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What the newspapers say: February 21, 2006

Marţi, 21 februarie 2006, 0:00

Moves against corruption keep the front page of Romanian newspapers yet again today, reflecting the heat of the early week in Parliament and on prosecutors’ line of duty.

A decision to subordinate a vital anti-corruption body to the Prosecutor General and searches at a Bucharest building standing at the core of a major inquiry on a real estate scandal involving former PM, current House speaker Adrian Nastase are the main flashpoints of the day.

Evenimentul Zilei focuses on a compromise between President Traian Basescu and parliamentary leaders yesterday that passes the new National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) in the subordination of Prosecutor General Ilie Botos.

While the move rises questions about the free hand the DNA should have in fighting graft, the newspaper quotes President Basescu as saying that "Subordination does not mean prosecutors’ actions will be meddled with from above".

And Cotidianul notes that officials in Brussels expressed confidence with the compromise, in a meeting with visiting Romanian Justice minister Monica Macovei the very same day.

For their part, prosecutors stood away from the political debate and "moved" into a building on the Zambaccian St. in Bucharest, owned by former prime minister Adrian Nastase who stands accused of graft in a scandal known as the "Zambaccian affair".

While Curentul believes the search, warranted for the apartments of Nastase’s neighbors, ended in failure, Gandul notes the prosecutors "used the back door".

Evenimentul Zilei is slightly more optimistic about the results, noting that "the circle is closing in on Nastase.

Cotidianul even manages to have a little fun: "They counted Nastase’s Zambaccian" – a reference to the former PSD prime minister’s claimed arrogance when he invited others to "count his eggs" when he was targeted by media revelations related to his fowl farm outside Bucharest.

Both Evenimentul Zilei and Cotidianul continue their wave of revelations on deeds committed by Nastase’s cronies.

The former focuses on a huge pay bill received by one of his former consultants, while the latter attacks House speaker’s friend Alexandru Bittner for real estate businesses worth millions of euro.

Two other controversial affairs found a temporary conclusion on Monday. According to media reports, Romanian businessman Ioan Neculaie, who has been at the core of many suspicious business deals over the year, is currently investigated under embezzlement charges in relation with the takeover of a truck factory in Roman, Eastern Romania.

And Romania libera quotes "several sources" and reports that Cross Lander USA Inc., the US-based company run by John Perez has "secretly" self-dissolved on February 1 this year.

Cross Lander, run by John Perez, was a little known firm that bought the majority stake in Romanian SUV maker ARO in September 2003 for only USD 180,000, many times less than a reasonable price for such an asset.

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