Romania’s most powerful politician convicted of misconduct

Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea is greeted by supporters during a demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, June 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 June 2018

Romania’s most powerful politician convicted of misconduct

  • As leader of Romania’s ruling party leader, Dragnea normally would be the country’s prime minister. A 2016 conviction for vote-rigging barred him from the post
  • Prosecutors said Dragnea intervened from 2008 to 2010, when he was a government official, to keep two women employed by his party on the payroll of the family welfare agency

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania’s most powerful politician was convicted Thursday of official misconduct and sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison, a verdict cautiously cheered by anti-government protesters who have spent months decrying high-level corruption in the European country.
After hours of deliberation, the High Court of Cassation and Justice found Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea guilty of intervening to keep two party members on the payroll of a public family welfare agency. Dragnea, who denied wrongdoing, can appeal.
As leader of Romania’s ruling party leader, Dragnea normally would be the country’s prime minister. A 2016 conviction for vote-rigging barred him from the post.
Dragnea selected ally Viorica Dancila to be prime minister in January. Dancila criticized the court ruling and said fellow politicians calling for Dragnea to step down as parliament speaker — the third most senior position in government — were acting “unconstitutionally.”
After the ruling was handed down, thousands of Romanians gathered in Bucharest and other cities to oppose criminal justice changes lawmakers made this week. Critics think the changes will make it harder to prosecute and punish officials for corruption.
“It’s a small victory,” said Maria Belizarie, a legal consultant who was among the flag-waving crowd in Victory Square. “I respect the magistrates who today respected the robes they wear and the oath they took.”
Prosecutors said Dragnea intervened from 2008 to 2010, when he was a government official, to keep two women employed by his party on the payroll of the family welfare agency. The women admitted working for the party while they received salaries from the public agency.
The Social Democrats will meet Friday to discuss the party’s future following its leader’s conviction.


Pakistan avoids terror financing blacklist for now

Updated 10 min 31 sec ago

Pakistan avoids terror financing blacklist for now

  • Pakistan’s government hailed the FATF’s decision, which offers a reprieve to Prime Minister Imran Khan as he works to shore up his country’s faltering economy and attract foreign investment and loans
  • The agency’s assessment expresses “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan” to stop terrorism financing

PARIS: An international monitoring agency has given Pakistan four months to prove it is fighting terrorism financing and money laundering — or it could be put on a damaging global blacklist.
The Financial Action Task Force also threatened Iran, which is already blacklisted, with even tougher restrictions on its international financial activity.
Pakistan’s government on Friday hailed the FATF’s decision, which offers a reprieve to Prime Minister Imran Khan as he works to shore up his country’s faltering economy and attract foreign investment and loans.
“Thank God, we have been successful,” Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told The Associated Press.
But the agency’s assessment remained grim, expressing “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan” to stop terrorism financing.
In a statement after meetings this week at its Paris headquarters, the FATF said Pakistan has addressed only five of 27 measures required to avoid being blacklisted.
If Pakistan doesn’t act by February, FATF president Xiangmin Lui said the agency could put the country on its blacklist, which currently includes only Iran and North Korea.
Experts say the move means every international financial transaction with Pakistan will be closely scrutinized and doing business in Pakistan will become costly and cumbersome. International agencies could place restrictions on lending money to Pakistan, including key creditors such as the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
“Pakistan has not done enough,” Xiangmin told a news conference.
Pakistan should do more to track money transfers and investigate and prosecute terrorism financiers, among other steps, the FATF said.
Qureshi insisted that Pakistan has “taken maximum steps against terror financing.”
“We will continue to take all the required steps, and all conspiracies against us have failed,” he told The AP.
Meanwhile, the watchdog expressed “disappointment” that Iran isn’t taking the necessary steps to be removed from the blacklist, and said it’s asking all member countries to tighten scrutiny of any financial transactions involving Iran.
Virtual currencies such as bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra are also prompting concern from the FATF, which warned of “new risks” from such products. It said they’re being “closely monitored” to ensure they’re not used to finance terrorism or launder money.