Romania's ruling coalition amplifies rhetoric against anti-corruption prosecutors

Romania's ruling coalition amplifies rhetoric against anti-corruption prosecutors
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest February 14, 2018

Romania’s Justice Minister Tudorel Toader is preparing a — most likely negative — evaluation of the activity of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), to be delivered this month in parliament amid a growing scandal related to the alleged misdeeds of DNA prosecutors at the regional Ploiesti office. 

The ruling coalition is using the scandal to amplify its rhetoric against the DNA and is expected to attempt to replace its head Laura Codruta Kovesi, though this would require the president’s endorsement. Separately, media close to the ruling coalition are undermining the credibility of the DNA with the apparent aim of minimising the public reaction to planned amendments to Romania's justice laws that would weaken the independence of the judiciary. Should the DNA fail to clarify the alleged misdeeds of some of its prosecutors, Romania could see a gradual dismantling of its anti-corruption structures and legislation.

Speaking of his expected evaluation of DNA activity, Toader said in an interview at the end of last week that “the good deeds [done by the DNA] do not justify the misdeeds”. Meanwhile, the ruling coalition’s leader Liviu Dragnea, speaking of the most recent scandal involving DNA prosecutors, said that “increasingly more evidence of the parallel [illegitimate] state” surface. 

In order to prevent such developments, the Romania Curata NGO and civil society representatives in the magistrates’ body CSM have asked for an urgent clarification of the situation at the DNA’s Ploiesti office.

In the latest developments, fugitive businessman Sebastian Ghita (currently in Serbia) submitted a criminal complaint against Kovesi and prosecutors from the Ploiesti DNA offices, who allegedly fabricated evidence against him. 

Ghita is currently being investigated by DNA in connection to several corruption scandals, including one concerning a €220,000 payment allegedly indirectly made to former prime minister Victor Ponta. The money would have reportedly been used to finance a conference attended by former UK prime minister Tony Blair

Ghita’s lieutenant Vlad Cosma initially agreed to collaborate with DNA prosecutors and testified against Ghita, but he now claims that he fabricated the evidence together with DNA prosecutors. He recently submitted criminal complaints against the officers involved. He also claimed a DNA prosecutor asked him for €260,000 in exchange for not being investigated in a corruption case. 

Cosma, a local businessman in Ploiesti, is involved in several corruption cases together with other family members including his father, the former head of the county council administration Mircea Cosma. 

Cosma has since made public tapes of his discussions with DNA prosecutors. The DNA said in a note that the recorded tapes are combined and misleading but never denied their authenticity. The evidence is the basis of the accusations against DNA prosecutors in Ploiesti, a scandal which is tarnishing the whole of the organisation.