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Romania probes top official for interference in graft case

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(BUCHAREST) - Romania's anti-graft prosecutors on Friday launched a probe against a top official who allegedly interfered in a high-level corruption case implicating former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase.

"An investigation has been launched by the antigraft prosecutors against Constantin Adrian Balaban Grajdan, the chief of the State Construction Inspectorate who allegedly tried to act in favour of" Nastase in the graft case, the prosecutors said in a statement.

Grajdan was named to his post by Prime Minister Victor Ponta but he was fired four days after the appointment as he unexpectedly withdrew all graft claims of Inspectorate against Nastase.

The move sparked sharp criticism in the Romanian press, with some accusing the new government of "returning to dubious practises ... to save politicians tried for high-level graft cases."

Ponta on Friday distanced himself from Grajdan, saying he made "a personal decision" without informing the prime minister.

"He acted in a way that is not normal and I think he should answer for his acts from a legal point of view", Ponta said, according to Mediafax news agency.

Nastase, who was prime minister between 2000 and 2004, was sentenced to two years in jail for graft on January 30.

The court had ruled that the Inspectorate suffered a prejudice of around 1.5 million euros caused by Nastase and his co-accused, and the ex-PM was found guilty of siphoning off these funds for his 2004 election campaign.

Nastase denies the claims and filed an appeal which is currently being examined by the Supreme Court.

Romania's efforts to fight high level corruption are under close scrutiny by Brussels.

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