Romania jailed a serving lawmaker for the first time on Tuesday, an indication the southeast European country is getting more serious about cracking down on graft after pressure from Brussels.The European Union has repeatedly raised concerns about a lack of progress in convicting top officials. Along with neighboring Bulgaria, Romania is barred from the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone because of concerns over corruption.
Virgil Pop, a parliament deputy, was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges including abuse of power, forgery and money laundering after his appeal was rejected this week.
Prosecutors have said he used his influence as an elected official to award public contracts to a private firm in the city of Cluj.
“The court… rejected the appeal on Monday,” said a Supreme Court spokesman. “The police went after him to enforce the sentence today.”
While several lawmakers and even a former prime minister were convicted on corruption charges in the last year, they received suspended sentences or remain free pending appeals.
The EU has praised Romania’s efforts in its latest report on judicial reform but said more measures need to be taken.
The highest profile case was a two-year jail sentence for former prime minister Adrian Nastase, who is still a member of the main opposition Social Democrat Party. He would be the first former prime minister to be sent to jail since the fall of communism in 1989, but remains free pending an appeal.
Pop, 44, was a member of the Liberal Party, a smaller opposition group, until he stepped down after his conviction.