On Wednesday, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) presented its 2017 activity review report, the event being attended by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, U.S. Ambassador to Bucharest Hans Klemm, and High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) President Cristina Tarcea.
The presentation of the activity review report took place against the backdrop of the procedure to have DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi dismissed from office, and just one day after the Supreme Magistracy Council’s (CSM) Section for Prosecutors issued a negative report on the Justice Minister’s proposal to have the DNA Chief Prosecutor dismissed from office.
The activity review meeting was also attended by Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar and CSM Vice President Codrut Olaru. Justice Minister Tudorel Toader did not take part in the meeting, having announced on Tuesday, during the meeting of the CSM Section for Prosecutors, which issued a negative report on his request, that he will not attend the event even though he was invited to do so.
Toader stated on Tuesday that he is not to participate in the 2017 review meeting of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), invoking the fact that he didn’t receive the institution’s activity report.
“Tomorrow you have the review meeting, tomorrow is February 28, and by tomorrow you should have sent me the report [the DNA’s 2017 activity report) and I haven’t received it. Do you have an explanation? You’ve sent me an invitation and I thank you, but I surely won’t come, for I come there, as the Minister of Justice, to watch you having not fulfilled your legal obligation to give me the report. (…) According to the law, the report is to be sent to guests,” Toader stated at the meeting of the Prosecution Section of the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM), which considered the Minister’s request to remove form office the DNA chief prosecutor.
Prosecutor-in-chief of the DNA Laura Codruta Kovesi showed that the guests receive the report.
“The activity report is presented in written, it is forwarded to the Prosecutor General of the PICCJ [the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice], who is to send it to you and this thing has happened. (…) The people invited to take the floor categorically receive the activity report in order to write down things,” she explained.
Kovesi mentioned that the DNA’s 2017 activity report was sent in that very day to the Justice Minister.
“What am I to do, read it at night?,” Justice Minister Toader replied.
Anti-corruption head Kovesi at DNA stocktaking meeting: Anti-graft move has been strongly challenged
DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated on Wednesday, at the 2017 activity review meeting, that approximately 1,000 defendants were indicted, including 3 ministers, 5 House lawmakers, 1 Senator and 2 secretaries of state. She pointed out that 275 dossiers with a total damage of EUR 148 million were closed as a result of the CCR decision concerning abuse of office.
Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi said on Wednesday, at the presentation of the said body’s 2017 activity report, that the anti-graft move has been strongly challenged and questioned in the past year.
“This is a time when we look at what we’ve done well, at what we haven’t done well, at the mistakes we’ve made. It’s important that our analysis helps set the grounds for decisions to reduce corruption in Romania. 2017 was a difficult year in the fight of corruption. The move itself to fight corruption has been strongly challenged. And questioned. (…) We ask ourselves: do we have cleaner institutions, are the efforts of justice enough to eradicate this phenomenon, or are there other measures necessary as well,” Kovesi said at the beginning of the meeting for the presentation of the DNA activity report for 2017.
The anti-graft head also remarked that certain public procurement sectors are riddled with corruption as a generalized phenomenon.
“We are being notified about criminal acts that occurred 9-10 years ago; in 2017 there were two dossiers that were struck out under statute of limitations”
Kovesi also underscored that sometimes the institution is notified about criminal acts that took place 9-10 years ago, and in 2017 there were two dossiers that were struck out under the statute of limitations, while in 34 cases the crimes had already expired under the statute of limitations at the time the dossier was registered at the DNA. She stated mechanisms to render institutions responsible must be found so as not to wait so many years before filing a complaint and then to transfer the responsibility on prosecutors.
“Regarding the periods of time for which we receive notifications, we are often notified about criminal acts committed even 9 or 10 years ago. In 2017 we received 4 notifications for crimes committed 10 years ago, 14 notifications for crimes committed 9 years ago, 12 notifications for crimes committed 8 years ago, and 10 notifications for crimes committed 7 years ago,” Kovesi pointed out.
That is why the DNA Chief Prosecutor considers that “mechanisms to render the institutions responsible must be found so as not to wait so many years before lodging a complaint and then to transfer the responsibility on the prosecutors.”
