Romania’s Supreme Court has acquitted former Prime Minister Victor Ponta of corruption charges after postponing the ruling five times.

Ponta, 45, had been accused of 17 separate counts of forgery, complicity in tax evasion and money laundering, all dating from 2007-2011 while Ponta was working as a lawyer. He was tried alongside former Transport Minister Dan Șova who was also acquitted of complicity in the abuse of office, forgery, tax evasion and money laundering.

Ponta and Sova were accused by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) of using their law firm to forge energy sales contracts and to facilitate tax evasion and money laundering. Prosecutors argued that from October 2007 to December 2008, Victor Ponta, through his own law firm, received over 181,000 lei (39,000 euros) from Dan Sova’s “Sova and Associates” law firm, for joint activities, which the prosecutors alleged, were never carried out.

Ponta was the first Romanian prime minister to be indicted for corruption during his mandate. It led to his resignation as leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Following his acquittal, Ponta took the opportunity to criticise the DNA chief, Laura Codruta Kovesi for the ‘painful period’ that he endured during the four-year-long case. “Beyond the years of humiliation, the loss of PSD presidency and office of Prime Minister, I would like everyone to think if it is normal for us to live in a country where Kovesi and her abusers, falsify evidence and violate the law making you into a “criminal” for their petty interests, and if it is normal for them never to respond to these crimes. I have learned a lot from this painful period – I will remember this lesson in all my future work,” he said.

Transparency International ranks Romania among the European Union’s most corrupt states and Brussels, which keeps its justice system under special monitoring, has praised magistrates for their efforts to curb graft.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have been cracking down on high-level graft in recent years, convicting people across parties at a steady rate of just under 90 % in 2017 of those who stood trial.