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How Romania's most powerful politician ended up in jail

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By Cristian Gherasim
Liviu Dragnea
Liviu Dragnea   -   Copyright  Reuters

Liviu Dragnea, the head of Romania's ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) was sentenced on Monday to three and half years in prison on corruption charges in the final chapter of a long legal battle.

Dragnea was convicted for abusing his position as the president of the council of the southern county of Teleorman to secure fake public administration jobs for two members of his party.

The two employees were paid from public funds intended for child protection work for over 8 and a half years without ever performing their functions.

This week the High Court of Cassation and Justice confirmed a ruling first issued in June 2018.

The conviction is Dragnea’s second. In 2016 he received a suspended sentence of two years in prison for electoral fraud.

The two sentences merged and Liviu Dragnea was required to execute the one which is the longest, that of 3 years and a half.

During that time, the Social-Democrat party has repeatedly sought to defy the European Commission and tens of thousands of domestic protestors to push through various measures aimed at shielding politicians from the law.

In January 2017 the government adopted an emergency ordinance that decriminalised abuse of office, which would have protected Dragnea, but was subsequently forced to back down.

As the trial regarding the fictitious employment at the child protection agency unfolded, the social-democrat government launched an attack at the Constitutional Courton the panel of judges that were to rule in this case.

Then, Florin Iordache, vice president of the lower house of parliament and a Dragnea ally, submitted another challenge at the Constitutional Court, claiming that a specialized court handling corruption charges was required for such cases.

Other controversial measures taken by the party include firing the chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Kovesi, increasing the role of the justice ministry in the appointment of prosecutors and the creation of a new body to investigate magistrates.

However, Dragnea's personal fight came to an end one day after the European Parliament elections, when the High Court issued its final sentence on his case. Soon after, the most powerful politician in Romania was driven to a Bucharest prison to begin his sentence followed by cohorts of journalists and anti-PSD protesters.