Romanian prosecutors probe their own crime unit chief

Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:03am EST
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By Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian prosecutors obtained permission on Friday to detain their own organized crime unit chief pending a criminal investigation, the latest in a series of high-profile corruption cases in the eastern European state.

Anti-corruption prosecutors had filed a request with the judicial supervisory body to detain Alina Bica, accused of abusing her position in a previous role at a government agency that restores property seized under communism to its original owners.

Bica, who has not yet been arrested, could not immediately be reached. The crime unit declined to comment.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have earned high praise for their efforts from the European Union, which is keeping Romania's justice system under special supervision and has barred the country from its passport-free Schengen zone until its performance improves.

Earlier this week, parliament struck down a bill aimed at keeping politicians out of jail, bowing to pressure from incoming president Klaus Iohannis who won an election last weekend promising to safeguard the rule of law.

Thousands of Romanians are still waiting for compensation or the return of property seized under the Communist regime that fell in 1989. Disputes over land ownership, inefficiency and red tape have hampered efforts to return the land.

Prosecutors said Bica was part of a panel that approved the grant of compensation in 2011 to unidentified businessmen for 13 hectares of land in Bucharest that was deliberately overvalued by 62.5 million euros ($78 million).

As a result, the businessmen were compensated with shares worth 89 million euros in restitution fund Fondul Proprietatea, a 3.2 billion euro company that holds stakes in a slew of state-owned firms.   Continued...