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December 3, 2021

Romanian anticorruption chief praised by Financial Times

In an article titled “Romania in top-level graft crackdown as paper tiger barest teeth,” the renowned Financial Times praises Laura Codruta Kovesi, who leads with an iron hand the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). “Romania — once considered one of the EU’s most corrupt countries — has become an anti-graft test bed. High-profile convictions have transformed public perceptions of its anti-corruption directorate, the DNA: once seen as a paper tiger established as a condition for EU membership, it is now hailed as a fearsome adversary of even the country’s most powerful politicians,” the ample article published by the Financial Times reads.

Andrew Byrne, the author of the article, mentions among the DNA’s successes the case of Premier Victor Ponta, indicted this month for a series of corruption acts dating back to 2007-2008. Ponta’s assets have been seized, along with the accounts of Dan Sova, his associate at the time, and of former Finance Minister Darius Valcov, who have also been charged with corruption.

“Now, under Laura Kovesi, the 42-year old prosecutor and former national team basketball star who has led the DNA since 2013, the agency’s conviction tally is mounting rapidly, with more than 1,000 secured last year.

Romania’s graft purge. Its performance has begun to draw attention from countries similarly afflicted by corruption, such as Greece, Bulgaria and Croatia, where there is growing interest in how Romania’s anti-graft prosecutors have become so powerful. Since it was set up in 2002, DNA has received strong international backing; from the European Commission, which made progress in fighting corruption a condition of EU membership, and also from the United States. Monica Macovei, a justice minister, relaunched the agency under new leadership in 2005,” the author of the article writes.

“The crackdown has also had unintended consequences; fear of prosecution has paralysed public administration, says one businessman, who warns anxious mid-level officials have stopped awarding public contracts to avoid scrutiny. For some, Romania’s prosecutors have become too powerful and their investigations too wide-ranging. MPs will discuss proposals in autumn to limit the use of so-called pre-trial “preventive arrests”, a measure some say is designed to clip the agency’s wings,” the Financial Times warns.

Likewise, the publication points out that the DNA enjoys the support of President Klaus Iohannis, while Victor Ponta claims that the case against him is politically motivated. Nevertheless, he resigned from the helm of the party and is showing signs that he would give up power, the publication says, reminding that according to statistics the DNA has an approval rating of 65 per cent and that its actions are perceived as the long-overdue purge of a political class that maintained a Communist-era network of patronage and clientelism for nearly two decades after the execution of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

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