Romania’s DNA banned from using evidence from intelligence service

Romania’s DNA banned from using evidence from intelligence service
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest March 10, 2016

Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) will be prevented from using evidence obtained from Romania’s intelligence services (SRI) under a Constitutional Court decision.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling will have a major impact on the functioning of the DNA, which has relied heavily on the technical support of the intelligence services (SRI) in its investigations. Previous court rulings in cases brought by the DNA could also be challenged.

The court said on March 9 that there are no legal grounds empowering organisations other than specialised criminal investigation bodies to conduct investigations in criminal cases. This had been allowed under a specification in the Criminal Code, but the court concluded this was in breach of the constitution.

The court statement was given in response to a lawyer’s inquiry that questioned the legality of the use of conversations wiretapped by the SRI. The decision was made on February 16, and an explanation of the motivation was issued on March 9.

The DNA will need some 130 police offices and €10mn immediately, if it is to continue operations using equipment owned by the SRI, DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi told Digi24 TV station. The cost of developing the DNA’s own technical capacities would be much higher.

While the court specifies that previous court decisions based on evidence collected by the SRI are not invalidated, it leaves room for interpretation where ongoing trials are concerned. Judge Daniel Morar, the former head of the DNA, told Hotnews on March 9 that this will depend on the stage of the investigations. Only in the early stages of a trial can defenders invoke the Constitutional Court’s decision and invalidate evidence.

However, MEP and former justice minister Monica Macovei warned that the impact on ongoing investigations will still be major, Hotnews reported.

In addition, it is very likely that lawyers will be able to challenge previous rulings where evidence collected by SRI has been used. Anticipating the decision of the Constitutional Court, many lawyers have already raised such objections during trials, she explained. When appeals against earlier rulings are considered, the evidence could be rejected, Macovei said.

The question was raised with the Constitutional Court by defence lawyer Catalin Georgescu, who claimed that Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code procedures breaches the constitution. According to the text, the technical surveillance mandate given by the court at the request of the prosecutor can be enforced by specialised investigation bodies such as the police and by other “specialised state organs”.  Under a separate article, telecoms operators are required to cooperate with investigators.