Head of Romania’s anticorruption body probed for alleged misconduct

Head of Romania’s anticorruption body probed for alleged misconduct
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest September 26, 2017

Romania’s independent magistrates’ internal control body, Judiciary Inspection, has started extended investigations into alleged misconduct by the top management of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) including DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi, hotnews.ro reported quoting Judiciary Inspection. 

The extended investigations started immediately after the DNA launched a probe into a case very sensitive for Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD). 

The extended investigations now launched by Judiciary Inspection followed preliminary investigations carried out at the DNA after two prosecutors fired by Kovesi complained. 

“Upon evaluating the circumstances related to the misconduct, the judiciary inspectors decided [to carry out] disciplinary investigations on DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi, her deputy Marius Iacob and head of DNA department Gheorghe Popovici,” Judiciary Inspection announced on September 25. Depending on the outcome of the extended investigations, Judiciary Inspection can either reject the allegations, or identify misconduct and submit the case to the magistrates body, CSM, for further evaluation of the case.

The investigation concerns Kovesi’s dismissal of two of her subordinates under unclear circumstances. The furore around the sackings contributed to doubts within Romania about the functioning of an institution that has been a central part of the anti-corruption fight. 

Doru Tulus and Mihaela Moraru Iorga were officially dismissed because of “their good reputation no longer complying with the code of conduct for magistrates and prosecutors”. However, following the decision, the two returned as prosecutors to the regional offices where they had been employed prior to their term as DNA officers, raising questions about the real motive for their dismissal. Tulus in particular is a respected prosecutor, who led the first case against former prime minister Adrian Nastase.

He and Iorga were sacked after recordings from DNA meetings, which Kovesi claimed had been altered to show her in a bad light, were leaked to the media. Specifically, the recordings seemed to suggest Kovesi was putting pressure on prosecutors to generate more high-profile cases. Both Tulus and Iorga refused to take the polygraph test ordered by Kovesi to identify who had delivered the recordings to the media.

Earlier on September 25, Kovesi talked in an interview for Europa FM radio station about “[political] pressures against judiciary”, but said she expected a favourable outcome of the preliminary evaluations by Judiciary Inspection.

However, the timing of the extended disciplinary investigations into Kovesi support her claims of political pressures, coming as they do after the DNA started an investigation into Regional Development Minister Sevil Shhaideh, a close partner of Dragnea's, and asked for the parliament’s approval for an investigation into Environment Minister Rovana Plumb. The case concerns properties acquired by Tel Drum, a construction company reportedly controlled by Dragnea, though the politician has denied any connection. 

Senate head Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who is one of the fiercest opponents of the DNA, called the DNA’s latest investigations no less than a coup d’etat pursued by the anticorruption prosecutors.