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Romanian President says Rompetrol probe sparked political rift

Romanian President Basescu said a rift with Prime Minister Tariceanu was sparked by the premier's attempt to interfere in an investigation into Rompetrol, the country's second biggest oil company.

President Traian Basescu said Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu asked him in a handwritten note in 2005 to talk to prosecutors about their investigation into allegations of insider trading and tax evasion at Rompetrol Group. „The effect was that of a loss of trust between myself and the prime minister,” Basescu said in a broadcast last night on Realitatea TV. „The prime minister was proposing a partnership between me and our oligarchy. That type of partnership is unacceptable for me.”
The president and Tariceanu have clashed frequently since the premier took office in January 2005, including a dispute in which Tariceanu rejected the possibility of holding early elections. Their latest clash occurs less than three weeks after Romania joined the European Union on January 1. Basescu last night held up for cameras the note about Rompetrol that he said was written by Tariceanu. The message asks the president „to talk to prosecution about the subject.” Tariceanu said in another broadcast last night that Basescu's accusations that he tried to influence the Rompetrol case are „a lie. The note doesn't contain anything about an intervention in justice.”

Romanian businessman Dinu Patriciu, who owns Rompetrol and is a leading member of Tariceanu's National Liberal Party, was arrested in May 2005 and held for 24 hours as prosecutors investigated claims of insider trading during the 2004 initial share sale of his refinery, Rompetrol Rafinare SA. Authorities also looked into the possibility of tax evasion related to the purchase from the state in 2000. Patriciu has denied any wrongdoing and has accused Basescu of promoting the probe as part of a political vendetta.
Mircea Geoana, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party, today said in a news conference that his party will „initiate procedures to ask for the suspension” of Basescu as president for causing „a major political crisis” with his accusation. Geoana said the party will also request Tariceanu's resignation. Basescu and Tariceanu won general elections in 2004, replacing a Social Democrat government. (Bloomberg)