister’s relatives,” anti-corruption prosecutors said.


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