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2 Romanian ex-ministers jailed for corruption

BUCHAREST, Romania  -- Two former Romanian agriculture ministers were convicted on Tuesday of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison.

Last month, Romania's highest court sentenced former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to two years in prison after convicting him of illegally raising funds for a failed presidential campaign.

The two cases are one reason that Transparency International, a non-governmental organization based in Berlin, has ranked Romania as one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union.

On Tuesday, a court in Bucharest ruled that former agriculture ministers Decebal Traian Remes and Ioan Muresan took bribes and engaged in influence-peddling.

Remes resigned his Cabinet post in 2007 after prosecutors accused him of taking a bribe of $21,000 and the promise of homemade sausages and plum brandy from Muresan, a former agriculture minister who allegedly was acting on behalf of businessman Gheorghe Ciorba.

Prosecutors said the payment was meant to secure favor for Ciorba's company at a public auction. However, Ciorba reported the bribe to authorities before the auction took place, leading to the prosecution of the two ministers. Given his role in the case, Ciorba was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

The January conviction of Nastase was the first time a former Romanian premier has been sentenced to prison since communism ended in the country in 1989. He has said he will appeal.

 Romania is under pressure from the EU, which it joined in 2007, to crack down on widespread corruption.