Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

NYT: The Curse of Corruption in Europe’s East

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BUCHAREST — This summer, after the police arrived at the handsome villa of the former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase to arrest him on corruption charges, he apparently pulled out a revolver and tried to kill himself. Millions of Romanians watched on television as Mr. Nastase, 62, was carried off on a stretcher, a Burberry scarf wrapped around his neck. He survived, and one week later was behind bars. But this is Romania, where everything, it seems, is a matter of dispute.

Anti-corruption advocates hailed Mr. Nastase’s downfall as a seminal moment in the evolution of a young democracy. Others have called his conviction for siphoning $2 million in state funds for his presidential campaign a show trial. Mr. Nastase’s opponents now allege that he faked a suicide attempt in an effort to avoid prison. His son Andrei Nastase, who was at the house at the time, said the accusation was absurd.

Whatever the truth, Adrian Nastase now occupies a cell measuring 4 square meters, or 43 square feet. On his jailhouse blog, he recently recounted how prisoners ate cabbage and potatoes, braved rats and had hot water for two hours twice a week.

Today, analysts here and abroad say the Nastase case has come to reveal as much about Romania’s political polarization and dysfunction as its halting steps toward greater democracy. It comes amid heightened fears in the European Union that its newest and weakest members are not up to the task of rooting out corruption that is a legacy of decades of Communist rule and, indeed, of weak governance before that.

Across Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans, countries are experiencing a surge of instability that, analysts say, stems almost in equal parts from endemic corruption and the sometimes ham-fisted efforts to combat it in the context of bitter political rivalries.

The European Union, with 27 member nations, is so concerned about creeping lawlessness among its new members that Romania and its neighbor Bulgaria, which both entered in 2007, have not joined the bloc’s passport/visa-free travel area. On Thursday, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said concerns about corruption and fraud in Romania had prompted it to block E.U. development aid, potentially worth billions of euros.

In Croatia, which is set to join the European Union next year, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has been charged with embezzlement.

Romania, in particular, has struggled to overcome the aftermath of the ruthless, corrupt dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Over the past six years, 4,700 people have gone to trial on corruption charges, including 15 ministers and secretaries of state, 23 members of Parliament and more than 500 police officers.

To many, Mr. Nastase, a former member of the Communist elite who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004, is emblematic of a generation of still active politicians who assumed that power and influence could shelter them from the law. Once asked to account for his apparent wealth, he defiantly roared, “Count my eggs!” a Romanian slang word for genitals.

Monica Macovei, a former justice minister who is close to Mr. Nastase’s archrival President Traian Basescu, said that “There are too many people from the Communist era like Nastase who are still in power, and this has polluted the political class.” Read more in The New York Times.

Burberry Scarves, Impeachment, Plagiarism — It’s Romania

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By Marc Champion Jul 19, 2012 10:49 PM GMT

Romania is never boring.

A few days before I drove into the country on a journey from Turkey to the U.K, a former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, shot himself rather than be taken to jail for corruption. He missed. Wounded in the neck, he was carried away with a Burberry scarf wrapped around the injury.

Bucharest, meanwhile, was abuzz with the revelation that current Prime Minister Victor Ponta plagiarized 85 pages of his doctoral dissertation on the International Criminal Court. That’s a sin that also triggered the resignation of Hungary’s president in April and a German defense minister last year. After an educational board confirmed Ponta’s copy-and-paste job, he began dismantling the board to make its rulings toothless. Then he revoked the constitutional court’s powers over parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

Washington Post: PM’s plagiarism scandal puts spotlight on culture of academic cheating in Romania.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — His first education minister resigned for allegedly plagiarizing a book about Romania’s entry into the European Union. His second quit soon afterward, also accused of copying academic work. Now, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta faces claims he plagiarized half his own doctoral thesis. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

June 23, 2012 at 9:14 am

New Conservatism in Europe Impedes Two of Its Nations

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The infrared cameras here near Bulgaria’s borders with Greece and Turkey are high powered enough to pick up rabbits scampering across farm fields in the dead of night. But on a recent afternoon, the men inside the border station were focused on a car — moving a bit too fast along a country road. Maybe a smuggler, they thought. They called over their radios to have the car stopped. It turned out to be a false alarm. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

September 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

Sex, lies and the reckless choices of the powerful

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(Reuters) – Sex and power are no strangers. History is littered with tales of the powerful and privileged felled by sex scandals.

But make no mistake. If IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is found guilty as charged of attempting to rape a hotel maid in New York City, he would be in a league virtually of his own.

Few have been accused of a violent crime like Strauss-Kahn. The world financier and French presidential hopeful was charged on Sunday with criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and attempted rape in New York City after a hotel maid said she was assaulted. Read the rest of this entry »

From Bolshevism to backhanders

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Corruption has replaced communism as the scourge of eastern Europe

Juta Strike won’t say where she has spent the past few weeks. But the fact that Latvia’s best-known anti-corruption official had to leave the country for her own safety, amid political attempts to nobble her agency, is evidence of a rising tide of sleaze in ex-communist Europe, and of the troubles, and even dangers, facing those who try to tackle it.

A corruption scandal that links a political party to a private security agency is rocking the Czech government. In Bulgaria brazen attempts to rig a nuclear-power tender seem to have left politicians helpless. In Romania and Slovakia attempts to reform the judiciary have stalled. Even starry-eyed outsiders who win elections on anti-corruption tickets seem to be captured by the system within months. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

April 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

Banks Scrutinize Regimes’ Assets

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By Deborah Ball And Cassell Bryan-Low

ZURICH—Swiss banks have lodged 30 reports of possible money laundering by members of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime—but all came after the Swiss government froze Mr. Ben Ali’s assets, highlighting possible weaknesses in attempts to prevent such crimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

February 23, 2011 at 11:11 am