Romanian ex-minister sentenced to six years for bribery

Foto: INQUAM/Octav Ganea

Romania’s highest court on Thursday sentenced former tourism minister Elena Udrea to six years in prison for misusing government funds and demanding bribes from private firms contracted by her ministry.

The ruling concluded a seven-year trial after the defendant used several delay tactics to postpone a verdict.

The High Court for Cassation and Justice upheld a  2018 lower court ruling for Ms. Udrea, a former presidential candidate and one of Romania’s most powerful politicians of her time with close ties to former president, Traian Basescu.

She was convicted on charges of bribery and abuse of office. She was ordered to pay more than eight million lei (1.623 million euros) in damages. The tourism ministry was ordered to pay 900,000 euros to two witnesses.

The court ruled that she had demanded a 10% cut of several contracts the Tourism Ministry signed with private firms in exchange for the ministry making payments on time.

Investigators said she used some of that money to finance the center-right party she belonged to at the time.

Ms Urdea, 48, also paid a private firm controlled by former Romanian boxer Rudel Obreja nearly 2 million euros of ministry funds to organize a boxing gala on the pretext that she was paying for publicity for Romania.

Mr Obreja, the gala’s organizer, was charged with complicity to bribery, tax evasion, and money laundering and sentenced to five years in prison.

Mr. Basescu was president from 2004 to 2014. A court ruled recently that he had been an agent of the former Securitate secret police. As a result of the ruling, he lost his grace- and-favor house and state security.

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