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September 17, 2021
JUSTICE

“Fraud and corruption in public procurement. From combating to prevention” debate: Kovesi: We won’t solve corruption issue just by arresting offenders; we need prevention measures. Prosecutor General Lazar: It is very important to keep confidence in dignified justice in Romania

The National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) chief prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, on Wednesday stated that the corruption problem will not be solved in Romania just by arresting offenders, sending public servants to trial or obtaining convictions for them, while adding that the investigative efforts of the prosecutors need to be doubled by prevention measures.

The statement was made in a debate focusing the topic: “Fraud and corruption in public procurement. From combating to prevention,” organized by the DNA.

“In general, when we talk about the crime phenomena, the approach starts from prevention to combat. However, and maybe you’ve already noticed this, we kind of did it the other way round, precisely because our investigations showed us that, in respect to public procurements or abuse of office crimes, we are dealing with repetitive patterns, with the same modus operandi on repeat, and that’s why we thought that making a study through which to show this modus operandi and the typologies that we were able to identify during our investigations will prove to be a very useful instrument for the other institutions in charge with prevention. In our previous public interventions, we have always insisted on this issue of prevention. For we won’t solve corruption in Romania just by arresting offenders, by sending to trial the public servants or obtaining convictions for them. Corruption in Romania can only be solved if the investigative effort of the prosecutors is doubled by prevention measures and serious education in what corruption is,” Kovesi.

She also added that more than half of DNA’s activity is represented by investigations into abuse of office cases.

“Starting from these conclusions, we’ve launched this project and we’ve made a study at the DNA regarding abuse of office and fraud in public procurement. More than half of DNA’s activity is represented by investigations into abuse of office cases. This is why we started to make this study,” explained the DNA chief.

 

“Political changes determine number of complaints lodged with the DNA, lodged even 10 years after the committal of the guilty act. Institutions should no longer wait for the change of Gov’t to lodge complaints”

 

Laura Codruta Kovesi says that the changes occurring in the political milieu influence the number of complaints lodged with the DNA. On Wednesday, in a debate on fraud in the field of public procurements, she stated that many complaints are lodged even ten years after the committal of the guilty act and that what is required is rendering the institutions responsible so as to no longer wait for the change of Government to lodge a complaint.

“Political changes determine the number of complaints lodged with the DNA,” Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated in a debate on fraud in the field of public procurements, a debate in which Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar also took part.

She stated that last year, for example, there were four cases in which complaints were lodged for guilty acts committed ten years ago, fourteen cases in which the complaints concerned guilty acts committed nine years ago, and twelve cases in which they concerned guilt acts committed eight years ago.

“We must render the institutions responsible and issue a warning signal so that an institution would no longer wait for the change of Government to lodge a complaint,” Kovesi emphasised.

According to her, in 2017 there were 51 indictments for abuse of office. In 38 percent of the cases, the prosecutors took notice ex officio, in 37 percent of the cases the DNA was notified because other structures declined their competence, in 16 percent of the cases the Directorate was notified by a natural or legal person, and in only 9 percent of the cases the complaint was lodged by a public institution. Likewise, she added that the average number of dossiers handled by one prosecutors remains at over 100. “This is also why we do not manage to solve all dossiers the year we receive them,” Kovesi added.

 

Kovesi on Microsoft case: Indictments aside, what did the other institutions do in nine years, before the DNA was notified; this is a question still standing. A verification was made, there are no other situations in which prosecutors issued dismissal solutions based on the statute of limitations

 

Referring to the Microsoft case, in which charges against seven ex-ministers were dropped because the guilty acts expired under the statute of limitations, DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated on Wednesday that aside from the fact that in this case prosecutors drafted four indictments and indicted several persons, the question left standing is why the DNA was notified nine years after the guilty acts were committed. She added that the dismissal of cases on grounds of statute of limitations is an isolated situation within the DNA, a verification showing that there are no other cases in which prosecutors issued dismissal solutions based on the statute of limitations.

