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Romanian anti-corruption official resigns after he's detained in multimillion bribe probe

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BUCHAREST, Romania — A Romanian anti-corruption official detained on suspicion he inflated property prices, costing the state 75 million euros ($82 million), resigned Tuesday.

Horia Georgescu stepped down as head of the National Integrity Agency, which checks the assets of public officials and rules on conflict of interest and compatibility issues. Seven other people have also been detained in the past two days in his case, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors questioned and detained Georgescu on Monday on suspicion that in 2008-2009, when he held a different position, he overvalued property being restituted to former owners who lost it when the communists nationalized real estate. He denies wrongdoing.

PHOTO: Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta listens to questions during a meeting with representatives of the foreign media in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Prime Minister Victor Ponta declined to comment on Horia Georgescu, an anti-corruption official in custody on suspicion that in 2008-2009 he overvalued property being restituted to former owners who lost it when the communists nationalized real estate, but said Romania's anti-corruption drive is "a very important process for a democratic country". (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta listens to questions during a meeting with representatives of the foreign media in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Prime Minister Victor Ponta declined to comment on Horia Georgescu, an anti-corruption official in custody on suspicion that in 2008-2009 he overvalued property being restituted to former owners who lost it when the communists nationalized real estate, but said Romania's anti-corruption drive is "a very important process for a democratic country". (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Prosecutors told The Associated Press that the allegations center on the value of three large plots of land in the capital, Bucharest.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta declined to specifically comment on the Georgescu case, but said Romania's anti-corruption drive is "a very important process for a democratic country."

"A lot of illegal things happened in the restitution process," he said during a meeting with foreign news agencies.

Prosecutors have launched a series of high-level corruption investigations in recent months. Finance Minister Darius Valcov resigned Sunday after prosecutors charged him with taking 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in bribes when he was a mayor. He denies wrongdoing.

Ponta pointed out that the allegations refer to a period about seven years ago, adding "he was one of the best members of the Cabinet, but this is politics." No successor has been named yet.

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