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News 14 Feb 18

Top Romanian Anti-Graft Prosecutor Will Not Step Down

Romania’s highest-ranking anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi will not be resigning amid a tense standoff with politicians. 

Ana Maria Luca
BIRN
Bucharest
Laura Codruta Kovesi at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos.

The chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi, stated Wednesday that she had no reason to relinquish her post, defending the work of the organization and her subordinates despite accusations of falsified evidence and witness intimidation from former MPs – some of whom have been impacted by the directorate’s work.

Kovesi and the directorate fell under fire this week after a former Social Democrat MP who was sentenced for graft – but who is also a witness in several other cases – accused one prosecutor of witness intimidation and forging evidence.

Several Social Democratic Party, PSD, politicians called for Kovesi’s resignation on the grounds of mismanagement, with some even claiming the Anti-corruption Directorate, DNA, should be dissolved. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila also asked Justice Minister Tudorel Toader to cut short an official visit to Japan so he could return to Bucharest to deal with the scandal.

 “This is not about Kovesi,” the chief prosecutor told journalists. “The DNA is not one person, it’s an institution. This attack is not about Kovesi, it’s about prosecutors who did their jobs properly. It aims to humiliate the Romanian state, humiliate society and Romanians. We are under attack for doing our job,” she added.

Kovesi said that the justice system in Romania has been under fire for more than one year. From January 2017, thousands of Romanians started protesting PSD politicians’ attempts to implement legislation curbing the power of anti-corruption prosecutors.  

Tensions between the PSD leadership and Kovesi’s DNA escalated from November 2017 onwards, when prosecutors announced they were investigating ruling party chief Liviu Dragnea on the grounds of alleged fraud – he stood accused of setting up a criminal network to embezzle European funds. The investigation began after a European Anti-Fraud Office report.

Former MP Vlad Cosma, who accused prosecutors of intimidating witnesses, was sentenced in 2017 for tax evasion, money laundering and embezzlement and is waiting for the court to rule on his appeal. However, the former MP, however, is also a witness in 12 other graft cases.

The DNA replied that prosecutors had not forged evidence and, moreover, they themselves had been threatened and blackmailed.

Kovesi said that she requested a report on the incidents and that the Judicial Inspectorate is already investigating whether the prosecutors were involved in any abuses.

Romania’s powerful DNA has drawn widespread criticism from Romanian politicians in recent years. However, the institution has also been praised by international institutions and foreign diplomats for effectively prosecuting several high-ranking politicians.

According to Kovesi, 70 dignitaries were prosecuted in the past four years including two prime ministers, as well as other MPs.

“If we look at who is attacking us we see people who were sentenced, who are on trial, people who have money, resources and who want to damage the credibility of the Romanian justice,” she said.

Kovesi made the comments at her first DNA press conference since she took office in 2013. She was previously General Attorney from 2006 until 2012.

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