“Aside from the fact that in that case the DNA drafted four indictments with which it indicted several persons, two of them ex-ministers – one of whom was convicted –, aside from the fact that the prosecutors noted what happened based on the evidence, they collected evidence and final sentences of up to 6 years were issued, the most important thing is that prosecutors seized the defendants’ assets in order to recover a damage of EUR 62.5 million and USD 22 million. A fairly natural question remains: why was the DNA notified nine years after the committal of the guilty acts, what did the other state institutions do for nine years?” Kovesi asked.

She added that a prosecutor must finalise the investigation before the statute of limitations deadline is reached, and the Microsoft case is “an isolated situation.”

Kovesi announced that a verification has just been carried out within the DNA and there are no other situations in which prosecutors issued dismissal solutions based on the statute of limitations.

 

Prosecutor General Lazar: It is very important to keep confidence in dignified justice in Romania

 

Keeping confidence in the Romanian justice system must be a priority for those working in the system, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar said on Wednesday in a debate on corruption, organized by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA).

“We work in an environment that is characterized by a very rapid pace of changes, by the complexity of the events that occur, and often the unpredictability of the events that occur. We need to know them, analyse and manage them in line with the law in Romania. The exchange of professional information in this context is like oxygen, because it helps each of us better understand what we have to do and helps us be more efficient, after we make a strategic analysis. In this context, it is very important to be able to keep the trust in a dignified Romanian justice system, a justice system of a European country with non-discredited institutions and genuine equality before laws,” said Lazar.

In his opinion, any initiative to amend criminal legislation should be based on impact studies.

“Now, when there is a great deal of interest in the incrimination text of the facts being well established in certain offenses, such as abuse of office, we often say that we must have impact studies to understand what is happening and whether we should alter or not the incrimination texts,” the prosecutor added.

He pointed out, regarding abuse of office, that it usually appears linked to other offenses committed by civil servants.

“Well, the offenses of abuse of office appear most often linked to conflict of interest, as well as forgery, fraud, but most often the most expressive is the link between abuse of office and conflict of interest, which has now been resized,” Augustin Lazar said.

 

Lazar: The composite sketch of the criminal committing abuse of office is similar to the composite sketch of the one committing conflict of interest

 

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar says there is a close link between abuse of office and conflict of interest, deeming that in the first case the composite sketch of the person committing abuse of office is that of a civil servant who is either elected – mayors, councilmen – or appointed – directors, chiefs of service –, while in the second case the composite sketch is more “sophisticated,” being that of “the author behind the authors,” the person who uses another civil servant.

“The composite sketch of the criminal committing abuse of office is similar to the composite sketch of the criminal committing conflict of interest. A first composite sketch is that of the civil servant that is either elected – mayors, councilmen –, or appointed – directors, chiefs of service. These persons have a conduct characterised as being abusive. Such a civil servant has an abusive conduct and, to solve his own interests, he exercises such a conduct, breaking a minimal deontology that a civil servant should have,” Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated on Wednesday in a debate on corruption in public procurements, debate organised by the DNA.

He said the second composite sketch is more “sophisticated,” because it concerns the “author behind the authors,” a person who uses another civil servant.

“We probably deal with sophisticated means of action that give the author behind the author the time to take protective measures and to use the person up front, to clean his tracks with that person. Often, this puppet doesn’t want to cooperate either,” Lazar emphasised.

He said that in most cases the “puppet” is a family member, a friend, or a political party member, “someone that can be sacrificed.”

Likewise, the Prosecutor General raised the issue of the neutralisation of the verification and control mechanisms of public institutions in which the said criminals work.

“The temporary neutralisation of these mechanisms gives the authors behind the authors the time to collect and hide the proceeds of crime. By the time the investigation reaches them, the person dies, the mandates change,” Lazar stated.

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