BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s outgoing President Traian Basescu has accused his bitter rival and likely successor, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, of serving as an undercover intelligence officer between 1997 and 2001.
Ponta dismissed the charge as “all lies”.
The latest row between the two leaders has flared in the midst of a presidential election campaign, which Ponta is expected to win. Basescu, who has served two con-secutive terms, cannot run again and has thrown his weight behind a right-wing ally.
“Victor Ponta must admit that he was an undercover officer of SIE (Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service), between 1997 and 2001,” Basescu told private television channel Realitatea late on Mon-day. “This isn’t a bomb, it is… a reality which I am ready to prove.”
Espionage was already a talking point during the campaign for the November 2-16 vote. Teodor Melescanu, who ran the Foreign Intelligence Service, resigned in September and joined the presi-dential race as an independent candidate one day later.
Around the same time, Robert Turcescu, a popular television anchor, confessed live on air that he had been an undercover lieu-tenant-colonel for a spy service and resigned his post. Under Ro-manian law, outing oneself as a spy is illegal, but prosecutors did not press charges.