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Romanian ruling party leader's assets frozen in corruption probe

© AFP | Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's ruling party, outside the offices of the national anti-corruption agency

BUCHAREST (AFP) - 

Romania's anti-corruption agency on Tuesday froze more than 27 million euros in assets belonging to Liviu Dragnea, the powerful boss of the country's ruling left party who is being investigated for abuse of power and embezzlement of EU funds.

The Social Democrat party (PSD) leader is alleged to have misappropriated EU money earmarked for infrastructure projects while he was council chairman of southern Teleorman county between 2000 and 2012.

More than 127.5 million leu (27.4 million euros, $32.2 million) worth of Dragnea's "movable and immovable" property has been sequestered, the national anti-corruption prosecutor's office (DNA) said in a statement.

Housing, land, shares and bank accounts were among the assets targeted, Romanian TV station Digi24 reported.

The assets of four other people involved in the case were also frozen.

After being summoned by the prosecutors, Dragnea was met at the DNA offices by a mixed crowd of protesters and supporters, both shouting his name. The protesters chanted "Resign" and "Go to prison!"

Dragnea, currently president of Romanian parliament's lower house, has denied any wrongdoing.

The 55-year-old was previously found guilty of electoral fraud in 2016 and received a suspended two-year prison sentence.

The conviction meant he was barred from running for premier after the PSD won elections last December, however he is widely acknowledged as pulling the strings in the party.

Dragnea is also on trial for alleged abuse of power in a separate case. He has rejected the charges.

In the latest investigation, which was announced on November 13, DNA has accused Dragnea of "obtaining, either directly or via aides, goods and services used for personal purposes or for his party".

The agency said the case was brought to its attention by the EU's anti-fraud office (OLAF) in September 2016.

Romania joined the EU in 2007 and in recent years has been enjoying strong economic growth, but both Brussels and the International Monetary Fund have pressed the government to do more to tackle graft.

© 2017 AFP