Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has announced on Thursday he would initiate the procedures to dismiss the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) chief, Laura Codruta Kovesi, for “acts and deeds incompatible to a state of law”.
”Under the provisions of article 54, paragraph 4 in conjunction with 51 (2) (b) of Law 303/2004 on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors, I initiate the procedure for the dismissal of the DNA chief prosecutor. The report, accompanied by the proposal to revoke the DNA Chief Prosecutor, will be forwarded to the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) and to the President of Romania to analyze and decide in accordance with the constitutional competencies,” Tudorel Toader said.
According to the minister, the DNA does not identify with its chief prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, whose actions have shown that can endanger the institution, through excessive authority, discretionary behaviour, defiance of Parliament’s authority, the role and powers of the Government, contesting the decisions of the Constitutional Court and its authority.”
“Only mutual respect can lead to the establishment of mutually accepted practices that are in line with the European constitutional heritage, which allows a country to avoid and to overcome the possible crises – the Venice Commission has said in one of its opinions. Both the prevention and the fight against corruption must continue. The rule of law is the state in which the action of each public authority is regulated by law, is subject to the law, and observes the spirit of democratic values and of respect to human rights. No one is above the law. Good things do not justify the bad ones,” Toader said.
Justice Minister, Tudorel Toader, presented the ‘Report on the DNA leadership’, as announced on Monday on his Facebook page, as said last week upon his return from the visit to Japan.
The report was based on 20 ‘counts’ against Kovesi. Among accusations, Toader mentioned: the excessively authoritarian and discretionary conduct of the DNA chief prosecutor, interference in the investigations of other prosecutors, prioritizing files according to their media impact.
So, among the charges laid at Kovesi, there were the constitutional legal conflicts between the DNA on one hand and other state authorities, such as the Government and the Parliament, on the other hand. “In one year, there were three constitutional legal conflicts reported, when DNA was summoned before the Constitutional court. Three conflicts where CCR sanctioned the disloyal conduct of the DNA chief prosecutor”, said JusMin.
Secondly, Kovesi was accused for the DNA’s investigation on the GEO 13 (e.n.-the emergency ordinance adopted by Grindeanu Cabinet one year ago to amend the criminal laws and which prompted wide mass protests in Bucharest and countrywide). The Justice minister argued that the Anti-corruption Directorate assumed the authority it does not have after the adoption of GEO 13, meaning the authority of considering the opportunity of issuing a regulatory document.
A third count against the DNA head would be in Toader’s view Kovesi’s denial to come for hearings in the parliamentary inquiry committee. The JusMin claims that, according to a constitutional court’s decision, “the activity of the inquiry committee has been blocked” and the DNA chief didn’t respect “the needed loyal conduct” among state institutions.
Moreover, the Justice minister is holding Kovesi accountable for the DNA’s investigation in the Belina case (probing into some government resolutions through which Belina island on the Danube river has been transferred from state to private property). Toader reloaded the point that DNA has no authority to investigate the opportunity of issuing some government resolutions.
The report also pointed out the DNA head’s “excessively authoritarian and discretionary conduct”, arguing Kovesi obstructed the activity of the inspectors from the Judicial inspection which investigated disciplinary offenses allegedly committed by Kovesi.
Tudorel Toader accused Kovesi of interfering in the investigations conducted by other prosecutors, exemplifying the DNA chief’s public statement saying that she had personally monitored the investigation in the GEO 13 case.
The Justice minister further said that Kovesi had prioritized those certain files that had a higher media impact. “The files cannot be solved depending on their public resonance, or following the position of the investigated person, but chronologically,” he argued.
Minister Toader also reproached to Kovesi that DNA had challenged the authority and the rulings of the Constitutional Court, claiming that the anti-corruption head “had blamed CCR’s rulings” for its inability of investigating some crimes and of recovering some prejudices. “The chief prosecutor has challenged the Romanian Constitution itself”, he said.
Toader also held Kovesi accountable for affecting Romania’s image, misinforming the European bodies and interviews for BBC and Euronews, when she “feared the DNA will be dismantled” and when she harshly slammed some draft laws debated in Parliament.
Toader even invoked the cases of people “unjustly” sentenced and arrested, who were later acquitted and received compensations from ECHR.
He was interrupted by the journalists and asked to give some examples of such people or to say if such cases are more in Romania than in other countries.
