There is “no proof” of graft in the deal that saw Romania buy two frigates from British company BAE System several years ago, a deal that stays at the core of a week-long scandal following revelations of “secret commissions” paid by the company to Romanian officials, parliamentarians in Bucharest said following key hearings today.

Romanian Defense minister Teodor Athanasiu faced the Defense Commission of the House of Deputies on Thursday to describe the story of the two frigates, which according to Romanian and British media were sold to the Romanian state in a deal marred by controversy.

Deputy Mihai Stanisoara of the Defense Commission said that the hearing showed that the BAE-Romania deal had both negative and positive parts, taking into account its “political weight”.

The deal was concluded after negotiations in 2002-2003, a period when Romania was pushing hard for NATO membership.

Among the negative aspects of the contract, Stanisoara noted the short time dedicated to technical negotiations and the terms of the offset contracts, as well as the fact that it falls under British legislation in case of a judicial clash between the signatories.

And he said BAE was “brought into” the contract by the British Defense Office, so the Romanian part had no contribution in nominating the company for the commercial aspect of the deal.

Another deputy, Marian Saniuta of the opposition Social Democratic Party – PSD, the governing party when the negotiations with BAE took place – defended the contract as it “complied with all legal provisions”. He said there was no proof that the contract was accompanied by illegal commissions or that it was in any way harmful to Romania’s commercial interests.