Romania’s Prime Minister Indicted on Corruption Charges

September 17, 2015 Updated: October 15, 2015

BUCHAREST, Romania—Romanian prosecutors on Thursday formally indicted Prime Minister Victor Ponta on corruption charges, including tax evasion and money-laundering, and said he will be tried by the country’s top court.

Ponta won’t be arrested, Livia Sapalcan, the spokeswoman for the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office told The Associated Press.

The 42-year-old Ponta is the first sitting Romania prime minister to be indicted and have his assets seized. He denies wrongdoing and has refused to resign, saying he wants to remain prime minister until the December 2016 parliamentary election.

Ponta defended his record as prime minister in a Facebook posting, saying his policies had led to economic growth, adding “the only problem the country has is the obsession of a totally unprofessional prosecutor who wants to make a name for himself inventing and imagining facts and false situations which happened 10 years ago” — followed by a smiley emoticon.

Four other people have also been indicted in the case and will stand trial.

There was no immediate comment from Ponta, who was attending a meeting of the country’s top defense body to discuss Hungary’s plan to build a fence along part of its border with Romania to deter migrants. Romania opposes the idea.

President Klaus Iohannis said the indictment was “more and more problematic” for Ponta and the government, and was harming Romania’s international image.

Prosecutors first named Ponta a suspect on June 5 and he was indicted in July on charges including tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and making false statements while he was working as a lawyer in 2007 and 2008. At the time, Ponta was a lawmaker.

Prosecutors say Ponta forged expense claims worth at least 181,000 lei ($45,000) from the law firm of political ally Dan Sova, who was also indicted Thursday. They say he pretended to work as a lawyer to justify getting money from the law firm. The funds were used to pay for two luxury apartments and the use of an SUV.

Prosecutors say after Ponta became prime minister in May 2012, he appointed Sova as a minister three times, which constituted a conflict of interest.

Ponta stepped down as head of the ruling Social Democratic Party on July 12.

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