BUCHAREST: A Romanian court on Tuesday sentenced in absentia a former minister who fled legal troubles by seeking refuge in Costa Rica to six years in prison for a corruption conviction.
Tuesday’s decision upholds a previous judgement last year against which 44-year-old Elena Udrea had appealed.
Udrea claimed asylum in Costa Rica in February, saying she was the victim of “a politically-motivated trial”, and has since stirred controversy by posting numerous interviews online from her self-imposed exile.
In the past, she has posed for glamour magazines and the Romanian media dubbed her “Traian Băsescu’s blonde”, referring to the country’s former centre-right president.
At the height of her career, Udrea was considered one of Romania’s most influential politicians. She was convicted for taking bribes from several businessmen in connection with the financing of a boxing show in 2011.
As part of Tuesday’s judgement, Udrea, whose fortune has been the subject of widespread speculation in Romania, will have to pay back 900,000 euros (RM4.2 million) to two local businessmen and 1.7 million euros (RM7.9 million) in damages to the national tourism authority.
A former president of the Romanian Boxing Federation, Rudel Obreja, has also been jailed for five years in connection to the case.
In recent years, dozens of local and national politicians have been prosecuted for fraud by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog DNA in an effort to tackle the problem in what is one of the EU’s most graft-prone countries.
But the campaign has earned the DNA the enmity of some of Romania’s political elite, as well as accusations of abuse of power.