“It’s very difficult to carry out an investigation and to administer evidence for crimes that are 9 or 10 years old. Nevertheless, even in these conditions, prosecutors have investigated and solved such cases too. Categorically, a prosecutor must finalise the investigation within a reasonable period, with expedience and within the period of prescription,” she said, noting that in 2017 there were 2 cases closed because the crimes expired under the statute of limitations, and that was the fault of a prosecutor.
“In this case we notified the Judicial Inspection. In another 34 dossiers the crimes had already expired under the statute of limitations at the time the dossiers were registered at the DNA,” Kovesi emphasised.
“189 defendants indicted for abuse of office”
“189 defendants were indicted for abuse of office, and the liens ordered for this type of crime alone surpassed EUR 95 million. This data shows a worrisome situation concerning the abuse of office phenomenon, which mostly manifests itself in the field of public procurements. It shows we do not have a clean and transparent system of public procurements,” Kovesi stated.
She reminded that in 2016 the CCR issued a decision concerning abuse of office, so that prosecutors can investigate only those abuse of office crimes that result in the embezzlement of public funds through the infringement of primary legislation, namely the infringement of the stipulations of laws or ordinances.
“Of course, as prosecutors we respect the Constitutional Court decision and can no longer talk about criminal accountability. As an effect of this Constitutional Court decision, 275 cases have been closed, cases in which prosecutors had established a total damage of EUR 148 million caused to public funds,” Kovesi pointed out.
She wondered in how many of the cases that the prosecutors closed due to the Constitutional Court decision other institutions started procedures to establish the disciplinary, administrative, or civil responsibility.
“I repeat: 275 cases closed, EUR 148 million. In how many cases did the other institutions make overtures to recover the damage? Is there an interest in recovering this money, that the citizens, the communities lost?” the DNA Chief said.
She mentioned another situation that she considers to be grave, namely the fact that public authorities do not bring civil actions to recover the damage incurred.
“They simply don’t want to recover the money. The refusal to recover the damage caused to the public budget is incomprehensible. Such a refusal validates abuse as an acceptable behaviour,” she said.
DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated on Wednesday, at the institution’s activity review meeting, that 189 defendants were indicted for abuse of office, and the liens instituted for this type of crime alone surpassed EUR 95 million.
Kovesi: We oppose the weakening of legislation, the elimination of instruments that are efficient to prove grave guilty acts
DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi stated on Wednesday, at the activity review meeting, that the institution opposes the weakening of legislation and the elimination of instruments that are efficient in proving grave guilty acts.
“We don’t draft the law, we enforce it,” the DNA Chief said, pointing out nevertheless that she opposes the weakening of the legislation.
“We oppose the weakening of the legislation, the elimination of instruments that are not efficient in proving some grave guilty acts, we oppose the modification of the independence of the magistrate,” Codruta Kovesi stated.
“Our plea is for a stable legislation, for a legislation in which prosecutors are independent,” the DNA Chief emphasised.
Iohannis, attack to Toader: Anti-corruption directorate’s efficiency far from being challenged, despite tendentious assessment
On Wednesday, taking advantage of his presence at the DNA’s activity review meeting, President Klaus Iohannis reiterated his support for the institution’s activity and for Chief Prosecutor Kovesi, while at the same time launching an attack on the Justice Minister. He congratulated the DNA for its activity, saying that this institution operates with efficiency, being in the first line of the anti-corruption fight, contrary to a “tendentious assessment” that “someone” presented to the public opinion.
“The DNA is an institution that functions efficiently and has been for years now in the first line of the anti-corruption fight. Contrary to a tendentious and partisan evaluation presented by someone to the public opinion last week, the DNA efficiency is far from being challenged : with 107 prosecutors over 11,000 cases were solved, meaning 100+ files on average for each prosecutor,” the President said at the presentation sitting of the DNA activity report on 2017.
Klaus Iohannis stressed that in 2017 over 3,800 criminal files were solved, by 16.5 percent more than in 2016, and that almost 1,000 defendants were prosecuted. Moreover, he pointed out that based on the DNA indictments, the courts have given final decisions to 713 culprits in 2016, the share of acquittals parking at 12 percent, of which one fourth as a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision through which the abuse of office was only limited to breaking the law and not to the infringement of Gov’t Decisions or of other pieces of legislation.
