Romanian investigators seize 101 paintings in corruption probe

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 28, 2015, 04:20 AM IST

Romanian investigators have seized 101 paintings, including three signed Pablo Picasso, as part of a corruption probe targeting former finance minister Darius Valcov, prosecutors said Friday.

The Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) said there was evidence to suggest that Valcov had indirectly acquired the artworks with money obtained through suspect deals.

Apart from the works signed by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, the paintings also included pieces by American pop artist Andy Warhol and Romanian artists, the DNA said in a statement.

They were seized following searches in Valcov`s homes in Bucharest and in the southern city of Slatina, where he previously served as mayor. 

Prosecutors are now awaiting official identification and certification of the paintings.

Investigators previously found $90,000 (82,000 euros) in cash, three kilos (6.6 pounds) worth of gold bars as well as three paintings, including one signed "Renoir", in Valcov`s safe. 

He was taken into police custody on Wednesday on corruption charges, hours after lawmakers revoked his ministerial immunity.

The 38-year-old Social Democrat resigned his ministerial position almost two weeks ago, after President Klaus Iohannis called for him to step down, warning that graft allegations were undermining the government`s credibility.

He is suspected of accepting two million euros ($2.1 million) in bribes between 2011 and 2013 while serving as mayor of Slatina.

Prosecutors accuse him of using a land registry office, an accounting firm and a law firm to carry out "financial transactions and business transactions...incompatible with his duties as mayor, senator and minister".

He was the first sitting member of the Romanian government to be accused of corruption by the crusading DNA.

The investigation into Valcov is one of several in recent years that have targeted high-level politicians and officials in Romania, one of the European Union`s poorest countries.