A Romanian County Council has awarded a company under investigation for EU-funds fraud with links to Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, a 13 million Lei contract for the modernisation of a county road. The company, Tel Drum, also won a contract in Teleorman County Council in January, worth 10 million lei, according to Romanian media reports.
In 2017 Romanian anti-corruption authorities opened an investigation into Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), on suspicion of setting up a “criminal group” to commit fraud, forgery and abuse of office during his time as leader of Teleorman county council. The charges relate to the awarding of road repair contracts to Tel Drum, which prosecutors say is controlled by Dragnea and which won the contracts without proper tenders being put in place.
According to Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), Dragnea and several co-conspirators in the public and private sectors embezzled 21 million euro from EU development funds between 2001 and 2012. The DNA´s charges came on foot of a recommendation from the EU´s Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) which had launched its own investigation into Dragnea and found evidence that he and his co-accused had falsified documents to procure the contracts.
Dragnea has strenuously denied the allegations against him saying: “I certainly do not feel guilty. I did not set up a criminal group. I am curious to see what criminal group I set up 16 years ago.”
Romania has been the sharply rebuked by the EU over the past two years for what Brussels sees as Bucharest’s backtracking on its anti-corruption efforts. Most recently, the European Commission has threatened to use “every means at its disposal” to confront Romania after the parliament voted to relax anti-graft laws, a move which the opposition believes will directly benefit Dragnea, who is the target of several legal procedures.