Romanian Police Chief Fired for Ordering 392 'Suped Up' Cars

Romania's government fired the country's police chief for misusing public funds by buying expensive cars.

Interior Minister Cristian David said he would cancel the contract signed by Gheorghe Popa this year for 392 Dacia Logans at a price of euro58,000 (US$78,000) each. The price includes euro40,000 (US$54,000) worth of additional features, such as GPS and video systems.

The government made the announcement late Thursday. Popa said Friday he had been legally advised to sign the contract.

"I took (the contract) on at a late stage, and there would have been (financial) consequences if I hadn't signed it," he told reporters. "I took advice from lawyers and was told I was obliged to sign it."

Interim police chief Gheorghe Plai later said the contract had been suspended, pending an investigation by the anti-corruption prosecutor's office. "No money has been paid," he said.

David said the cars were overpriced and the deal represented a misuse of public money. He sent a report to the anti-corruption prosecutors for investigation.

According to Romanian media, police in neighboring Bulgaria and Italy pay significantly less for cars.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu has accepted Popa's dismissal.

Romania is under pressure from the European Union, which is joined in 2007, to clean up widespread corruption.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)