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Anti-graft prosecutors investigate case involving business owned by Romanian PM Victor Ponta's family. Ponta's crony Sebastian Ghita summoned as "suspect"

de Costin Ionescu     HotNews.ro
Marţi, 17 februarie 2015, 15:12 English | Top News

Sebastian Ghita
Foto: Hotnews
Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors on Tuesday launched raids at 14 addresses in the cities of Bucharest and Ploiesti in a criminal case linked to suspected acts of corruption and EU fund fraud, the anti-graft body DNA has announced. According to judicial sources, targeted firms include a company established by the mother of Romanian PM Victor Ponta, which is now partially owned by Alexandra Hertanu, Ponta's sister. Also on Tuesday, Ponta's brother-in-law Iulian Hertanu, prominent politician and businessman Sebastian Ghita - one of Ponta's cronies - showed up for testimonies at DNA Ploiesti.

Other people summoned to the DNA headquarters are Social Democratic deputy Vlad Cosma and the head of the Prahova County Council, Mircea Cosma.

One of the firms targeted by raids today is Exfin 2000 SRL. It was established by prime minister Ponta's mother and is now owned by his sister Alexandra Hertanu and another woman, Natalia Maier.

Shortly after the news broke, PM Ponta stated that it would be wrong for him to comment on investigations prosecutors have launched against his brother-in-law, as "the law must be equal to all".

Ponta's brother-in-law Iulian Hertanu is investigated for fraud with EU funds in a contract aimed at expanding the drainage system in the town of Comarnic in Prahova county, some 100 km north of Bucharest.

Sebastian Ghita - a young businessman turned politician,  with close ties to PM Ponta - was summoned as a suspect in the case. On showing up at the DNA offices on Tuesday, he said he had met Hertanu on several occasions, but said he did not know him well. Ghita also said, as quoted by TV news channels, that he knew the investigated funding project was not that he was not involved in the story and did not have many details.

The group of firms eyed by prosecutors are suspect of having redirected significant amounts of money obtained trough the EU-funded project in Comarnic. Suspects are accused by prosecutors of forming a criminal group to win the contract in Comarnic, which was signed in January 2012.

The firm owned by Ponta's brother-in-law, Grossmann Engineering, has won multiple state funded contracts, especially with local authorities, for the past several years. According to local magazine Revista 22, the most valuable of these contracts is the one now investigated by the DNA, which saw Grossmann become an associate, among others, of a company owned by two former partners of another prominent businessman now targeted by the DNA in separate cases, Dorin Cocos.

Dorin Cocos is the former husband of Elena Udrea, an ex-Tourism and Development minister close to former President Traian Basescu. Udrea herself has been targeted by the DNA in multiple corruption cases and was recently placed in preventive arrest.

Victor Ponta - whose family members are thus shown to have run business with his political rivals' associates - now has spearheaded attacks against former President Basescu and Basescu's crony Elena Udrea. Prior to the fall 2014 presidential elections and Basescu's end of term in office, Ponta has claimed Basescu should resign in order to prove he was not influencing justice as Basescu's own brother was targeted by prosecutors under corruption charges.

And on Monday the same Ponta claimed Basescu himself should spend time with Elena Udrea in prison, because of his 10-year leadership over a "Mafia-like regime".

The raids today are part of an unprecedented moves by Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors against high profile politicians, both Left and Right, and influential business people connected to all major parties in the country.























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