Former chief prosecutor with the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi said on Friday that she never discussed with now fugitive media mogul Sebastian Ghita the extradition of disgraced businessman Nicolae Popa.
She went to the Prosecutor General’s Office on Friday, where she was informed about allegations in a court file opened on her name following the submission of a complaint by Sebastian Ghita. Ghita claimed that in 2011 Kovesi asked him to pay 200,000 euros for Nicolae Popa, the disgraced manager of a bankrupted National Investment Fund (INF) and internationally wanted now, to be flown in Romania.
“In January 2017, on the basis of the allegations made by this defendant, a criminal case opened regarding precisely this extradition. In January 2017 I got indicted as I was preparing to go to an interview [for a job with the European European Prosecutor’s Office]. So that’s not a coincidence. I had bought a flight ticket because I knew there were certain activities on February 18. I had no meetings outside an institutional setting. I attended events organised by state bodies to which I had been invited by the leaders of those bodies. If there are pictures, they are from those events of the bodies I attended. I have never talked to Sebastian Ghita either on the phone or by email, nor did I use the emails that the public would like you to believe. Pictures may obviously appear from those events, or doctored pictures may appear like fake recordings did. I have not discussed with anyone any criminal cases outside the institutional framework. I have never discussed with Sebastian Ghita this extradition,” Kovesi said, on her way out of the ProsecutorGeneral’s Office.
She showed that she had no powers related to the extradition of Nicolae Popa.
“I have never committed criminal offences. The accusations I have seen in public, made by a defendant in a DNA file, are pure fables. (…) I can tell you that I have never had powers related to the extradition of convict Popa Nicolae, and never have I done anything abusive to the extradition because I did not even have these powers. The Romanian Police and the minister of justice dealt with the extradition. The bribery accusation, from what I was told, is that I allegedly got money directly to pay for the extradition. Not true. There is also a press statement released by the Romanian Police, which shows that the payment of the extradition was made by the Romanian Police. There is also a statement by the Attorney General’s Office released in January 2017 that shows that the payment was made by the Romanian Police. So we have two official communiqués,” Kovesi said.
Investigators claim former chief prosecutor gets bribe from fugitive mogul for extradition of businessman
Prosecutors with the Judiciary Crime Investigation Section (SIIJ) are alleging that former chief anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi in 2011 asked for and received 268,689 lei from former media mogul and law maker Sebastian Ghita, now a fugitive, in connection with the extradition disgraced businessman Nicolae Popa, manager of a bankrupted National Investment Fund (FNI).
“Prosecutors with the Judiciary Crime Investigation Section (SIIJ) ordered on February 13, 2019, the extension of criminal prosecution, the commencement of in rem criminal prosecution and the continuation of prosecution of a former attorney general for bribe taking, as defined in Article 289 (1) in the Criminal Code of the Penal Code, abuse of office, as defined in Article 297 (1) paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code in accordance with the definition in Article 35 (1) of the Criminal Code (five misdemeanors) and a false testimony, as defined in Article 273 of the Criminal Code. Evidence administered so far in this case has revealed that in 2011, the then attorney general asked for and received 268,689.36 lei from the person injured in performing misdeeds contrary to her duties that involved the extradition of a convicted person who had been located in Indonesia – Jakarta,” reads a press statement released by SIIJ on Friday.
The case in which Laura Codruta Kovesi is accused opened in December 2018 following a complaint by disgraced media mogul and a former lawmaker Sebastian Ghita. He fled to Serbia after being sued in several corruption cases.
Ghita has claimed that in 2011 Kovesi asked him to pay 200,000 euros for internationally wanted Popa to be flown in Romania.
The Romanian Police reported in December having paid an airline more than 234,000 lei to fly Popa to Romania from Indonesia.
Kovesi demands two prosecutors investigating her be recused
Kovesi also said on Friday Friday that she filed two appeals with the Attorney General’s Office for the recusal of prosecutor Adina Florea and of the head of the Magistrates’ Investigation Section.
“I was informed about the charges against me and that I was a suspect. I filed two requests for the recusal of the case prosecutor and of the chief prosecutor of the section. After informing me, the chief prosecutor told me they would notify me about their response to the two requests for recusal. The reasons [for recusal] are the ones set out in the Code of Criminal Procedure, namely challenged impartiality,” Kovesi said as she left the Attorney General’s Office, where he was called in a case regarding the return to Romania of disgraced investor Nicolae Popa, manager of a late national investment fund.
