Two Romanian judges detained over graft

Two Romanian judges were arrested Friday on charges of seeking tens of thousands of euros in exchange for helping to set free several detainees.

Viorica Dinu and Antonela Costache of the Bucharest court are accused of agreeing to take 150,000 euros ($196,000) in January, promising to intercede with other judges in favour of a Romanian businessman, Dinel Nutu, detained over fraud.

Prosecutors said the manoeuvre failed so the two judges handed back 55,000 euros they had received in advance from Nutu's brother.

But in February Nutu filed a new request to be set free so the two judges again promised to get him out of jail if they received 150,000 euros.

Nutu, who previously served seven years in prison in another case, was released on February 7. His fraud trial is nevertheless ongoing.

Prosecutors said a probe was underway concerning the circumstances of his release.

Dinu is also suspected of having received 44,000 euros, with help from Costache, in order to obtain favourable sentences in three other cases.

Under strict surveillance from Brussels since it joined the European Union in 2007, Romania has pledged to reform its judiciary and step up the fight against corruption.

In 2012, two supreme court judges were sentenced to prison and two others were indicted over graft.