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Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 5:05:03 AM
Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 5:10:35 AM
by luiza ilie
Mircea Basescu, brother of Romania's President Traian Basescu, arrives at the National Anticorruption Directorate for hearings in Bucharest June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A Romanian court on Friday ordered that President Traian Basescu's brother be detained for 30 days while prosecutors investigate allegations he took a bribe to help shorten a crime boss's jail sentence, his lawyer said.
Mircea Basescu was detained for 24 hours on Thursday in relation to bribe investigation, prompting leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta to call for the president's resignation, four months before a Nov. 2 presidential election.
Basescu, Ponta's arch rival, cannot run for a new presidential mandate after two consecutive terms since 2005.
Although Ponta has yet to say he will run, observers say he is best positioned to win the presidency, which would cement his leftist Social Democrats' dominance in Romanian politics.
The court order suggests prosecutors have advanced enough with their investigation to merit detaining Basescu on grounds related to the scale of the crime among other factors.
Basescu has denied taking money to influence the judiciary.
Prosecutors said he received 250,000 euros (£199,820) through an intermediary from Florin Anghel to obtain a lighter sentence for his father, Sandu Anghel, who is serving eight years and nine months in jail for stabbing his nephew in 2011.
Anghel filed a complaint against Basescu for peddling influence, and on Thursday his father had alleged his family had offered as much as 2 million euros for his release to various officials, including the head of Romania's anti-corruption prosecutors and the supreme court chief judge.
On Friday, anti-corruption chief prosecutor and former prosecutor general Laura Codruta Kovesi was quoted by local media as saying the claims were "a failed attempt to intimidate anti-corruption prosecutors".
In response to the allegations, the magistrates' council, the judiciary's top supervisory body, asked for an investigation of the claims "which endangered the rule of law".
Basescu, who won his first term in 2004 on an anti-corruption ticket and has been a strong supporter of an independent judiciary, denied knowledge of his brother's dealings and said he was not exempt from the law.
Romania ranks behind only Greece and Bulgaria in terms of corruption in the 28-nation EU, according to Transparency International, and the European Commission has its justice system under special monitoring.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)
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