Prosecutors request jail for Romania ruling party leader

Bucharest (AFP) –


Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors have requested seven and a half years in jail for ruling party leader Liviu Dragnea in the final hearing of a trial over fake jobs, local media reported Tuesday.

"The actions of the accused were likely to compromise the concept of public service," the lead prosecutor for the DNA anti-corruption unit said.

The DNA has also asked for a previous suspended two-year prison sentence handed down to Dragnea for a separate electoral fraud conviction to be served in full.

That conviction prevented Dragnea from becoming prime minister even after the victory of his left-wing Social Democrat party (PSD) in a December 2016 parliamentary election.

Dragnea was present in court for the hearing and once again professed his innocence.

The charges relate to allegations that he arranged for two women to be given fake jobs in the child protection service of his home region of Teleorman in southern Romania, while they were actually working for the local branch of the PSD.

Prosecutors say 24,000 euros ($28,500) of public funds were fraudulently paid out to them.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between 2006 and 2012 when Dragnea was president of the regional council.

Dragnea has previously said the case against him is based on "gossip and rumours" even though the two women in question have admitted wrongdoing.

Shortly after the current trial opened last year, the PSD government attempted to pass a controversial measure modifying the punishments for cases such as Dragnea's.

It would have meant that in order to go to prison, a defendant would have to be found guilty of obtaining at least 44,000 euros through abuse of power.

However, the proposal sparked off the biggest wave of protests seen in Romania since the collapse of communism in 1989, and the government abandoned the reform.

The verdict in the current case is expected on May 29.

Dragnea also faces a separate inquiry into allegations of embezzling EU funds.