Head prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, has stated, in an interview granted to Agerpres on Tuesday, that prosecutors are worried more by the “dramatic effects” that corruption has, than by attacks coming from persons under investigation.
“If we speak of worries, we are worried more by the dramatic effects that corruption has and than by the attacks made by persons under investigation,” Kovesi said.
The DNA head stated that, there are currently over 7,600 criminal cases in investigation, all regarding high-level corruption.
Does the current legislative framework allow for the DNA activities to take place in good conditions or do you believe certain modifications are necessary?
For the moment, I can say, as can be noted from the daily activity, that there are no legislation problems to hinder activity. But, if we are referring to recent events, we can say yes, there is that problem with immunities, especially immunities that regard ministers or former ministers that are suspected for actions that are committed during their tenure and who have immunity for life. In such cases, our activity is blocked if through a vote in Parliament, for example, the criminal investigation procedures are not authorized. Yes, in such cases, justice is hindered by a political vote.
How pressing is the legislative resolve regarding the immunity of MPs and members of Government and how do you see it resolved? Could it be a conflict between state institutions? Recently, you named the Oprea and Corlatean cases, in which you showed that the political vote blocked the investigation.
Yes, they are recent cases, they are cases that have quite a lot of impact in society when these investigations were opened. There were cases in which the civil society, the citizens had points of view when these investigations were opened. Unfortunately, at this moment, the two investigations are blocked. If I were to refer to the case named colloquially ‘the Diaspora Vote case’, it is blocked at this moment because we did not receive approval on that request for criminal investigation of minister Corlatean.
Can it be named a conflict between the Legislative and prosecutors?
If there is a conflict between state powers, this is observed by the Constitutional Court. I cannot say. I am just saying that in both cases there was political will that stopped a judiciary investigation, which shouldn’t have happened.
On the topic of regulating this problem you are facing – you spoke of life immunity for ministers and parliamentary immunity – have you had discussions with possible stakeholders in order to eliminate them?
No. Over the years, I issued opinions to the Ministry of Justice or the Superior Council of Magistracy in which I expressed this position.
You mentioned recently, referring to the resignation of Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu as head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), that DNA was never in conflict with SIE, nor with other institutions. On the other hand, you said that an intelligence service, when it comes into possession of information regarding corruption, it is obligated to notify that matter. Is there a DNA investigation in which SIE verifiably lacked to inform a criminal matter?
Did the lack of notice from SIE lead to the delay in some investigations?
It’s not related. The observation that I made regarding the legal obligation of intelligence services to notify us when they come into possession of information regarding corruption has no relation to the cases we are currently investigating. It was a general observation, made after a study that was published by an NGO and which issued evaluations for the collaboration of some institutions in their relation with the National Anticorruption Directorate. I was presenting statistics.
Not even in cases like EADS?
Do you believe the former leadership of the Service is responsible for the lack of information from SIE and what expectations do you have from the future leadership?
I am not apt to evaluate the activity of this information service. I have presented very clear statistics, based on numbers.
After the case involving the Department for Information and Internal Protection (DIPI) [of the Ministry of Internal Affairs] and the change in their leadership, how will you work with this structure?
As until now, in the limits of the law. They have the obligation, by law, to send information when they come into their possession and pertain to acts of corruption. Up to now, we have received requests from DIPI, we will probably receive others in the future.
Do you believe it would be opportune to unify in a single structure the procedures undertaken for making and processing wiretaps?
From the viewpoint of the DNA, I can say that we, at this moment, have a single service through which we conduct this activity. Thus, I don’t know why there should be another work system.
How is the surveillance activity undertaken by prosecutors going currently, after the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) decision?
Are you referring to technical surveillance, to wiretaps?
Yes. We fully respect the decision of the Constitutional Court. All authorizations that are granted by courts of las are executed by the DNA’s technical service.
But on the matter of translations?
As up to now, we use translators authorized by the Ministry of Justice. When there are conversations in a foreign language, we turn to these authorized translators that we pay and they execute the translations that are submitted to the case file.
Were the cases built by the DNA affected by the CCR decision? Has there been an evaluation made?
At this moment, it is premature to say if they were affected or not. After the publication of the decision of the Constitutional Court, all wiretaps were conducted by the technical service of the DNA. We will see at the end of the year how many of the wiretaps made previous to the entry into force of this decision were annulled or not by the courts or were excluded, the motivation for that being that decision.
Was there progress recorded in the recent period regarding recuperation of damages noted in DNA cases?
I would like to mention very clearly that the recuperation per se of damages is not in DNA competence, it is in the competence of the Ministry of Finance who should execute the court decisions to convict. DNA has in competence just identifying the goods and placing liens on them until a definitive court decision to convict is pronounced an, of course, to seize these goods. I can say that, from the year’s start and until now, DNA prosecutors have place liens on goods and funds totaling approximately 250 million euro.
Recently, the Bucharest Tribunal has declared null several pieces of evidence collected by investigators in the case of Craiova City mayor, Lia Olguta Vasilescu, and that she was denied the right to defense. Is this a failure of the prosecutors that have instrumented the case?
