BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur is known for his robust interview style and his command of any subject he chooses to tackle. Observers in Bucharest, Brussels and across Europe watched with interest as he questioned Laura Kovesi, the European Union’s Chief Prosecutor, one year into her tenure in this new role. It seems widely acknowledged that she did not stand up well to his sharp interrogation when he quizzed her on her controversial track record in Romania.
The interview, which took place over video-conference with Kovesi on screen from her Luxembourg base, questioned whether Ms Kovesi had been successful in her previous role at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) in Romania, but the biggest sting was delivered when Sackur accused Kovesi of having “pushed the envelope” in terms of the legality of her Romanian investigations.
Sackur said to Kovesi: “People across Europe are going to be interested in how you're going to do the job and it is indeed notable that you had a certain reputation in Romania for let's say pushing the envelope in terms of investigative practice. You, it seems, were prepared to use the intelligence services in a covert fashion, to dig dirt on some of the suspects that you were going after and in the Romanian constitutional court some of your methods were called into question. Do you regret some of the methods you used?”
In fairness to Ms Kovesi it should be noted that she was not alone at the DNA. Other DNA prosecutors such as Nicolae Marin have also faced such allegations that would amount to “pushing the envelope”, to use Sackur’s phrase. The difference, perhaps, is that Marin did not lose his job at the DNA, but rather remained and gained more power, remaining a part of the structure that the international community has referred to as Romania’s “parallel state” or “Securitate 2.0”.
Kovesi responded: “No it’s not about the methods, it's about working arrangements that we had but at that moment, based on the legislation, we received information from the secret services and we used that information to open the cases. But it's important to say and to clarify that our investigations were made by the prosecutors and by police officers and no one from the officials of the Secret Service worked on our cases - only the prosecutors, police officers.”
Sackur was characteristically determined to press Kovesi further, responding: “I'll be honest with you - I was very struck by a former Romanian Prime Minister Mr Tariceanu saying that under your watch the anti-corruption agency had not respected legal frameworks, had become corrupt themselves and had become a part of the political fight in Romania. Some critics called you a part of Securitate 2.0 because of your cooperation with the security services. Again I put it to you that if you bring those methods to your Europe-wide prosecutor role, you're going to make many people very unhappy?”
Kovesi answered: “All our cases that we worked on in Romania were checked and verified in the courts. So at the European level we will work according to the legislation as I did in Romania all the time and everything that the prosecutors did in the cases were checked in the court by judges.”
As ever, Sackur was unrelenting on his point, firing back: “But with respect, the constitutional court in January 2019 concluded that you had created a parallel justice system existing outside the rules imposed by Romania's constitution!”
Kovesi answered: “There is not any decision of the constitutional court saying that I created a parallel state in Romania.” One has to assume that all of the Brussels elite took a collective sharp intake of breath that an EU Prosecutor even needed to utter such a statement.
Sackur did not back down, going on to say: “Well I am reading from one of their rulings of January 2019. Now I know that ultimately charges against you were dropped but nonetheless it's a very serious allegation that you created a parallel justice system. The question really is do you believe that in prosecuting corruption and fraud the ends justify the means?”
Kovesi answered: “If you read that decision based on which the constitutional court absolved me I should say that I made a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights and in this year in May the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights said that in that case my rights were broken so I don't know which kind of decision you call it but I can say that in my entire activity I respected all the time the constitution I respected the procedural Criminal Code and all the national law.”
Sackur continued: “But when it comes to winning… I'm just asking you a simple question now… when it comes to rooting out corruption, do you believe as an aggressive prosecutor that the ends do justify the means?”
Kovesi then responded: “No, all the time in my activity I respected the law and this is the only principle that I will take into consideration and we should take into consideration all the time, to respect the law.”
This episode of Hardtalk was one of the most fascinating discussions on the show in recent times. One European Parliament insider commented: “It is somewhat bizarre that we are in this situation. There are those who feel that Romania joined the EU far too soon, that the country is sadly a long way off reaching any kind of European standard in terms of rule of law. Yet here we are with a European Prosecutor from Romania sitting in Luxembourg, who as Stephen Sackur said, some critics called part of Securitate 2.0 because of her alleged cooperation with the security services.”
Russian - Irish Business Council launches an inquiry into Russian businessman
The Russian Irish Business Council has launched a broad inquiry into alleged illegal activities of Russian businessman Mr. Sergey Govyadin and his close associate Mr. Ildar Samiyev.
The Council, unifying companies working in the UK, EU and Russia, have sent a letter to HSBC and a number of other financial institutions in the UK requesting information the banks might have about Mr. Sergey Govyadin. It alleges that both he and Mr. Samiyev were obviously involved in money laundering and other illegal purposes via the UK legal system and the UK offices of HSBC. The Council asks to investigate possible acts of fraud by Mr. Govyadin and Mr. Samiyev. This information was also sent to the US Internal Revenue Service for consideration and possible feedback due to its criminal background. There are indications that both are using the US monetary mechanisms for their illegal activities. Full copies of these letters can be read at the foot of this article, whilst numerous legal papers are in EU Reporter's possession.
The story of Sergey Govyadin has much in common with other infamous "new riches" from Eastern Europe who have a profound criminal portfolio.
