Romania lifts immunity for ex-minister in Microsoft probe

BUCHAREST - Romania's parliament on Monday voted to lift the immunity of a former minister targeted in a multi-million-euro corruption probe involving bribes and kickbacks from re-sellers of Microsoft software.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have a green light to press charges for abuse of office against Valerian Vreme, whop was communications minister from 2010 to 2012, after deputies voted by a majority of 153 to 117 to scrap his immunity.

Eight other former ministers are accused of money laundering, abuse of office and bribery in connection with contracts struck by the Romanian government to lease Microsoft software between 2001 and 2012.

Vreme - the sixth ex-minister to lose his immunity in the case - told lawmakers before the vote he had done "nothing illegal" and had been unfairly accused.

Prosecutors believe Vreme signed a deal in 2011 to purchase more than 179,000 Microsoft licences for Romanian schools - almost 73,000 more than the number of compatible computers at the time.

The contract is thought to have cost the state 5.4 million euros.

According to prosecutors, of the US$54 million (S$68.54 million) paid by the government, US$20 million went on payments to members of successive governments and private firms.

The senate is to rule on lifting the immunity of two more of the former ministers, while the European Parliament is to rule on the status of the ninth.

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