Hundreds of customers rush out of high end stores in one of Romania’s biggest shopping centres, clutching Christmas gift bags and pushing trolleys through the busy car park. If any are troubled by the murky history of this once quiet farming community, 7km north of Bucharest city centre, they do not show it. Just across the street from the gleaming Baneasa shopping complex is a Communist-era collective farm now at the centre of a bribery probe linking minor royalty with senior politicians poised for success in Sunday’s general election. The Baneasa farm case is one of thousands that Romania’s powerful anti-corruption agency has opened this year, in what has become the largest ever anti-graft clampdown in eastern Europe. According to prosecutors from the DNA, the national anti-corruption agency, officials were bribed to sign the valuable land over to Prince Paul-Philippe, who claims ancestral ownership, as part of illegal land restitutions she estimates cost the state €145m. The prince has denied any wrongdoing.
This and a number of other DNA cases contributed to the collapse of the centre-left PSD government last year and its replacement by an interim technocrat administration. Victor Ponta, the party leader and former prime minister, was separately charged with forgery, money-laundering and tax evasion. He maintains his innocence.
But ahead of this weekend’s election in the EU’s fastest growing economy, polls suggest that voters — fatigued by the anti-corruption efforts and focused instead on their wallets — are set to return some high-profile DNA suspects to power, potentially exposing the agency to political attack.
“Of course, the prosecutions should continue,” said Camelia, a shopper, wrapped in scarves. “But in the meantime, I need a pay rise — I have bills to pay,” she added, lifting up her shopping bags.
Full Article: Romania set to return graft suspects to power.