Romania’s Prosecutor General Tiberiu Nitu (photo) on Tuesday said 2014 was a very hard year for the prosecution offices, and the activity of prosecutors often faced pressure from outside the system.
“2014 was also the year when the activity of prosecutors was oftentimes facing pressure coming from outside the system. And yet, you managed to stay objective and unbiased. I am asking you to continue to display the same independence and prove the same firmness and professionalism in your investigations. Let us not delude ourselves that such pressure will disappear in 2015! Personally, I will react promptly and firmly any time prosecutorial independence comes under attack,” Nitu told chief prosecutors at a meeting where the 2014 activity report of the Public Prosecution Office was released.
Nitu also unveiled the main objectives of the Public Prosecution Service in 2015: intensifying actions to fight against corruption and related offences, organised crime, tax evasion and contraband, conflicts of interests and money laundering; taking measures to increase civil recovery; getting jurisprudence more homogenous in order to secure law enforcement predictability; taking measures to conduct efficient criminal investigations within reasonable deadlines and avoiding violating other rights guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR); continuing demarches to strike a balance in the log of prosecutorial offices.
Nitu also said the project for the refurbishment and upgrading of prosecutorial offices will continue into 2015.
Thus, works on the main offices of the prosecutorial offices in Brasov, Vrancea and Constanta will be completed; they will continue in Targu Mures, while the main offices of the General Prosecution Service will be relocated to the Prosecution Office with the Bucharest Court of Appeal.
Demarches are also being conducted to access funds under the 2014-2020 Operational Programme Administrative Capacity Development to create inside the prosecutorial offices an integrated system for the management of video and audio recordings to meet the new demands included in the Code of Criminal Procedure in relation to the hearing of people that entails securing all the necessary technical means for investigation rooms, data storage and electronic archiving.
Moreover, the feasibility of creating a platform to allow on-line access of citizens to learn about the latest developments in the court cases where they are parties is currently being analysed.
Over 50,000 persons under indictment arraigned in 2014
During 2014 nearly 50,342 individuals under indictment were arraigned, as well as 358 companies, most for patrimonial crimes (nearly 14,000), declining in comparison to the previous year, the activity report of the Prosecution Office presented on Tuesday by Prosecutor General Tiberiu Nitu shows.
“For infractions against individuals arraigned were 9,462 persons under indictment, and for patrimonial crimes – 14,320 persons under indictment. If in regard to the first category of crimes mentioned the number of persons arraigned is, in principle, similar to that of last year, in the case of the second category we may observe an important decrease: from approximately 24,000 to approximately 14,000”, said Nitu, when presenting the report.
He mentioned that this is cause mainly by the provision of the new penal law that allows reconciliation removing penal responsibility, and the more favorable law regarding prescription, applicable to many of the patrimonial crimes.
“I believe a closer look must be taken to those cases that saw, in 2014, for the first time, disposition of measures of historic significance: we are speaking of, on one hand, being deferred to justice persons guilty of crimes against humanity during the communist regime and, on the other hand, the re-opening of cases regarding crimes of the same nature and gravity for them to be investigated from the perspective of crimes against humanity, the re-opening of the cases being confirmed by authority of judges”, added Nitu, quoted by Agerpres.
Justice Minister tells prosecutors to focus on recouping damages
Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc on Tuesday said that the interest area in the prosecutors’ activity for the coming period must also be that of recouping the damages created by committing an offense, both from the Ministry’s and the international partners point of view.
“Currently, Romania has a legal framework adapted to the reality and, although with a significant delay, you have at the disposal the instruments to impose not only the criminal sanctioning of the guilty person, but also the damage recouping,” Cazanciuc told the prosecutors on the occasion of the presentation of the activity report of the Prosecution Office in 2014.
Robert Cazanciuc admitted that time is needed for the familiarisation of the system, but believes that using the modern instruments at the magistrates’ disposal must become a usual practice.
“Starting with 2012, there is a legal framework for the anticipated capitalisation of the sequestrated goods, its potential not being yet used at the expected level at the moment of the regulation adoption. Not using such procedures means in the first place the loss of some important amounts of money, you very well know the depreciation only regarding motor vehicles. The law allows you to sell, even at the confiscation moment, with the money being obviously deposited in a special account, and if the person is not guilty, at the end of the criminal trial, he or she gets the money back, but the state no longer spends important amounts with the storage and maintenance,” Cazanciuc showed.
He also spoke of establishing an agency specialised in managing the sequestered or confiscated goods during the criminal procedure, with the necessary legal framework going to be drawn up by the end of March.
“The new agency will set the grounds for a unitary, electronic register of all debts deriving from offenses. This register will collect data from all competent authorities: police, prosecutor’s offices, courts, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF). Consultations with the colleagues of all the prosecutor’s offices structures have been and will continue to be carried out,” Cazanciuc pointed out.
He congratulated the prosecutors for the progress recorded over the past two years and gave them guarantees on the Justice Ministry’s support in all their endeavours.
“Following the dialogue with the prosecutors, I included the prosecutor’s offices in the national programme of investments in the prosecutor’s offices and courts headquarters and 18 county capitals will benefit from substantial investments. The fight against tax evasion, corruption, organised crime, in all forms, must remain this year priorities of the Prosecution Office,” the Justice Minister said, quoted by Agerpres.
Kovesi: DNA supports any initiative helping effectively confiscate frozen assets
The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) supports any legislative or institutional initiative that could help effectively confiscate the frozen assets for which a confiscation order has been issued, DNA chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said on Tuesday upon entering the Prosecution Office for the meeting for the presentation of the institution’s 2014 activity report.
“As I said it before, over 310 million euros are waiting for the enforcement of the final decisions that can be carried into effect. If this amount effectively entered the state budget, the doctors’ wages for the next year could be doubled, for instance. It is extremely important that the purpose of the penalty is achieved also by the recovery of these damages, which, I say this again, is sanctioned by final decisions that must be enforced,” said Kovesi.
She voiced her conviction that this would also deter corruption, and that the purpose of the punishment, which has also a preventive, not just a repressive side, will be achieved.
“Relevant statistical data shows that the French model is an efficient one. We support any institutional or legislative initiative that will lead to the efficient confiscation of the frozen assets subject to a confiscation order,” Kovesi added.
Duchaine, AGRASC: Best management of confiscated goods is selling them
The French Agency for Management and Recouping Seized and Confiscated Goods (AGRASC) Director Charles Duchaine says that prosecutors must give a lot of thought on what goods they place a lien, because their management may become a burden on the budget.
Present in the debate “Extended Confiscation: How Much Do We Recoup?” organised on Monday by Freedom House, he said that the best management of these goods is selling them.
“One must have also a mercantile spirit. Before asking a seizure, the prosecutor must study well the effect of that confiscation. We must avoid the situations where the dispossession of things will cost you,” Charles Duchaine said.
He presented the French model of the Agency he heads, in the perspective of establishing the National Management Office of Seized or Confiscated Goods.
The AGRASC is made up of 26 people, of whom 42% come from the judiciary, 42% from finance, and 16% are police officers, gendarmes or customs officers.
Duchaine said he does not the position he holds does not come with a car and driver so that the Agency may have an image beyond any reproach and for nobody to say that it takes advantages from confiscation.
Also attending the debate on the European and national implications of the financial and economic crime, mainly on the issue of extended confiscation and recouping the goods originating from crimes, were representatives of the AGRASC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice and the Bucharest Court of Appeals.