The arrest of the former Minister of Tourism of Romania, Elena Udrea, who is in custody by the Bulgarian authorities as she tried to cross into Greece last Thursday, is being turned into a thriller after she was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption.
Elena Udrea, former minister of regional development and tourism of Romania, was detained in a car near the Kulata checkpoint on Bulgaria's border with Greece on a European arrest warrant issued by Romanian authorities on Thursday, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The 48-year-old woman was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption.
Udrea committed crimes during her tenure as minister from 2010 to the end of 2011, the statement said.
A past presidential candidate and close political ally of Traian Basescu, Romania’s president from 2004 to 2014, she was sentenced by a Romanian court to six years in prison in June 2018, but the verdict was suspended due to issues with the formation of the five-judge panel.
On Thursday, the country's High Court of Cassation issued a final verdict, upholding the 72-month jail sentence for bribery and abuse of office. However, Udrea had already left the country, crossing the border into Bulgaria that morning. A European arrest warrant was issued in her name.
In a statement on Friday, Romania’s Minister of Justice, Catalin Predoiu, said that Udrea was in the custody of the Bulgarian authorities and would be presented to the court, with Romania seeking her extradition. “It is our responsibility to support this process upon request,” he added.
Udrea was brought before a courtroom in the Bulgarian town of Blagoevgrad later that day, but left without making a statement, since no authorised translator was on hand. The hearing was postponed until today, according to Euronews.
She, a once powerful political figure, was charged in 2015 with accepting bribes and abuse of office, dating from her time as regional development and tourism minister between 2009 and 2012.
The former minister fled the country before the verdict was issued, returning in 2019 after more than a year on the run from the Romanian justice system in Costa Rica, where her request for political asylum was rejected.
Two other individuals, the former chairman of the country's Boxing Federation and a local businessman, were sentenced to prison terms on Thursday, in relation to the case, with other defendants handed suspended sentences.
Udrea was also sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2021 for corruption, embezzlement and tax evasion, related to the country's 2009 presidential election, with the final verdict still awaiting its appeal process.