BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s anti-corruption prosecutors’ agency on Tuesday froze the assets of the powerful leader of the ruling party amid a probe into misusing European Union funds and setting up an organized crime group.
The anti-corruption office said in a statement that the assets of Liviu Dragnea, who heads the Social Democratic Party, worth up to $32.2 million have been sequestered. Eight others are also being investigated, and four of those had their assets sequestered Tuesday.
Dragnea is suspected of official misconduct for setting up an organized crime group and forging documents to illicitly obtain EU funds. He says the probe is politically motivated and is timed to coincide with a party push to revamp the justice system.
Dozens of protesters yelled “Resign!” as Dragnea arrived at the agency Tuesday where he stayed about half an hour. Police and supporters formed a ring around the powerful party leader as he exited the agency. He didn’t comment.
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Critics say the Social Democrats’ planned amendments to the judicial system are designed to protect Dragnea from prosecution.
The alleged misuse of funds from 2001-2012 were when he headed a county council in southern Romania.
The probe comes after the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, said 21 million euros ($24.4 million) was fraudulently paid to officials for road construction in Romania.
Dragnea cannot be premier due to a 2016 conviction for vote-rigging.