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4 Iulie 2018
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According to prosecutors, over 200 cases of abuse of service, currently under trial, could be ruled out.

REUTERS: „Romania moves closer to decriminalizing abuse of office”

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Liviu Dragnea. Photo: Archive/ Agerpres.

Romania took another step, on Tuesday July 3, towards partial disincrimination of abuse of office, a change that could lead to the annulment of a prison sentence pronounced against the leader of the ruling party. Romania’s Chamber of Deputies has approved the amendments to the Criminal Code, despite complaints and protests by opposition politicians and anti-corruption activists, accusing the Government of allowing the spread of corruption.

According to prosecutors, over 200 cases of abuse of service, currently under trial, could be ruled out if these changes take effect. Lower house is to give the final vote for these legislative changes, a move that could further strain relations with the European Union, which maintains Romania's justice system under special monitoring, from the country's accession to the EU bloc in 2007.

Government lawmakers say that Romania has a much tougher legislation on abuse of service than other states, and changes are necessary for people not to go to jail for minor offenses. In recent years, anticorruption prosecutors have finalized a series of convictions against MPs, ministers and mayors, revealing conflicts of interest, abuse of office, fraud, and the award of state contracts in exchange for bribery.

In May this year, leader of the ruling party, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court for instigating abuse of office, a decision that prompted thousands of people to protest against his government.

Most powerful politician in Romania, who is also the President of the lower house, has repeatedly denied all charges. Sentence is not final and can be appealed. According to amendments to the Criminal Code, proposed by Minister of Justice, abuse of office will no longer constitute an offense if prosecutors can not prove that the accused person has committed deeds for personal or close relatives.

Critics of this change say that Dragnea, aged 55, will benefit from the legislative changes, given that he has not been convicted for personal benefits or for benefits of any of his relatives. He was found guilty of having maintained two women on a payroll of a state agency during 2006 - 2013, even though they were hired by his party, while Dragnea was the President of the respective County Council - an accusation that the Social Democrat leader denies.

Centrist opposition has announced that it will challenge the bill at the Constitutional Court, if it is adopted. According to critics, because of these changes, prosecutors will no longer be able to pursue an official who abuses his office to offer a contract to a political ally.

An official who causes damage less than 1,900 lei - amount of the minimum monthly salary - as a result of his actions, will also be exempt from criminal prosecution. Maximum prison sentences for abuse of service would be reduced from seven to five years, and convicts aged over 60 will only serve one third of the total punishment, according to amendments of the Criminal Code.

Source:RRA,Reuters.Translated by Miruna Matei


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