A Romanian court on Wednesday sentenced the former head of Romania’s food safety to 8 ½ years in prison for multiple counts of bribery.
After the ruling, Marian Zlotea, who was a European Parliament lawmaker from 2007 to 2009, said he had left Romania and was seeking political asylum in another country according to a post on Facebook.
The ruling from the Bucharest Court of Appeal is final. In 2018, a lower court handed him a two-year suspended sentence.
“Knowing that this sentence was going to be a set-up, I left Romania as did my former colleague from the European Parliament Carles Puigdemont,” the 49-year-old wrote, comparing himself to the Catalan pro-independence politician who fled Spain in 2017 after calling a referendum on independence which Spanish courts declared illegal.
He is now a member of the European Parliament and lives in self-exile in Belgium.
Marian Zlotea said he had „proof and evidence, including recordings from the case that prove my innocence, and I will seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights.”
The court convicted him on corruption charges while he was the director of the he National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority, a position he held from February 2009 to July 2010.
Anti-corruption prosecutors said that from October 2009 to May 2010, Mr. Zlotea who was the former deputy chairman of the the ruling Democratic Liberal Party and the head of ANSVSA abused his position and organized a criminal ring with other managers of the agency in Bucharest and Ilfov with the aim of obtaining illegal benefits from people subordinated to them.
They said he persuaded two managers to abuse their positions and procure food which was handed out to voters during electoral rallies or used by the agency for hospitality purposes.
They said that Mr. Zlotea was aware that deputy managers were making subordinates procure food from firms that they carried out safety controls on.
They also said Mr. Zlotea forced every inspector to pay a monthly fee of 3,000 lei to the Democratic Liberal Party from January to May 2010 in exchange for keeping their job.
They also accused him of demanding 143,000 lei from a manager of several supermarkets in November-December 2011 to protect the stores from being audited and checked by officials.
The court also ordered that he pay 263,000 lei in damages.