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Romania interior minister quits over corruption scandal

Petre Toba

BUCHAREST: Romania’s Interior Minister Petre Toba resigned Thursday after becoming embroiled in a embezzlement scandal in which his in-house secret service is alleged to have corruptly purchased dollhouses, playing cards and an oven.

“I have decided to step down to avoid involving the ministry in a scandal three months before legislative elections,” Toba said in a statement, while “firmly” denying the accusations against him.

Romanian voters will go to the polls on December 11 at a time when the country’s political class is mired in numerous corruption scandals.

Toba was a a member of the technocrat government formed less than a year ago after a fire at a Bucharest night club killed 64 young people on October 31, a tragedy blamed on official failings.

Romania’s anti-corruption prosecutor has accused Toba of refusing to submit classified documents concerning unusual payments by his ministry’s in-house secret service, the DIPI.

According to the prosecutor, purchases included dollhouses, playing cards, a darts set and an electric oven.

Twenty-four DIPI officers are accused of embezzling funds worth 49,000 euros ($55,000) in 2014-2015.

The inquiry was opened last October following the death of a police motorcyclist who was escorting the former interior minister, Gabriel Oprea.

Prosecutors alledge that Oprea had abused the police outrider service and illegally purchased a luxury car from the DIPI account.

On Thursday they called for Oprea’s immunity from prosecution to be lifted so that he could face an “involuntary homicide” charge.

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