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Romania probes plot to spare ex-PM jail with wound
BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian prosecutors said on Tuesday they were investigating allegations that a doctor and three policemen helped former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase try to avoid jail after he shot and wounded himself last week.
Nastase, 62, shot himself in the neck with a pistol when police came to take him to jail for corruption. But local media have questioned the seriousness of the wound given the lack of blood when he was in the ambulance, and suggested it may have been a ploy to keep him out of prison.
"The deeds which are subject of the penal investigation refer to hindering the enforcement of the punishment applied ... to former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase," the anti-corruption prosecuting office said in a statement.
There were suspicions over the reliability of Nastase's medical diagnosis, Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi added, and officials would interview him as soon as medical staff allowed, according to RTV television station.
The doctor and policemen being investigated were not named.
The former prime minister, who ran a leftist government from 2000 to 2004 and has close links to the current administration, was taken to a prison in the south of Bucharest late on Tuesday where he will start his two-year sentence.
Accompanied by police, he was taken from hospital on a stretcher and driven away in an ambulance. Nastase was conscious and able to talk to bystanders.
A week ago, a Reuters witness saw Nastase being taken from his house to hospital with only a light scarf tied around his neck and no oxygen mask or bloodstains.
He is the most senior politician to be convicted of corruption since the fall of communist rule in Romania in 1989. He was found guilty of using $2 million of state funds in 2004 to finance his presidential campaign.
The Supreme Court confirmed last week that Nastase would have to serve two years in jail for the crime.
Analysts and campaigners see the case as a major breakthrough for Romania, which is ranked the European Union's third-most corrupt member state and is barred from the bloc's passport-free Schengen zone over graft concerns.
Several MPs and former ministers have been convicted on corruption charges but many remain free pending appeals or with suspended sentences, so sending the former prime minister to jail was a major landmark.
Nastase maintains he is innocent and says the case against him was political. His lawyers wanted his jail sentence to be delayed.
A keen hunter, Nastase still has a major role in the governing Social Liberal Union (USL) alliance, with close links to Prime Minister Victor Ponta who is himself facing allegations of plagiarism.
Ponta's Social Democrat Party is the most powerful faction in the USL and is widely viewed as the successor to dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's communists. Both Ponta and Nastase have close links to Ion Iliescu, a former communist who was Romania's first president after its bloody 1989 revolution.
(Additional reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Pravin Char)
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