Europe

Romania corruption: Bucharest mayor arrested

  • 6 September 2015
  • From the section Europe
Bucharest mayor Sorin Oprescu, arrested at home, 6 September 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The mayor was taken in handcuffs from his home in Ciolpani

The mayor of Romania's capital, Sorin Oprescu, has been arrested at home in an investigation into allegations of taking bribes.

Now serving his second term as Bucharest mayor, Mr Oprescu is accused of taking kickbacks from companies awarded contracts with the city.

Prosecutors allege he took a 10% cut from deals. He denies any wrongdoing.

It is the latest of several corruption scandals to engulf top political figures in Romania.

Mr Oprescu, 63, who is backed by Romania's governing Social Democrats, was taken into custody for an initial 24 hours.

Prosecutors will ask a court to extend this for a month while investigations continue.

Informants

Companies which won public works contracts kept up to 33% of the gross profit, prosecutors said in a statement.

"The rest was given as bribes to employees of the Bucharest mayor, with 10% of the contracts' value requested by the accused Sorin Oprescu."

The mayor was caught accepting a bribe from people who became informants, prosecutors allege.

His lawyer, Alexandru Chiciu, said his client had "never asked for money from anybody, directly or indirectly".

Several high-profile Romanians have lost their jobs recently over allegations of corruption.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prime Minister Ponta is also accused of taking bribes, but denies the allegations

Prime Minister Victor Ponta was charged in July with several counts of corruption in a long-running investigation.

He faces charges of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering dating back to when he was a lawyer before he became prime minister in 2012, the country's anti-corruption agency DNA said.

Mr Ponta, who resigned as Social Democratic party leader, also denies any wrongdoing but continues as PM despite opposition calls for him to quit.

Romania's reputation has suffered from allegations of corruption - it ranks 69th out of 175 on Transparency International's corruption perceptions index for 2014, where a low ranking suggests less corruption.

However, the DNA agency is stepping up efforts to combat corruption, earning praise from Romania's European partners, correspondents say.

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