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Romanian police detain former money laundering chief over fraud accusations

Police officers, wearing masks against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), escort Laurentiu Baranga, former chief of Romania's agency for the prevention and control of money laundering, to a police car, in Bucharest, Romania, October 10, 2020. Picture taken October 10, 2020. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian police said they had detained the former head of the government’s anti-money laundering agency late on Saturday pending a criminal investigation for fraud, accusing him of forging his high school graduation certificate.

The police said they had detained Baranga for 24 hours. He declined comment to journalists after his arrest.

Laurentiu Baranga was appointed to head the European Union state’s agency for the prevention and control of money laundering in early September. He resigned his post on Oct. 8, the government said on Saturday.

Police said Baranga, who is 53, lied about graduating high school and later used forged documents to pursue university and post-graduate degrees in management, which helped him secure high-clearance jobs at state institutions.

Prior to heading the anti-money laundering agency, Baranga served as deputy director of the country’s classified information registry for 11 years. He is also a professor at a local engineering college.

“(Baranga) is under investigation for deceiving several public institutions by filing forged degrees with his job applications, which were later annulled in court,” police said in a statement.

($1 = 4.1140 lei)

Reporting by Luiza Ilie, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien