Romanian prosecutors open bribery case against ex-minister after Parliament lifted his immunity

Foto: INQUAM/Octav Ganea

The anti-corruption agency said Friday it has begun prosecuting lawmaker Nicolae Banicioiu on charges that he took bribes worth about 800,000 euros  while he served as youth and then health minister.

Mr. Banicioiu is a member if ex-Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s party, Pro Romania. This week Parliament stripped him of his immunity this week, leaving prosecutors free to pursue charges. He denies wrongdoing.

The bribe allegations are connected to the two ministerial portfolios he held in the Ponta government and involve the appointment of hospital managers.

Prosecutors suspect him of influence peddling and repeat bribe taking.

They say the alleged total bribes were worth 3.9 million billion lei, about 800,000 euros.  

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.

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.

Romania and Hungary are tied as the second most corrupt members of the European Union after Bulgaria according to Transparency International, a corruption watchdog.  

Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring.


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