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Romania arrests central bank deputy governor in graft investigation
July 29, 2016 / 6:05 AM / a year ago

Romania arrests central bank deputy governor in graft investigation

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Anti-graft prosecutors arrested Romania’s deputy central bank governor Bogdan Olteanu on Friday, saying they had charged him with accepting 1 million euros ($1.12 million) in 2008 to influence the government over a key appointment.

Central bank deputy governor Bogdan Olteanu answers a question during an interview, in Bucharest, Romania, January 26, 2016. Picture taken January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Octav Ganea

Olteanu’s lawyer said the deputy governor denied any wrongdoing, but would resign on Monday - the first time such a senior officer in the central bank has been arrested and left his job over such allegations.

“He does not want this respectable institution to be ... dragged unjustly in a scandal,” lawyer Constantin Durgheu told reporters.

Olteanu has been one of the central bank’s nine-member board since 2009. The bank, which holds a rate-setting meeting on Aug. 4, said the investigation would not impede policy-making.

A replacement for Olteanu on the bank’s board must go through parliament, which is currently on summer recess.

Prosecutors said they were investigating allegations that Olteanu received the money from a businessman as payment to persuade the government to appoint someone as administrator of the Danube Delta national park.

They did not go into details on what the unnamed businessman was trying to achieve through the appointment.

Romanian prosecutors can issue a 24-hour arrest warrant for a suspect after bringing formal charges. A Bucharest court agreed to their request late on Friday to extend that warrant and place Olteanu under house arrest for 30 days.

“There is data and evidence that shows ... in 2008, Bogdan Olteanu, as lower house speaker, had requested and received 1 million euros and electoral support from a businessman, to persuade the Romanian government members to appoint a certain person as governor of the Danube Delta,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Olteanu was the lower house speaker in 2006-2008 when he was a member of the Liberal party of former Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, the ruling party at the time.

Romania is considered one of the EU’s most corrupt member states. Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring, although it has praised prosecutors and magistrates for a widespread crackdown on high-level graft.

Prosecutors have investigated and secured convictions against thousands of lawmakers, ministers, including former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, businessmen and public servants.

($1 = 0.8962 euros)

Editing by Andrew Heavens

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