In just ten months, a Romanian customs point has seen a massive 2,500-fold increase in its revenues.
The development came after a number of lawmakers and border officials were charged with bribery, influence trafficking and other corruption-related offenses connected to the major border crossing between Romania and Hungary.
Spokeswoman for the Regional Roads and Bridges Department in Timisoara, Alina Sabou said there was an ongoing inquiry by the anti-corruption agency and extra monitoring and surveillance at the customs point, Radio Timișoara reported.
Border chiefs have installed permanent surveillance to monitor activity and stepped up impromptu checks, including at night time at the Nadlac 2 border crossing.
Last year, an inquiry by anti-corruption prosecutors revealed the border crossing was controlled by local leaders of the Social Democratic Party and had become “a real den of corruption, with bribes of thousands of euros (paid) for getting a job there.”
Lawmaker Dorel Caprar was expelled from the Social Democrats after he was sent to trial on April 7 on allegations of bribery. Three other Social Democratic lawmakers were sent to trial in the same case.
Two border officials at Nadlac 2 and other officials were also charged with taking and paying bribes, influence peddling with the aim of making illicit gains.
Social Democratic leaders are charged with taking bribes in exchange for hiring people at the custom’s point or at the Regional Roads and Bridges Department in Timisoara. In turn, they demanded protection taxes from employees and illegally interfered in the hiring process.
The anti-corruption agency said they took between 100 and 500 euros a month from traffic controllers to keep them in their jobs.
They said one former boss negotiated between 5,000 and 10,000 euros to corrupt the hiring process for key traffic controllers.
Romania has one of the highest corruption rates in the European Union and there are a number of elements that make border activities particularly vulnerable to corruption.
Poor external oversight; the level of autonomy and discretionary authority border officials enjoy; high tariffs and complex regulatory frameworks that provide traders with incentives to bribe.
Added to this are the pressure of organized crime networks; low salaries, and poor working conditions of border officials; and the specific organizational features of border protection agencies.
Corruption at borders manifests itself through petty bribery, bureaucratic corruption, misappropriation, organized crime related corruption and political corruption, Transparency International, the world’s top watchdog on corruption reported.