We do not have a court decision of guilty or not guilty. We will remedy what the judge will dispose.
There are situations in which, in a preliminary chamber, the judge eliminates certain evidence from cases. How much does this affect you?
I believe that I should start by explaining a bit the procedure in the preliminary room. Once the case is completed by prosecutors in this preliminary chamber, the judge checks the legality of the charge and the legality of the way in which the evidence was administered. There are situations in which the judge believes that certain evidence should be excluded or believes that the prosecutor must make certain additions or remedy some procedural matters. In this situation, the judge sends to the prosecutor a decision through which he requests the remedy or correction of certain matters pertaining to procedure, gives him a term of five days to respond, after which a definitive decision is taken in the preliminary chamber.
I have noted that in the public space, many times, when this procedure occurs there is confusion that the case is finalized, that the case was returned to prosecutors, that all evidence was excluded. Which isn’t true. There are situations in which we had cases in which the persons that were sent to court had larger notoriety than the persons appearing in the case. Certain evidence was excluded for other defendants, but the public space spread the idea that the case was returned and that the evidence regarding the former defendant was excluded, which is totally false. There are situations in which certain evidence is excluded, but this doesn’t mean that the case does not follow through. This means that the accusation didn’t rely on one piece of evidence and this does not meant that the prosecutor in the term set by the judge cannot correct certain procedures that he undertook during criminal investigation. There were many case in which public persons were involved and in which mentions were made in the public space that the case was returned to prosecutors, which isn’t true and is contradicted by the fact that the cases once out of the preliminary chamber, continue on their course.
You stated, also, in a recent interview, that “recently, companies paid with a lot of money are employed to harass DNA prosecutors”. Is there concern amongst prosecutors? How is this harassment occurring?
Laura Codruta Kovesi: I believe the concern exists among persons under investigation if they appeal to such methods. I can tell you that DNA prosecutors are not easily impressed, nor are they worried by such tactics. They are already used to the attacks undertaken in the public space by persons that we investigate or supporters of them. A great deal of times, such attacks occurred immediately after certain procedures were launched. There are attacks where we cannot come out and explain what we have on file because this is forbidden. Our only answer is to finalize the cases as quickly and good as possible and the appropriate answer comes with the definitive court decision issued in every case. I saw that, a great deal of times, there were situations in which we were accused that the cases are political, that the cases are not solid, that we do not have evidence and with all that we gained conviction decisions. So, we are in a phase in which DNA prosecutors are sufficiently mature, experimented and courageous to face these attacks. Contrariwise, if we speak of worries, we are worried more by the dramatic effects that corruption has and not by the attacks made by persons under investigation.
How is this harassment conducted?
Laura Codruta Kovesi: It can be done in many ways and it is done every day. There are attacks made through public statements, through Facebook posts, through leaking file documents to the public space. I must say that, according to the New Code of Criminal Procedure, from the moment a person is accused and is notified of his quality as a suspect, the prosecutor must give him a copy of the entire case, thus it is made public. Many times certain documents from a case are presented, certain evidence. I noted that, many times, only certain fragments of certain documents drawn up by the prosecutor are presented. On the other hand, there are situations in which many complaints are filed against the prosecutor, with the CSM [Superior Council of Magistracy], or elsewhere. There are many methods to harass prosecutors.
Is the personal life of prosecutors affected?
Sometimes yes. Sometimes, the attacks go beyond professional limits. A lot of times a prosecutor is attacked from the perspective of his personal life, for certain events that he participated in or certain things that he did in his free time.
You said that DNA prosecutors are subjected to attacks. There are statements regarding yourself, including from persons who are holding or held high office in the state. Do you believe that there is need for legislative regulation in these situations?
Laura Codruta Kovesi: I am not the adept of legislative amendments when certain people make denigrating accusations in public. I believe it is more a matter of education, of how each understands to express himself. The legislation allows, at this moment, that when certain attacks exceed a certain limit for them to be fought in court. Most times, on the topic of such attacks, we notify the CSM. I can tell you that if there’s more than one or two a month, we notify the CSM. This year, until now, we have made 12 such requests to defend the reputation and independence of prosecutors of the DNA. It is a higher number than in past years. These are the legal solutions we can appeal to. I don’t know if a legislative modification can limit or stop such attacks.
Has the Black Cube case changed anything in your activity and life?
There is criticism regarding the acquittals in DNA prosecutors’ cases. Are they justified? Is it a concern for you?
No, there is no concern and there is no reason for concern. I will present some statistics: this year, we have sent to court nearly 800 persons. The courts handed down definitive convictions for around 600 persons. The rest of the cases are underway. The percentage of acquittals is at the same level as in previous years, so there is nothing to concern us. On the contrary, the quality of cases I would say is good, given that the percentage of convictions in the past years was around 90 percent.
How many cases are you working on? How many involve high-ranking dignitaries – ministers, former ministers, MPs?
Today we have over 7,600 criminal cases we are working on. As per the competence provided by law, all these cases regard high-level corruption. I cannot give figures on how many are dignitaries or how many persons with important functions, because we keep statistics based on the crimes committed, and these refer to high-level corruption.