Romanian President Klaus Iohannis approved on Wednesday a request from anti-corruption prosecutors to allow a criminal investigation against former prime minister and senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu for suspected bribe-taking.
Tariceanu, 68, has denied all wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have said Tariceanu received political consultancy services worth $800,000 during 2007-2008 paid by an Austrian company in exchange for government bills in its favour.
Under Romanian law, the president must approve investigations against former cabinet ministers.
Tariceanu has said reopening the case is a way for Iohannis to take revenge and “completely eliminate his only opposition from the Romanian political scene”.
Iohannis has so far approved all requests from prosecutors to open criminal investigations.
Anti-corruption prosecutors first tried to investigate Tariceanu in the case in 2019 when he served as senate speaker, but lawmakers refused to lift his immunity.
Tariceanu, who ran unsuccessfully for president and Bucharest mayor in separate elections in 2019 and 2020 respectively, also failed to get his party past the minimum required threshold in a December parliamentary election.
His ALDE party was a junior coalition partner in Social-Democrat-led cabinets during 2017-2019 which tried to decriminalise some corruption offences and shorten sentences, raising concerns in the European Union and triggering Romania’s largest street protests in decades.
In 2018, a Romanian court acquitted Tariceanu in a separate case of charges of giving false testimony to assist suspects in a wider real estate corruption case.
Investigations by anti-corruption prosecutors have exposed conflicts of interest, abuse of power, fraud and awarding of state contracts in exchange for bribes across political party lines in Romania.
Transparency International ranks Romania as one of the European Union’s most corrupt member states and Brussels has kept its justice system under special monitoring since it joined the bloc in 2007.