President Iohannis asks for PM’s resignation for facing criminal investigation

Newsroom 05/06/2015 | 13:39

President Klaus Iohannis on Friday asked premier Victor Ponta (photo) to resign, according to official sources quoted by Mediafax. “It is an impossible situation for Romania the premier to be accused of criminal actions. I request the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta,” the president said after a meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ponta,” said the president after a meeting he had with Ponta at Cotroceni. In his turn, Ponta refused to resign on Friday, on Facebook, as asked by Iohannis: “I had a very correct and civil institutional talk with president Klaus Iohannis! I respect his public position, but I was appointed by the Parliament and only the Parliament can dismiss me! I think the observance of constitutional principles is vital for our society, and under no circumstances can I accept a DNA prosecutor is above the Parliament, the Government and the citizens of this country! It would mean dictatorship, and I think that more than 25 years after 1989 it would be a major error for us all,” Ponta wrote on his Facebook page, after meeting the President.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta is prosecuted for document forgery under private signature, continued complicity in tax evasion and money laundering in Turceni – Rovinari file, deeds he would have committed while he was a lawyer, according to the National Anticorruption Direction (DNA) as quoted by Mediafax. The prosecutors later found that the investigation should be extended to include three counts of conflict of interests after he became Prime Minister.

The original case involved Senator Dan Sova; both he and Ponta were lawyers in the past. Sova’s law firm provided legal counseling to the state-owned energy companies of Turceni and Rovinari and had an open-ended collaboration agreement with Ponta’s law firm in 2007, for a monthly fee of EUR 2,000 to be invoiced monthly by the latter, the prosecutors detailed. The amount later increased to EUR 3,000 per month, and the collaboration ended in December 2008, when Ponta became Prime Minister. By then, he had issued 17 invoices to Sova for RON 181.439,98 (EUR 40,923), copying the model used by Sova’s firm.

The prosecutors allege that Ponta’s legal practice never actually rendered any services to Sova’s, who used most of the money from the two energy companies for himself and his acquaintances.

Ponta used some of the money from Sova to buy two luxury apartments in Bucharest, and also received other benefits, including the free use of a car, for which the leasing instalments were still paid by Sova’s firm until 2009. In 2011, fiscal inspections began at Sova and Associates, and Sova allegedly agreed with Ponta to forge legal counselling reports to justify the payments to Ponta’s individual legal practice.

The Prime Minister’s conflict of interests ensued; he had unduly received from Sova around RON 250,000 (EUR 56,387) and the use of a car, and later nominated him Minister for the liaison with the Parliament in August 2012, Minister-delegate for the infrastructure and foreign investments in December 2012, ad-interim Transportation Minister in February 2014, and Transportation Minister in March 2014. As these acts involved Ponta’s Premier office and he is also an MP, the procedures of notification of the Chamber of Deputies are underway, the DNA release concludes.

After Ponta has arrived on Friday at the DNA headquarters, answering a prosecutor’s request to hear him, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation against him. The lower chamber of the Parliament has to approve the criminal investigation, as Ponta is also a deputy.

Upon leaving the DNA offices after hearings on Friday, Ponta confirmed that he was officially a suspect. Shortly after, he posted on his Facebook page photos of several documents in defense of his innocence and wrote: “A couple of pieces of information about the reason of my call to the DNA today. The situation is clear from my point of view. Politics are made in the Parliament, not at the DNA!”.


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