Romania leader skips corruption hearing _ by visiting Israel

Romania’s most powerful politician has missed a hearing on corruption charges — by going on a surprise visit to Israel.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, is charged with official misconduct. He was expected to attend court Wednesday, but Parliament confirmed just as the hearing began that he was in Israel at the invitation of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Premier Viorica Dancila also began a visit to Israel Wednesday.

Dragnea is accused of intervening to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, even though they were employed by the party. He denies wrongdoing.

Dragnea, who effectively controls the government, can’t be prime minister due to a 2016 conviction for vote-rigging.

The court scheduled another hearing for May 15.

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