Romania's most powerful politician is heading to court for the final hearing in a corruption case, days after the U.S. State Department said graft remains widespread at every level of government in the European Union member.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, dismisses the charges of official misconduct as "mere statements, gossip and rumors" ahead of Wednesday's hearing.

Prosecutors say Dragnea intervened to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, even though they were employed by the party.

In recent months, the left-wing government has embarked on a contentious judicial overhaul, prompting protests and criticism from the EU.

Critics say the proposals, including restricting public statements about corruption probes, would make prosecutions harder.