Romanian lawmakers vote to lift immunity of ex-minister suspected of taking 800,000 euro bribe

Foto: INQUAM-Octav Ganea

Romanian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to lift the immunity of a politician who served as youth and then health minister to allow prosecutors to pursue him in a bribery case worth more about 800,000 euros.

The National Anti-Corruption Directorate asked Parliament to give the green light to allow them to open an investigation against Nicolae Banicioiu who is suspected of influence peddling and repeat bribe taking.

Lawmakers voted 202-12 to lift his immunity.

Romania is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections this year and lawmakers are keen not to be seen as protecting suspected corruption. Romania was criticized earlier this year by the European Commission for failing to do enough to crack down on high-level corruption.

Prosecutors said the alleged total bribes were worth 3.9 million billion lei, about 800,000 euros. Mr. Banicioiu, a lawmaker of the Pro Romania party, denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say Mr. Banicioiu allegedly received 1.29 million lei from two businessmen when he was youth minister from 2012-2014 in exchange for persuading then-health minister, Eugen Nicolaescu to appoint certain people as hospital managers.

Prosecutors claim that he received another bribe of 2.6 million lei from the same businessmen after he became health minister between 2014 and 2015.

The businessman wanted certain managers appointed to the respective hospitals, which had contracts with companies they controlled.

Last week, the ex-minister claimed the allegations were “lies”.

Last Friday, a parliamentary committee of the lower chamber recommended that his immunity was lifted in 19-2 vote.

Committee chairman Nicusor Halici argued lawmaker didn’t want to prevent prosecutors pursuing the case. He said that their request “specified elements suggesting a crime.”

Lawmakers voted in person Tuesday.


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