Romania ex-minister jailed in Microsoft graft case

Gabriel Sandu

Gabriel Sandu

A former Romanian minister and three businessmen were jailed on Monday for their part in a corruption scandal involving Microsoft licences that has sucked in a number of high-profile figures.

This was the final court ruling for the four defendants in a lengthy case involving money laundering, influence peddling and bribery dating back years.

The prison terms range from four months to six years and the constitutional court confiscated a total of 17 million euros ($19 million).

In March the four defendants were handed lesser sentences by a lower court.

The three businessmen were accused of demanding more than 26 million euros from the Romanian distributor of Microsoft products, in exchange for influencing members of government to authorise the renewal of the US software giant’s licences.

Gabriel Sandu, who was Romania’s communications minister between 2008 and 2010, received around three million euros of the money and was on Monday handed a three year jail term.

Businessman Gheorghe Stefan, a former town mayor and a key player in the operation, received the stiffest sentence of six years in prison.

Two other defendants, the powerful businessman Dorin Cocos and entrepreneur Nicolae Dumitru, were given two-year and four-month terms respectively.

Eight other former ministers are also caught up in corruption scandals, including allegations covering a later period from 2001-2005.

Romania, an EU member since 2007, has come under close scrutiny from Brussels in the areas of corruption and judicial reform, weakening the impunity that a number of political leaders seemed to enjoy.

The bellwether corruption conviction in 2012 of ex-prime minister Adrian Nastase was a sign times were changing in EU’s second-poorest country.

Last month a former Romanian secret service agent was arrested for allegedly masterminding an operation to intimidate Laura Kovesi, head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), who has spearheaded the unprecedented campaign against graft.

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