Romanian interior minister resigns pending corruption probe
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis attends a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's Interior Minister Petre Toba resigned on Thursday pending a criminal investigation against him over allegations of shielding suspects in a case involving suspected embezzlement and abuse of power.
Anti-corruption prosecutors asked President Klaus Iohannis earlier in the day to endorse a probe against Toba. He is the latest senior figure to be investigated in a crackdown on corruption that has been praised by the European Commission, which keeps Romania's justice system under special monitoring.
The country is due to hold a parliamentary election on Dec. 11.
"I decided to submit my resignation ... to avoid dragging the ministry into a public scandal on the eve of elections," Toba told state news agency Agerpres.
"I strongly reject all accusations and I put myself at the authorities' disposal to help clarify the situation."
Prosecutors said Toba had refused to declassify documents in a case against officials from his ministry's in-house secret service, the DIPI. They said they were investigating allegations of abuse of power and embezzling funds that cost the state 410,000 lei ($103,000).
In that case, which went to trial in May, DIPI officials are alleged to have rerouted funds meant for national security towards purchasing dolls' houses, dart boards, volleyballs, archery equipment, leather-bound deluxe edition books and an electric stove worth 17,000 lei ($4,200).
The prosecutors said that by refusing to declassify the documents, Toba had aided the suspects in the case.
Under Romanian legislation, ministers can be investigated only with presidential approval. Iohannis is widely expected to approve the request.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie and Radu Marinas; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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