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Romanian premier's aide indicted for being accomplice to embezzling EU funds, election fraud

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BUCHAREST, Romania — An aide to Romania's prime minister was indicted on corruption charges, including being an accomplice to embezzling European Union funds and illegally offering incentives to voters in two elections, anti-corruption prosecutors said Wednesday.

Lawmaker Sebastian Ghita was charged with influence peddling, tax evasion and money laundering worth millions of euros, being involved in the misuse of European Union funds and of cheating the elections, prosecutors said. Ghita was also banned from speaking to Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leaving his hometown or carrying out his duties as a lawmaker.

From 2000 to 2015, Ghita committed money laundering worth the equivalent of $32.5 million and $9.45 million in tax evasion, prosecutors said in a statement. Ghita accused prosecutors of abuse.

Ponta, also under a corruption probe, is in Turkey recovering from a knee operation.

Prosecutors alleged Ghita paid 350,000 euros ($392,000) to Moldovans who have Romanian citizenship to vote for Ponta in the November presidential race that he lost.

They also say he gave illegal incentives such as frying pans to voters in the 2012 parliamentary elections where he won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.

Prosecutors also alleged that Ghita controls— directly or indirectly— 54 companies, something which is incompatible with his status as a lawmaker.

Romania has intensified its anti-corruption drive in the past year.

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