- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - A senior Romanian intelligence official announced his retirement Tuesday after a businessman and former lawmaker indicted on wide-ranging corruption charges claimed he had a close relationship with the officer, and a top anti-corruption prosecutor denounced the fugitive for what she called a harassment campaign.

Florin Coldea, the No. 2 in Romania’s main domestic intelligence agency for 12 years, said that he wanted to step down to preserve “the dignity and military honor” of the agency.

An internal probe Tuesday absolved Coldea of any misconduct or illegal activity and recommended that he resume his activities but the director of the agency, Eduard Hellvig, asked President Klaus Iohannis to sign off on Coldea’s retirement, which he did.

Later, Iohannis said Romania’s secret services should be freed from potential political influence.

The inquiry into Coldea’s conduct came after businessman Sebastian Ghita boasted on a private TV channel that he vacationed with Coldea and his family in the Seychelles, Italy and Disneyland in Paris, providing photos to support his claims.

Ghita also claimed Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romania’s anti-corruption chief prosecutor, was a close personal contact. He accused Kovesi of meddling in the justice system and of working for a foreign intelligence agency.

Kovesi denied all the accusations Tuesday to ziare.com, saying her only contact with Ghita was professional. She said the accusations were part of a campaign by public figures who have been prosecuted and had assets confiscated to discredit the anti-corruption fight.

“Hundreds of thousands of euros- a million even - have been spent on a campaign of harassment, intimidation, denigration,” she was quoted as saying.

Romanian officials have issued an arrest warrant for Ghita, who illegally left Romania after he was charged with bribery, blackmail and money laundering. Ghita’s whereabouts are unknown.

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