Romania: ex-minister, others get prison sentences for bribes

BUCHAREST, Romania - A former Romanian minister, a former mayor and two businessmen were handed prison sentences on Monday and will have millions of euros taken from them in punishment for money-laundering, influence-peddling and taking bribes.

The High Court of Cassation and Justice sentenced Gheorghe Stefan, former mayor of Piatra Neamt, to six years for influence-peddling and ordered that some 4 million euros ($4.5 million) be confiscated from him. He admitted wrongdoing and said he deserved the punishment.

Former telecommunications minister Gabriel Sandu was sentenced to three years for bribery and money-laundering and 2.2 million euros were ordered confiscated. Sandu admitted wrongdoing and had asked for a suspended sentence. Businessman Dorin Cocos and Nicolae Dumitru both received sentences of 2 years and four months for influence-peddling and money laundering. The court ordered 9 million euros confiscated from Cocos and 2.8 million from Dumitru. The rulings are final.

Cocos apologized for wrongdoing and said he would not break the law again. Dumitru broke down in tears saying he "deeply regretted" what he'd done and asked for a suspended sentence.

Anti-corruption prosecutors said under the terms of a 2004 government contract with Microsoft for computers licensed for schools, the four manoeuvred to pocket a 47-per cent discount offered by Microsoft. Some 15.7 million euros were paid to their companies. By 2009, when the contract expired, the state had bought more than 150,000 licenses.

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