Deputy head of Romanian intelligence services suspended as political scandal unfolds

Deputy head of Romanian intelligence services suspended as political scandal unfolds
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest January 13, 2017

The deputy head of Romania’s main intelligence service the SRI, Florian Coldea, was suspended from his post on January 12 and will face an inquiry by an internal commission into allegations made by fugitive businessman Sebastian Ghita.

The move comes after Ghita released a series of footage on his TV station Romania TV describing the close ties between Coldea and the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi. Ghita claimed that anticorruption investigations in Romania are politically biased as the two are under the influence of “foreign entities”. 

Keeping the investigations at the level of internal bodies within the SRI is likely to create further tensions as the nature of the accusations require the involvement of formal courts.

Ghita claims that the DNA acts in an arbitrary and abusive fashion and is under the control of foreign entities, via the US intelligence service. 

A friend of former Social Democratic Party (PSD) Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Ghita made the allegations against anticorruption prosecutors on January 5, on the day when the High Court of Justice (ICCJ) issued an arrest warrant for him after he failed to observe the weekly mandatory contacts with law enforcement bodies while under investigation.

Both Ghita and Ponta are under investigation over the financing of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visit to Romania, with prosecutors alleging that Ghita was given a place on the PSD election list in exchange for funding the visit.

His accusations against the DNA are similar to those made by other people indicted by the body such as former minister Elena Udrea, and have been to a certain extent backed by former President Traian Basescu. Basescu has said that in his view the DNA head and the intelligence services lack proper control and monitoring and their heads seem to be abusing their power. 

Once suspended, Coldea will never return in his position at SRI, Basescu said after the deputy head of the intelligence service came under investigation on January 12.

As acting SRI head in 2013, Coldea reportedly exerted pressure on Ponta to nominate Kovesi to head the DNA, Ghita claimed earlier in January. Ghita claimed his and Coldea’s families were close friends and spent holidays together frequently. He also claimed that they were part of the same group of friends as Kovesi and Ponta.