The founding leader of the Conservative Party, a small but influential part of the governing coalition in Romania, received on Thursday a 5-year sentence in a major corruption case involving the privatisation of an agricultural institute. Dan Voiculescu and several other people received sentences of 5-6 years in the case, which can be appealed.

Dan Voiculescu Foto: Agerpres

The sentence comes over 1,700 days since Dan Voiculescu - a veteran politician, businessman connected to the former Communist trade structures and secret police and with his family the owner of a major media group - was officially indicted in the case.

The prejudice in the case of the privatisation of the Institute of Food Research (ICA) in Bucharest amounts to over 60 million euro. It is supposed to be reclaimed from the indicted people.

Voiculescu's legal representative Gheorghita Mateut said on Thursday that he would appeal the sentence made today by the Bucharest Tribunal.

The verdict says Dan Viculescu must pay the value of over 18 million shares held at ICA, which the Conservative Party leader has donated to his daughter Camelia Voiculescu. He and the other sentenced people - representatives of the ICA board at the time of the privatisation or of the group of companies Dan Voiculescu controls - must also pay jointly about 60,5 million euro - the prejudice suffered by the Agriculture Ministry in the privatisation of ICA.

The case was opened in 2007, when Dan Voiculescu became the target of anti-corruption investigations for using his influence as a party leader in order to obtain an advantage in the privatisation of ICA. Prosecutors accused that Dan Voiculescu bought 3.6 hectares of land controlled by the institute at a price 75 times smaller than the market price.

But the court proceedings were delayed and postponed repeatedly, with Dan Voiculescu even resigning repeatedly as a Senator in order to change his status and thus force moving the case from one court to another.