Romanian Minister of Finance Resigns After Corruption Allegations
Scandal yet again rocked the Romanian political scene mere weeks after former Minister of Tourism, Elena Udrea faced allegations of corruption and money laundering. Most recently, Romanian anti-corruption agency, the DNA, brought up bribery accusations against Minister of Finance, Darius Valcov, with regard to dealings with a construction company while he was the mayor of Slatina, in Olt County. Valcov proceeded to resign but continues to plead not guilty to any accusations set forth by the DNA.
Prosecutors from the DNA believe that Valcov accepted bribes throughout 2009 while he served as mayor of Slatina. Reports detail that businessman and owner of local business SC Tehnologica Radion, Theodor Berna, had contacted Valcov in 2009 and offered him 20 percent of his company’s total proceeds untaxed if the mayor would help him secure certain construction projects. The project in question dealt with the expansion and rehabilitation of Olt County’s water alimentation and canalization system. Members of the project’s leadership commission supposedly removed significant eligibility requirements upon Valcov’s request in order to favor the businessman’s construction company. Overall, Valcov is suspected to have received around $2 million through the construction deal.
The DNA calculated that every euro distributed for bribery purposes in 2014 yielded a profit of 20 euros. The profitability from engaging in such schemes is enormous and puts the growing number of corruption cases the DNA has encountered this year into perspective. Money has frequently taken precedence over personal integrity an unsettling amount of times lately, as demonstrated by the DNA’s accumulation over 20 million euros of bribes in its case files from only last year. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the DNA recently dealt with corruption and money-laundering accusations that named former Minister of Tourism Elena Udrea as the main suspect.
Immediately following the DNA’s accusations against Valcov last Friday, fellow politicians demanded his resignation from his position as minister. Co-President of the National-Liberal Party Alina Gorghiu defended her reasons for wishing to see Valcov resign by stating that “it is abnormal, that in a democracy and in a self-respecting state, to remain with a minister that is suspected of corrupt actions.” However, she and most others do not accuse Valcov of being undeniably guilty. Rather, public opinion rests upon the fact that if Valcov were to be kept in his position, trust in the government’s credibility, honesty, and overall governing abilities would plummet.
As many anticipated Valcov withdrew from his position, and Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta will serve as interim Minister of Finance, a decision he based upon impending negotiations with the IMF to decide upon new fiscal codes. Ponta will occupy this position until March 25, after which he and President Iohannis will discuss possible replacements to fill Valcov’s post.
The IMF will soon return to the Eastern European state to reach an agreement on fiscal issues that were left unsolved from the organization’s February visit. Differences between Romanian and IMF negotiators arose in the discussion of subjects concerning Romania’s relaxation of government policies in regards to gas prices. This has translated into the country’s refusal to increase gas prices 2 percent as of January 1 2015 per the IMF’s recommendation. Upcoming meetings between the two parties are supposed to serve as forums for the formulation of an agreement upon economic issues such as the previously mentioned gas-price disagreement. Prime Minister Ponta believed Former Minister Valcov played an instrumental role in the February consultations because of his role as leading negotiator and economic representative of Romanian interests. Therefore, the former Minister’s recent vacation of his post will certainly throw a curveball in the efficiency of negotiations with the IMF. The Prime Minister called IMF negotiations on fiscal policy “the most important project of the government in the year 2015” but has reassured the Romanian population through Twitter that the project will continue as scheduled regardless of circumstances.