Visibly a prosperous real estate businessman and developer, Sergey Govyadin is alleged in Russian media as being involved in many criminal cases related to fraud and other criminal incidents on selling elite property and apartments in luxurious districts in Moscow. Newspapers in Russia call Mr. Govyadin a "shadow influencer" alleging corrupt connections with a number of police authorities.
Togather with Ildar Samiyev, Mr. Govyadin has long been featured in the Russian criminal chronicle as a scandalous person, primarily found in fraudulent deals with private property and luxe apartments in fabulous districts in Moscow and in its suburbs. Back in 2015, Govyadin was “crowned” as a “successful millionaire” by tabloid press. By that time he was married to the beauty pageant - Miss Russia. However, his name remains on the lists of fraudsters and corrupt officials published from time to time by the media.
According to them, Govyadin and Samiev denigrate other people who are their partners, in order to justify their allegedly illegal transactions. In Moscow, a high-profile trial has long been underway in the case of developer Albert Khudoyan, whom Govyadin and Samiev accused of fraud and deception. As a result, the businessman was arrested. His case became additionally known due to violations on the part of the investigation. Some corrupt law enforcement officials tried to profit from his arrest according to the media.
Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov has already defended Khudoyan. However, the process against him continues. Khudoyan suffers from heart disease.
The alleged illegal activities of Govyadin and Samiyev have a long history.
For example, together with Ildar Samiev, Govyadin is alleged to have taken part in the withdrawal of funds from Russian Svyaz Bank. He is alleged to have been involved in fraud with apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex in Khamovniki district of Moscow, as well as a number of other stories.
For example, back in 2014, Optima property management LLC, owned by Govyadin, took $ 95 million loan from the state-owned Svyaz Bank and used the funds to purchase 22 apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex under construction in Khamovniki. This company was controlled by Sergey Govyadin and Ildar Samiev through a chain of companies, namely the Russian LLC "Eurofinance" and the English company Mansfiled Executive Limited (from 25 to 50 percent of Mansfiled Executive Limited belongs to Govyadin, according to the Endole database). At the same time, the price of apartments under the deal was inflated, which allowed to actually withdraw more than a billion rubles from the state Bank.
The residential complex was constructed in 2016. Probably, because of the extremely high price, the purchased apartments remain on the balance sheet of Optima property management, since it is impossible to sell them at such a high price. Optima properties has not yet returned the debt to the Bank, and in 2018 Svyaz Bank filed a lawsuit to recover $ 95 million from Optima property management, but failed. As a result, the state, which is the owner of Svyaz Bank, suffered, having completed its rehabilitation in 2011. The debtor has apartments on the balance sheet that are unlikely to cost more than 50 percent of the debt amount, and more than 1 billion rubles settled on the accounts of the developer Knightsbridge, controlled by Govyadin.
It is obvious that the request of the Russian Irish Business Clouncilwill be an occasion for more close and detailed attention to the illegal activities of Govyadin & Co. British and American financial institutions will hopefully be held accountable of those international speculators.
USA tax letter
#blacklivesmatter - Brussels demo descends into white led violence
He promised that city (tax-payers) will refund damages to shop-owners from tomorrow onwards.
#blacklivesmatter It is still unclear how looting of luxury stores can upgrade value of «Black Lives».
Videos on social media show that violence against police was instigated by white demonstrators!
Making sure crime does not pay: Commission reports on implementation of EU rules on seizing criminals' assets
The Commission is today reporting on the implementation of EU rules on seizing tools used to commit crimes and revenues from criminal activities. Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas, said: “We need to hit criminals where it hurts the most. Seizing illicit assets is one of the most powerful means to tackle serious and organised crime. Criminals and their assets move easily across borders, so we must strengthen action at EU level, together with member states and EU agencies.”
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, said: “We need the right tools at our disposal to quickly and effectively deprive criminals of their financial gains and break their business model. We will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and the Council towards building a more effective EU asset recovery system.”
The report shows that the EU has deployed considerable efforts to harmonise rules on confiscation and asset recovery. Thanks to the 2014 Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime, there are now clear rules in place across the EU for seizing criminals' assets. In addition, Asset Recovery Offices have been established in all member states, helping to quickly trace illicit assets.
The recently-adopted Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing orders and confiscation orders will also improve cross-border cooperation. However, much more remains to be done. Only 1% of criminal proceeds are confiscated in the EU according to Europol estimates, allowing organised crime groups to invest in the expansion of their criminal activities and infiltrate the legal economy.
The Commission will now assess the potential for further developing the EU's asset recovery system, based on the results of today's report, and in close cooperation with the European Parliament and the Council. The report and its annex are available online. More information on confiscation and asset recovery is available online.
Mongolia4 days ago
The Mongolian connection to Lukashenko’s money
Brexit3 days ago
MEPs delay Brexit trade vote until UK respects withdrawal agreement
European Commission5 days ago
Victor Shokin files complaint with European Commission over 2016 firing
Caribbean4 days ago
The imperative of foreign direct investment for Caribbean countries
Kazakhstan3 days ago
Kazakhstan’s government determined to enhance engagement with civil society
Uzbekistan4 days ago
Expansion of Uzbekistan’s beneficiary status to GSP+ marks start of new EU-Uzbekistan partnership
Romania4 days ago
Bucharest prepares for Solar Decathlon Competition in 2023
Cyprus4 days ago
European Commission registers Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)