ECONOMY

Romania’s money laundering this year put at 338 million euros

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Cases of money laundering uncovered so far this year in EU candidate Romania have totaled about 338 million euros ($415 million), about half of them linked to tax evasion, officials said yesterday. This is broadly in line with the figure of more than half a billion euros detected last year in the Balkan state, where corruption, abuse of power and illicit business dealings affect all aspects of life. «About 45 percent of the suspect transactions detected are cases of tax evasion,» said the head of the Office to Fight Money Laundering, Iulian Dragomir. The rest of about 300 cases that the office handed to prosecutors so far this year involved forgery and illegal value-added tax refunds, he added. International institutions often cite these problems as major hurdles in the ex-communist country’s drive to join the European Union as early as in 2007, with Transparency International ranking Romania as the most corrupt East European EU candidate. Romania has a modern money-laundering law, fully compliant with EU standards since 1999, Dragomir said, adding that the office has just launched, in cooperation with Italy, new guidelines for spotting suspect transactions. But analysts said that implementing the law and tracing illegal transfers is a tough job in a country located on the transit route of Balkan organized crime and where high taxes favor smuggling and underground businesses. Romanian taxes are some of the highest in the region, especially taxes on on labor, encouraging a black economy estimated at a third of the official gross domestic product.