Basescu digs in after brother’s arrest

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iol news pic Traian Basescu Romania REUTERS Romania's President Traian Basescu REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

Bucharest - Romania's president Traian Basescu on Monday vowed to stay on for his full term in office, rejecting calls to stand down after his brother was arrested for accepting bribes from a mobster.

“I will pursue my term to the last day,” Basescu told a press conference.

“I will not take into consideration calls (to step down) or declarations voted by parliament,” he added, five months ahead of a presidential election.

Mircea Basescu, his younger brother, was taken into custody on Friday accused of taking a 250 000-euro ($340 000) bribe to intercede on behalf of a crime boss on trial for attempted murder.

Social-Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta called on his centre-right rival Basescu to resign in a bid to “safeguard the prestige of the judiciary” from the scandal.

Lawmakers could be asked to vote on a declaration asking Basescu to resign on Wednesday.

Anti-graft prosecutors allege Mircea used his ties to the president to convince Sandu Anghel that he could get the charges dropped. Anghel was ultimately sentenced to eight years and nine months in jail by the Supreme Court in May.

The charges are an embarrassment for Basescu, who has made fighting corruption a centrepiece of his leadership.

Romania's judiciary has stepped up its fight against high level graft in recent years with the help of the European Union.

A former prime minister and several ministers have been sentenced to prison for corruption - an unprecedented move in the former communist country.

Basescu told the press conference on Monday he had never interfered in judiciary proceedings and denied any knowledge of the bribes.

“I apologise to all Romanians for this unfortunate incident, my brother's arrest,” he said.


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