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Ex-Romanian PM investigated over pre-election 'Blair' visit

Published 06/09/2016

Romania's outgoing prime minister Victor Ponta is under investigation (AP)
Romania's outgoing prime minister Victor Ponta is under investigation (AP)

Former Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta is being investigated for alleged financial improprieties connected to another political figure's 2012 visit to Bucharest - reported to be Tony Blair.

Anti-corruption prosecutors did not identify the prominent visitor, but Sebastian Ghita - a businessman who was questioned by officials on Tuesday - told the Mediafax news agency that the probe focused on a visit by the former British prime minister.

Prosecutors also questioned Mr Ponta on Tuesday. They are alleging he misused his authority as leader of the Social Democratic Party to persuade Mr Ghita to spend 220,000 euro (£184,000) on Mr Blair's trip.

In exchange, Mr Ponta allegedly promoted the businessman within the party to help him win a parliamentary seat. Mr Ponta and Mr Ghita both deny wrongdoing.

Prosecutors' spokeswoman Livia Saplacan said that the foreign visitor is not being probed.

AP

The prosecutors said Mr Ponta arranged the visit so it looked like it was initiated and organised by non-political groups and that he benefited from press coverage of the visit.

Mr Blair visited Romania in March 2012 and gave a keynote speech on the future of Europe.

Mr Ponta is being probed on suspicion of using his authority to obtain money, goods or other improper benefits and being an accomplice to money laundering.

Prosecutors put Mr Ponta under judicial control on Tuesday, meaning he has to report to prosecutors, needs to get permission to leave the country, cannot talk publicly about the probe or make public comments about prosecutors.

AP

Mr Blair's office said he was invited to the country by the Multimedia Foundation for Local Democracy and that the fee he received for the speech was passed in its entirety to charities.

AP

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