Crusading Romanian Anti-Graft Prosecutor Faces Threat to Job

Updated on
  • Justice minister seeks to remove anti-corruption head Kovesi
  • President has final say in decision to oust chief prosecutors

Laura Codruta Kovesi

Photographer: Andrei Pungovschi/AFP via Getty Images

Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said he’s seeking to replace the nation’s top anti-graft prosecutor, who’s led an unprecedented crackdown on corruption that’s sent dozens of politicians to prison and rattled many others.

Tudorel Toader 
Photographer: DANIEL MIHAILESCU/Getty Images

While President Klaus Iohannis has the final say on naming or changing magistrates, Toader said Laura Codruta Kovesi, who’s led the Anti-Corruption Directorate since 2013, should stand aside, citing recent scandals involving prosecutors. In one, recordings appeared to indicate an intention to plant evidence in a case. Iohannis said that while Kovesi retains his backing, he’ll analyze Toader’s report, according to statement on his website.

The directorate “has been involved in not one but three conflicts of a Constitutional nature and the court found that it’s repeatedly exceeded its authority,” Toader told a news conference Thursday in Bucharest. “It’s thus created a state of tension and pressure on the government.”

Romania’s ruling coalition has called for a review of the anti-corruption authorities who’ve convicted or sent to trial many of their colleagues, including a former prime minister. The Social Democrats, who’ve already replaced two premiers in the past year, have also triggered protests and European Union criticism after trying to decriminalize corruption offenses including abuse of power.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the government building in Bucharest Thursday to show their support for Kovesi. Last year, 500,000 demonstrators successfully repelled Social Democrat efforts to ease punishments for graft. Since then, thousands have joined rallies in the capital to back the anti-corruption fight.

Minister’s List

Toader presented a list with 20 alleged wrongdoings committed by Kovesi in her managerial activities. They include undermining parliament and the government, exceeding her authority, interfering in cases and seeking convictions “at any cost.”

Last week, Kovesi denied all wrongdoing and said justice is under attack by suspects on trial or under investigation as part of a wider plan to undermine anti-graft efforts. Chief prosecutor Augustin Lazar said Thursday in an emailed statement that he sees no reason for her dismissal.

Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, who’s already received a two-year suspended sentence for electoral fraud and faces further graft probes, is pushing for the creation of parliamentary committees to investigate the way institutions function.

(Updates with president in second paragraph, justice minister in last.)
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