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Romanian Ruling Party Pitted Against Corruption Agency

Social Democrats close ranks as two of their ministers face abuse of office allegations in a corruption case involving the party’s boss.

27 September 2017

The Romanian Social Democrat (PSD) party stands by two of their ministers facing prosecution, in spite of widespread criticism of their stance, including from Romanian President Klaus Ioahnnis.

 

“People who are prosecuted, sentenced or convicted should not be in state leadership,” Iohannis said on Tuesday during a press conference, according to Romania-Insider.com, speaking about the prosecution of Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh (pictured) and Rovana Plumb, deputy minister for European funds. The two should have resigned or should have been removed, Iohannis added, but PSD is creating a “shield” around them.

 

The country’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) announced last Friday that it has asked the Chamber of Deputies to approve the prosecution of the two on charges of abuse of office related to an allegedly illegal, land transfer case, Balkan Insight writes.

 

A DNA press release from 22 September says that in 2013, when Plumb was minister of the environment and when Shhaideh was state secretary in the Ministry of Development, they greenlighted, along with four other officials, the transfer of Belina Island and a branch of the Danube from the care of the central administration to that of the local administration of the Teleorman County in southern Romania. Only days after the transfer, the properties, which have a total surface area of around 320 hectares (around 800 acres), were “illegally rented out to private firms,” the press release says.

 

This was done despite opposition from the finance and justice ministers at the time, who claimed that the move was not done according to the law, which does not permit such transfers based on governmental decisions. 

 

After a meeting on Monday, the leader of the PSD parliamentary members, Ioan Munteanu, said after listening to PSD members Shhaideh and Plumb, “the conclusion was clear: they fully respected legal provisions, and they consider themselves innocent.” Munteanu also said that the final decision of the party was one of “total support” for them, and that the two “have been asked not to resign,” HotNews.ro reported.


In an opinion piece for the newspaper Adevarul, journalist Catalin Prisacaraiu notes that PSD leader and longtime Teleorman County council head Liviu Dragnea is close to Shhaideh, having been a witness during the latter’s marriage ceremony. Serving as minister of development at the time of the illegal transfer, Dragnea “was directly interested in the welfare of TelDrum [one of the private firms who rented out the land], and, as we know, was personally interested [in hunting … and having a good time] on the Belina Island and on that branch of the Danube.”

 

“If she gives evidence, Shhaideh will get Dragnea convicted in exchange for lighter charges. If she protects her political boss from those times and now, Dragnea will be a witness again, this time for her marriage with prison,” Prisacariu notes.

 

  • Shhaideh was one of PSD’s proposals for the position of prime minister after the party won the parliamentary elections last December.
  •  

  • However, Iohannis rejected her nomination, which sparked various rumors over his reasons. The most widely circulated theory centered on her husband Akram Shhaideh, who is an open supporter of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who stands accused of war crimes by the international community.
  •  

  • When asked on Monday if she was considering resigning, Shhaideh responded “absolutely not,” AGERPRES writes

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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