Romanian Ex-PM Nastase Released Early From Corruption Term

by
Reuters
Former prime minister Adrian Nastase will be freed from prison on Monday after serving nine months of a two-year term for corruption, a court ruled, and senior figures in his leftist party said they would welcome his return to politics.

Former prime minister Adrian Nastase

* PM in 2000-2004, Nastase free after 9 months in jail

* Romania remains under EU pressure to crack down on graft

Former prime minister Adrian Nastase will be freed from prison on Monday after serving nine months of a two-year term for corruption, a court ruled, and senior figures in his leftist party said they would welcome his return to politics.

Nastase is the most senior Romanian politician to be jailed since the end of communism in 1989. But Bucharest, which joined the European Union in 2007, remains under pressure to convince Brussels it is really cracking down on graft and gangsterism.

Prosecutors said $2 million had gone missing from the state budget in 2004 when profits from an event organised by a state construction watchdog were used to finance Nastase's presidential campaign.

Nastase, 62, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said the case against him was politically motivated.

Prime minister in 2000-2004 and a mentor to incumbent Victor Ponta, Nastase shot himself in a suicide attempt in June 2012 when police came to take him away to start the sentence. He was not seriously injured.

"I'm glad to return home to my family and friends. For a few days, I'll just use the time to 'breathe' the freedom outside, and think about future projects," Nastase said on his blog.

Together with its southern neighbour Bulgaria, Romania's justice system is under EU monitoring since their joint entry to the bloc in 2007 and they are excluded from the EU's Schengen passport-free travel zone due to corruption and organised crime.

There has been some concern in Western Europe that the EU allowed the Balkan duo in too soon. They remain its poorest countries, with per capita wealth less than half the bloc's average, and are struggling to use money from Brussels to upgrade outdated infrastructure and catch up.

Nastase lost the 2004 presidential election to Traian Basescu, who is still president.

While Nastase's political future remains uncertain after the conviction, senior members of the ruling Social Democrat Party said they would welcome back into the political fold.