BUCHAREST, Sept 17 (Reuters) – Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta was indicted on charges of forgery and money-laundering on Thursday in a case related to his former activities as a lawyer, the biggest case yet in a sweeping crackdown on corruption.
Ponta, who was charged in August, has repeatedly denied the accusations against him and accused prosecutors of „manipulating public opinion” and disclosing incomplete information. The indictment means prosecutors have closed their investigation and sent the case to Romania’s top court for trial.
Already wounded by a shock presidential election defeat and facing a general election next year, Ponta has resisted calls to resign and so far has the backing of his leftist party and its allies to stay in power.
Prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday that they had also indicted four other people along with Ponta in the case.
A spokesman for the prime minister said Ponta’s government would make a comment later.
The inquiry into Ponta mainly concerns his time as a lawyer and accuses him of colluding with Dan Sova, a former transport minister in his cabinet who is also being investigated for corruption.
Protected by a comfortable majority in parliament, Ponta has survived three opposition censure motions, most recently in June.
But he did resign from the helm of the ruling Social Democrat party. His refusal to quit as premier is seen by investors as a setback for Romania’s efforts to clean up its politics, business and judiciary under pressure from the European Union.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Kevin Liffey)