Romanian media tycoons reportedly behind attempt to discredit anti-corruption chief

Romanian media tycoons reportedly behind attempt to discredit anti-corruption chief
By bne IntelliNews April 12, 2016

Two Israeli men arrested for spying on and attempting to compromise the head of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, will be held in pretrial detention for 20 days, a Bucharest court ruled on April 12. According to reports in the local press, two unnamed media tycoons hired former Mossad agents in an apparent campaign against Kovesi.

Under Kovesi, the DNA has become increasingly active in fighting high-level corruption. Its investigations targeted former prime minister Victor Ponta, a number of MPs, mayors and businesspeople. Those sentenced following DNA investigations include several high-profile media owners.

Ron Weiner and David Geclowicz were arrested on April 3 as part of an investigation by the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) which targeted four Israeli men suspected of spying on Kovesi. The Bucharest court of appeal ruled on April 12 that their pretrial detention should be reduced from 30 days to 20.

The other two suspects, Dan Zorella and Avi Yanus, are former Israeli intelligence agents and the founders and executive managers of private investigation company Black Cube, in which Meir Dagan, a director of Mossad between 2002 and 2011, was also active until he died last month, according to Rise Project, a local NGO specialising in investigative journalism.

Unnamed sources claim that one of the suspects has left Romania. “One of them has managed to leave the country, by taxi, at Giurgiu to Bulgaria,” judiciary sources told EurActiv. The sources declined to name the suspect.

According to a DIICOT statement, the two former agents together with other employees of their company, including Weiner and Geclowicz, “initiated and set up an organized criminal group in order to commit a number of crimes, such as harassment and cyber attacks, consisting of threatening and harassing phone calls, as well as phishing attacks aimed at stealing access credentials and subsequently compromising email accounts, activities followed by violation of the secrecy of correspondence and unauthorized copying and transfer of its content.”

Specifically, Weiner was in charge of the phishing and compromising email accounts, while Geclowicz was in change of calling Kovesi’s family and friends to obtain their email addresses, which later became the target of the attacks.

Ron Weiner received €5,000 for the mission, judiciary sources told news agency Mediafax on April 12. The two Israeli men had received a list of eight persons whom they were supposed to spy on, which include the name of DNA head Kovesi. The list was provided by Black Cube.

The detainees have not said who they were working for. However, judiciary sources have told news portal that the beneficiaries were two local media tycoons currently under investigation by the DNA.

There are several possible candidates. The list of Romanian media moguls under investigation or sentenced includes Mediafax Group owner Adrian Sarbu, Dan Adameascu, owner of Medien Holding, Sebastian Ghita, owner of Romania TV television channel, Dan Voiculescu, owner of Intact Media group, Dan Diaconescu and Sorin Ovidiu Vantu.

Black Cube denies any wrongdoing. In a statement quoted by The Times of Israel on April 6, the company claimed its employees were investigating claims of corruption by the Romanian government.

”Recently, the company undertook a project in Romania to collect evidence of serious corruption in the Romanian government and its agencies. Whilst performing this work, two of the company’s employees were arrested after having made significant discoveries,” according to the statement.

Kovesi recently secured another mandate as head of the DNA after she was unanimously endorsed for the position by the Romanian magistrates’ body, the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM). Her appointment was approved on April 6 by president Klaus Iohannis.

However, Kovesi’s activity has also been criticized. One of the critics is former president Traian Basescu, who appointed Kovesi. In January, he told local media that the DNA was infringing the human rights of those it arrested, while in March he slammed Kovesi’s “political” speech on his Facebook page.