Romanian MEPs question suitability of #EuropeanPublicProsecutorsOffice chief

| February 20, 2019

A group of Romanian MEPs have questioned the suitability of Laura Codruța Kövesi (pictured) to head the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

An email reportedly signed by 11 of the country’s deputies and seen by this website asks if Kovesi is the right candidate for the job.

Kovesi, who headed the country’s DNA (National Anticorruption Directorate) for four years, was an early frontrunner for the position of chief prosecutor of the newly-established EPPO, a new EU agency to tackle fraud and corruption. Kovesi used to head up Romania’s anti-corruption directorate before being leaving the position after allegations of abuse of power and misconduct.

She was scheduled to be interviewed by the LIBE committee on 26 February.

The despatch from the Romanian MEPs puts another question mark against Kovesi’s credentials for the job.

The email says, “We want the new EPPO to succeed, which is why the Romanian government was among the first to join the new organisation. It is this  kind of respect towards the office of EU’s Chief Prosecutor that urges us to hope that the best and most qualified candidate will succeed. While Ms Kovesi is under investigation, we feel it would be extremely risky to support her candidacy for such an honourable and important position, until the facts are examined, and judgement is pronounced.”

It goes on, “Among the qualifications required of the candidate is ‘independence beyond doubt.’ We believe there is more than ample doubt in Ms Kovesi’s case.”

The email says the MEPs also want to challenge reported comments by another Romanian MEP, Monica Macovei, of the ECR group, who is said to have circulated a note recently to all MEPs concerning the candidacy of Kövesi for the EPPO post.

Mrs Macovei, in her reported email, refers to “fake charges” against Kovesi  designed to “stop her in the run for EPPO chief prosecutor.”

She goes on to say that the Romanian government is “now trying to stop her at any cost.”

As Justice Minister in a previous government, Mrs Macovei appointed Kovesi as General Prosecutor. Kovesi was later appointed the head of DNA.
The email  from the MEPs says, “We are very concerned that some of her assertions will be misleading. We therefore feel it is necessary to clarify certain points regarding the serious criminal charges that are brought against Ms. Kovesi by the Romanian justice.”

The MEPs says they want to “correct” three points in particular.

“First,” they write, “Ms Macovei asserts that the Venice Commission recommended against the formation of the Magistrates’ Investigation Section, the body responsible for investigating the charges against Ms Kovesi. This is incorrect.
“The Investigation Section was previously housed within Ms Kovesi’s agency, the DNA. Based on data supplied by the DNA, the Venice Commission questioned the need to make the Section an independent body. But, subsequently, once the Section’s files had been transferred away from DNA control, it was discovered that the data supplied to the Venice Commission was wrong.”
The second point they raise concerns Ms Macovei’s reported reference to the 2011 extradition of a Romania male from Indonesia who had been given a lengthy prison sentence for operating an illegal pyramid sales scheme.

The email says, “She fails to mention that Ms Kovesi should have played no role in the extradition. She was General Prosecutor at the time. Extradition is the legal responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Domestic Affairs.
“This is an important point. At that time, there was an election campaign in Romania. President Traian Băsescu turned the extradition into a decisive moment of his re-election campaign. According to the denunciation submitted to support Ms Kovesi’s indictment, Mr Băsescu turned to her to get it done, and promised that if she succeeded he would appoint her as head of DNA. This was the career benefit she had reason to expect from her intervention in the extradition. It was a benefit which she in fact did receive.”

Thirdly, the MEPs refer to the cost of the flight returning the man from Indonesia to Romania.
“The total cost of the private flight was €120,000. This was above the amount that could be authorised without a public tender. Ms Kovesi did not have time for that prior to the end of the election campaign. So she arranged for the Ministry for Domestic Affairs to pay €52,000 and then a private company owned by the person who has since become a witness against her, to pay another €68,000.
“This too is important, because it relates directly to the charge against Ms Kovesi of giving false testimony. She claims barely to know the man who has denounced her, denying that she even exchanged emails with him.Yet, he has supplied videos of their encounters and of their emails to one another.”

The email is signed by Dan NICA,head of the Romanian PSD delegation; Ioan Mircea Pașcu, a vice president of the European Parliament; Victor Boștinaru, a vice president of the S&D Group along with MEPs Emilian Pavel, Maria Grapini, Claudia Țapardel,Maria Gabriela Zoană,Andi Cristea,Doru-Claudian Frunzulică, Răzvan Popa, Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu.

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