“Figures don’t lie. Figures are straight, unbiased,” the president stressed.
Iohannis: Farther and farther away from DNA’s Chief Prosecutor’s removal
The Head of State said that he is expecting a series of documents so as to make a decision in the case of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA)’s Chief Prosecutor, underscoring that “we are farther and farther away for a removal.”
“A decision today, no. I must wait for various documents, such as CSM’s motivation, but under the circumstance, it is obvious we are far from a removal from office. Farther and farther away,” the head of state affirmed before DNA’s 2017 assessment meeting.
Tarcea: We’re seeing the whole of Romania enrolled in an intensive law class taught by persons interested in solving their own cases
On Wednesday, at the DNA’s 2017 activity review meeting, High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) President Cristina Tarcea stated that she asked herself whether to take part in the event or not, choosing “the least comfortable option.” She said the institution is going through a period of crisis, and Romania is going through an intensive law class taught by persons interested in solving their own cases.
“It’s the first time that I asked myself whether the High Court President should take part in the DNA’s activity review meeting. I had two options. I chose to take part in it, choosing the least comfortable method. Even though we are at a stocktaking moment when nice words are being said, we cannot help but admit that the judiciary is going through a period of crisis, induced or not. We must be aware of this. Because we are experiencing a moment in which the whole of Romania is going through an intensive Law class, taught by persons interested in solving their own cases and who did not graduate a Law Faculty,” Cristina Tarcea stated on Wednesday.
She emphasised that the idea induced to society is that justice takes place according to the indications of this class, in which the entire country is enrolled, and she told the “students” that Law means morality and the persons who have a controversial relationship with morality should not have a say in what concerns justice and should have no place in the act of justice.
Likewise, the ICCJ President said that the past year has shown how much harm can be done to the judiciary, adding that the judge, even thought he must be “a silent referee,” cannot look on passively during the moments of crisis that courts, prosecutor’s offices, or lawyers are going through.
“The judge cannot stand on the obligation to be cautious, when the very act of justice is jeopardised. That is why the judge cannot look on passively on the moments of crisis that prosecutor’s offices, courts, or lawyers are going through. And I believe with this you have also found out the answer for today’s option. All that is in the interest of justice is also in the interest of the judge,” Tarcea explained.
Likewise, the ICCJ President said that the system’s problems must nevertheless be noticed, because they only create suspicion and mistrust.
“I believe it’s time that, while removing everything that is a lie and manipulation in the public space, we should objectively notice the causes within our system, which create suspicion and mistrust, and remove them. I’m talking about the judicial system in general. We can’t pretend not to see when the seed of mistrust has been planted and is starting to bear fruit. I would like the latest attacks not to intimidate those who are fighting for justice. Only a clean society is the key of success toward democracy and modernity,” Tarcea added.
She told prosecutors to be efficient and, especially, not to seek to be perfect, because being perfect means observing the appearance more than the essence.
PG Lazar: 2017 was a sensitive year, but I wouldn’t dramatize. When the sea is rough we can show the extent of our professionalism
Prosecutor General (PG) Augustin Lazar stated on Wednesday, at the DNA’s activity review meeting, that 2017 was a sensitive year however he would not dramatize its toughness, stating that when the sea is rough magistrates can show the extent of their professionalism.
“2017 was indeed a more sensitive, a more complicated year. I wouldn’t dramatize, in the sense that it was a tough year. When I look in this room, I see Public Ministry magistrates who have reached professional maturity and who now have to prove they can handle real problems. (…) When there are waves we can prove the extent of our professionalism,” Augustin Lazar stated.
The Prosecutor General pointed out that, as can be seen, “corruption continues to remain a phenomenon more relevant than ever.”
He said this phenomenon is not a Romanian invention, corruption being an international phenomenon that has generated common effort on the part of states.
Lazar pointed out that in the European experts’ reports the DNA has been assessed as being part of the five European bodies recommended as role models for good practices.
The Prosecutor General appreciated “the efficiency of the DNA’s management.”
Augustin Lazar also mentioned the cases of indicted magistrates and pointed out he mentions them because there has been public talk of the magistrates’ lack of accountability. He said they are being held accountable, including criminally, but the public discourse he referred to must have had in mind the accountability of certain magistrates who issued certain solutions.