Romanian prosecutors close fraud case against former PM Ponta

FILE PHOTO: Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta looks on during a government meeting, after announcing his resignation, in Bucharest, Romania November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian supreme court prosecutors closed a case against former Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday, saying the charges of suspected money-laundering and being an accessory to tax evasion did not stand up.

Ponta has repeatedly dismissed the accusations, saying one prosecutor had fabricated the charges. When they were first made by a different prosecuting agency in 2015 he also refused to resign as prime minister, only stepping down after a deadly nightclub fire triggered massive street protests.

He has since been kicked out of the ruling Social Democrat Party although he has kept his seat in parliament.

Transparency International ranks Romania among the European Union’s most corrupt states and Brussels, which keeps the country’s justice system under special monitoring, has praised magistrates for their efforts to curb graft.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have been cracking down on high-level graft in recent years, convicting people at a steady rate of 90 percent in 2016 of those who stood trial.

They are still investigating Ponta in a separate case on suspicion of abuse of power and complicity in tax evasion.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Louise Ireland