BUCHAREST, Romania — A Romanian court on Tuesday sentenced one of the country's most controversial politicians to six years in prison for bribery and official misconduct.
The High Court of Cassation and Justice court delivered its verdict Tuesday for Elena Udrea, a former tourism minister, upholding an earlier sentence. The ruling is final. Udrea fled to Costa Rica this year, pending her appeal and called for a retrial.
Prosecutors said Udrea, minister from 2008-2012, illegally sponsored a gala with ministry funds featuring a fight between Romanian-Canadian boxer Lucian Bute and Jean-Paul Mendy of France, taking a 10-percent commission from each contract. The court ordered her to pay the equivalent of some 3 million euros ($3.5 million) in damages.
A former chairman of Romania's Boxing Federation, Rudel Obreja, also received a five-year prison sentence for tax evasion.
For years, Udrea was one of Romania's most powerful politicians, enjoying the protection of Traian Basescu, president from 2004 to 2014. Basescu spoke to her after the verdict and said he'd advised her to "defend herself."
Separately Tuesday, President Klaus Iohannis said prosecutors should remain free of political pressure to do their jobs properly after the constitutional court ruled last week there was an institutional crisis between him and the justice minister. The court told Iohannis to fire chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi after the justice minister said she had failed to do her job properly.
Under Kovesi's leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery fraud, and other corruption-related offenses.
Iohannis said he wouldn't comment on the ruling until he received the court's written explanation, which may take weeks.
Asked whether he would respect the ruling, Iohannis avoided the question, saying prosecutors "can't be subordinated to any politician, even if it's the minister."