Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced on Friday.
DNA’s release mentions that the investigation on Ponta was opened for forgery, complicity to tax evasion and money laundering, and prosecutors are now asking the Chamber of Deputies permission to extend it to conflict of interests. The Parliament approval is mandatory for criminal investigations against MPs, and Victor Ponta is also a deputy.
The original case involved Senator Dan Sova; both he and Ponta used to be lawyers. Sova’s law firm provided legal counseling to the state-owned energy companies of Turceni and Rovinari and had an open-ended collaboration agreement with Ponta’s law firm in 2007, for a monthly fee of 2,000 euros to be invoiced monthly by the latter, the prosecutors detailed. The sum later increased to 3,000 euros per month, and the collaboration ended in December 2008, when Ponta became Prime Minister. By then, he had issued 17 invoices to Sova for 181.439,98 lei, copying the model used by Sova’s firm.
The prosecutors allege that Ponta’s legal practice never actually rendered any services to Sova’s, who used most of the money from the two energy companies for himself and his acquaintances.
Ponta used some of the money from Sova to buy two luxury apartments in Bucharest, and also received other benefits, including the free use of a car, for which the leasing instalments were still paid by Sova’s firm until 2009. It was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 specifically asked by Ponta, and he eventually took over the leasing contract without ever returning nearly 80,000 lei already paid for it by Sova & Associates.
In 2011, fiscal inspections began at Sova and Associates, and Sova allegedly agreed with Ponta to forge legal counselling reports to justify the payments to Ponta’s individual legal practice.
The Prime Minister’s conflict of interests ensued; he had unduly received from Sova around 250,000 lei and the use of a car, and later nominated him Minister for the liaison with the Parliament in August 2012, Minister-delegate for the infrastructure and foreign investments in December 2012, ad-interim Transportation Minister in February 2014, and Transportation Minister in March 2014. As these acts involved Ponta’s Premier office and he is also an MP, the procedures of notification of the Chamber of Deputies are underway, the DNA release concludes.