Perp Walk ‘Fashion’ Frustrates Romanian Anti-Graft Prosecutor

  • Suspects boost attacks to undermine judiciary, Kovesi says
  • Prosecutor says she’s determined to continue anti-graft fight

Romanian politicians, whose ranks have been decimated by hundreds of graft-related arrests, are trying to undermine the biggest anti-corruption drive in the country’s modern history by trivializing the investigations, Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said.

“Lately, we have been seeing an attempt to mock the anti-corruption fight, to make it insignificant,” Kovesi said in an interview in Bucharest on Thursday. “So what if you’re investigated by the prosecutors? It’s fashionable to be investigated by the anti-corruption directorate.”

Since Kovesi, 43, embarked on an anti-corruption crackdown akin to Italy’s 1990s Clean Hands campaign, Romania has sent a record number of officials to trial. The suspects included a sitting prime minister and dozens of other cabinet members, with many still being detained for graft and bribe taking.

As the campaign for general elections scheduled for Dec. 11 heats up, several politicians started promoting an anti-judiciary message to justify some officials continuing to hold public positions despite being probed or convicted. Public trust in the anti-corruption directorate remains the highest among Romanian institutions at 55 percent, even after a recent decline, according to a survey by the polling company Avangarde, cited by the Bucharest-based Antena 3 television station on Thursday.

‘High Level’

Kovesi herself has been the target of plagiarism accusations over her doctoral thesis, which she denies. While assuring citizens that prosecutors don’t feel discouraged by the attacks that “start from a very high level” and at times get personal, Kovesi sees a risk that the credibility of the entire justice system could be harmed.

Prosecutors at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism probed private investigators allegedly hired by graft suspects to dig up dirt and harass Kovesi’s family in an attempt to harm her image.

“It’s true that sometimes these attacks come from people with very high-ranking positions,” Kovesi said. “But neither I nor the other prosecutors feel any bit intimidated by these attacks, especially because they are based on false statements.”

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