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September 20, 2019

Scourge of Romania’s politicians to become EU anti-graft supremo


September 20, 2019

BUCHAREST: A symbol for many of the fight against corruption in one of the EU’s most graft-ridden states, Romania’s Laura Codruta Kovesi is now all but certain to become Europe’s top prosecutor -- in the teeth of opposition from her own government.

As the head of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) from 2013 to 2018, Kovesi was the scourge of Romania’s political class, before being controversially removed at the left-wing government’s behest.

Her appointment comes as that same government, led by the left-wing Social Democrats (PSD), pauses its controversial package of judicial reforms which have been fiercely criticised by the European Commission for allegedly weakening judicial independence.

The self-described "stubborn" Kovesi became a bete noire for the PSD but was popular among the protestors, who have turned out in thousands since early 2017 to "defend the rule of law", often brandishing placards bearing Kovesi’s name.

President Klaus Iohannis, who hails from the centre-right and has been at loggerheads with the government, often defended the 46-year-old Kovesi -- although he was eventually forced to approve her dismissal from the DNA.

On Kovesi’s watch, the DNA’s prosecutors indicted 14 serving or previous ministers, 43 MPs and senators and more than 250 elected local officials.

One of the politicians brought down by the crackdown was Liviu Dragnea, the former head of the PSD who was seen as the country’s strongman.

In May, he began a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for using his influence to procure fake public jobs for PSD party workers.

Some saw this as the reason for the PSD’s antipathy towards Kovesi. In early 2019 the then justice minister Tudorel Toader sent his EU counterparts a letter painting a damning picture of Kovesi’s record.

Meanwhile a new panel charged with investigating magistrates indicted Kovesi in March on counts of bribery, abuse of office and false testimony.

Kovesi branded the charges "baseless" and said they were an attempt to prevent her taking up the post in Brussels.

One of the frequent accusations of the PSD government relates to "abuses" by the DNA under Kovesi’s leadership.

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