She added that no preventive measures had been taken in the case.
Kovesi was greeted upon leaving by a throng of sympathisers who encouraged her. They shouted “Codruta, do not forget, we are on your side!” “PSD – red plague”, ” Tudorel, resign!”.
Her fans had laid tulips for her on the stairs to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
It will definitely affect my candidacy to European Public Prosecutor’s Office; I won’t stop
The former prosecutor-in-chief with the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, on Friday, upon her exit from the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that she won’t give up, but continue with her candidacy for the top job at the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, being ready to attend the hearing in the European Parliament, scheduled for February 26.
She also mentioned that the current case, in which she is being investigated by the Section for the investigation of magistrates, which is meant to bring former FNI (National Investment Fund) head Nicolae Popa back to Romania, might affect her candidacy.
“It will definitely affect my candidacy. But I won’t stop. I will go to the hearing in the European Parliament on February 26, as scheduled. However, there are a few more steps the candidates need to take until then. I will be sure to take them,” said Kovesi.
In her opinion, there is no coincidence in the fact that this case was opened precisely when her candidacy for the top job at the European Public Prosecutor’s Office was announced.
“This is no coincidence. For two years and a half now I have been harassed. Criminal complaints, disciplinary actions. I have 4 disciplinary actions, 18 criminal files. And I am not the only one in this situation. All those who did their job in magistracy face problems. The President of the High Court of Cassation is also dragged in a disciplinary action, members of the CSM [Supreme Council of Magistrates] who were more vocal are also being disciplinarily investigated. Prosecutors and judges who commented about the justice laws are also subject to disciplinary investigations,” she showed.
PM Dancila: Let justice do its work in Kovesi’s case
Premier Viorica Dancila said on Friday, referring to the case in which former chief anti-corruption prosecutor and front-runner for the position of EU Public Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi is investigated as a suspect, that it is not the Prime Minister’s job to comment on a subject related to Justice, and emphasized that everybody is equal before the law.
“I don’t want to comment on this, I don’t think it’s the Prime Minister’s job to comment on a subject related to Justice. All I want is for justice to do its work, to be independent. (…) I would like to make just one more point – before the law, we must all be equal and we must all be equally held accountable to the law,” Dancila said in Parliament.
As for the candidacy of Laura Codruta Kovesi for the position of European Chief Prosecutor, Dancila said that this position is not related to the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
“This position is not related to the Presidency of the Council of the EU, we are not competent for the nomination for European Prosecutor. As you know this subject is discussed in Parliament, in the LIBE Committee, so it has nothing to do [with the Presidency] and as long as it is not on the desk of the rotating Presidency, I don’t want to make any comments on this issue,” Dancila said.
CSM chair Savonea strongly disagrees with public allegations on case involving former chief corruption prosecutor
Chair of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) Lia Savonea, “strongly” disagrees with public allegations made “in a continuous and aggressive way” that can “intimidate and seriously affect” independence of the prosecutors involved in solving a case that involve former chief corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.
According to a CSM press statement released on Friday, Savonea complains that on February 13 and 14 the political class and other opinion leaders released into the public space through mass media “serious” allegations accrediting the idea of an illegal criminal investigation by the Justice Crime Investigation Division on political command and for intimidation purposes.
“The chair of the council strongly disagrees with such public allegations released in a continuous and aggressive way, that cross the red lines in public discourse on Justice, intimidating and seriously affecting the independence of the prosecutors involved in ongoing judicial proceedings, as well as exerting pressure on how their work should be carried out.”
According to the statement, Savonea, while respecting every citizen’s right to opinion, reiterates “categorically” that the criminal investigation and prosecution of magistrates is carried out legally only by the law enforcement bodies in compliance with the independence of prosecutors regarding the solutions adopted in the criminal cases they solve.
Savonea also warns about the imperative of respecting the separation and balance of powers in the public debate that need to be approached in a balanced way and with the responsibility of securing the independence of prosecutors in order to increase and strengthen society’s trust in the act of justice.