“It doesn’t matter the number of cases, it matters if there was one, two, or seven or nine. Imagine if a person is unjustly arrested and stays in prison for a night, a month, a year or five years and he or she is not guilty”.
Other charge against DNA head was the attempt to obtain convictions with any cost. “Cases must not be solved according to the position”, he said, referring to the recordings where Kovesi allegedly asked to get to the premier. Toader also reproached Kovesi that the number of acquittals is on the rise, the growing expenses and erroneous reports.
An ‘expected’ decision
Last week, Toader announced he would present the results of his review on the DNA’s activity.
“Today, before the Government sitting, I had a meeting with the Prime Minister regarding the evaluation of the Public Ministry, asking me to publicly communicate the outcome of the evaluation, no matter what. According to the law, I will present to the joint chambers of Parliament the report on the activity carried out at the level of the Public Ministry, the DNA, and DIICOT level. The presentation of this report will take place next Thursday,” Minister Tudorel Toader said one week ago
Sources say that a proposal for Kovesi’s dismissal would be the best option for the PSD-ALDE ruling coalition, although the final decision is thus passed to President Klaus Iohannis, who suggested last week he would not agree with such an option, as he sees no reason for dismissal. On the other hand, Minister Toader could also postpone again a decision, as he did before.
Tudorel Toader had to cut short his visit to Japan, following the domestic developments, as former deputy Vlad Cosma released several recordings which led to a scandal involving the DNA Ploiesti prosecutors Mircea Negulescu and Lucian Onea, which also have allegedly weakened Kovesi’s position.
Minister Tudorel Toader will present his report as of 18.00h.
On Wednesday, at the PSD Standing Bureau sitting, social-democrat leader Liviu Dragnea said he expects the Justice Minister to be trenchant.
On Monday, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said the Justice Minister has to conduct an assessment, a report on DNA activity, to present this report and ‘to be fair’. She added that Toader needs a week to find what really happened and to draw up the report.
Other PSD leaders, such as Niculae Badalau and Codrin Stefanescu, say they expect tough decisions from the Justice Minister. After the recordings were released, Codrin Stefanescu told Toader publicly: ‘Do something, things can’t go on like this!’
Minister Tudorel Toader said last week: “By the law, I will present to the joint plenum of the two chambers of Parliament the report on the activity of the Public Ministry for DIICOT and DNA. The report is an obligation for the Justice Minister according to article 79 of the law on judicial organisation. I will submit the report to parliament next week, on Thursday and I will inform the press about the content and the conclusions on DNA activity.”
DNA chief prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, said last week, during a two-hour press conference, that she has no reason to resign as she has observed the law in everything she did. She added the scandal is not about Kovesi, but about the ‘assault against justice’.
Wednesday evening, former Deputy Vlad Cosma has released a new recording, according to which prosecutors Mircea Negulescu and Albert Savu write by themselves the statement reportedly signed by Cosma in the file involving former PM Victor Ponta and former British prime Minister Tony Blair.
Prosecutor General Lazar: There is no grounded reason to recall Kovesi
Romania’s Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar says that there is no grounded reason to recall DNA chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.
“There is no grounded reason to recall DNA chief prosecutor, who is clearly working within the law. It’s obviously the most exposed position. She is the spearhead of the Public Ministry in the fight against corruption and due to this, it’s easy to understand that all criticism is against the helm of DNA. We notice that defendants with resources, people who have considerable financial resources and who are called to answer for their deeds, have the capacity of publicly speaking at TV shows, in the attempt of producing a certain emotion and to somehow influence those who should solve files. There are files that are ready to be judged in first court, some are getting to appeals and to final rulings. They are taking a gamble on their last chance. Therefore, the activity of the DNA leadership is clearly performing”, Lazar told RFI.
Tariceanu: Prosecutor Lazar, a kind of Kovesi’s adjutant
Later on Thursday, Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu (ALDE Chairman) has lashed at Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, saying he is ‘a kind of adjutant to Mrs. Kovesi’.
“The Prosecutor General did nothing special until now, unless for being a kind of adjutant to Mrs. Kovesi. (…) There are serious signals, in any other country the Prosecutor General would have taken decisions. (…) Fresh revelations surface in the media, we show concern, they do nothing,” Tarieanu said on Thursday.