Romania besieged anti-graft chief boasts record prosecutions
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s besieged anti-corruption chief says the agency last year prosecuted a record number of cases, at a time when political attacks on the anti-corruption fight have escalated.
Laura Codruta Kovesi, National Anti-Corruption Directorate chief prosecutor, on Wednesday presented the office’s annual report, saying last year 1,000 officials had been sent to trial for corruption-related cases, including three ministers, six lawmakers and a former Parliament speaker.
She said the office had successfully prosecuted 713 officials, including 28 mayors, 38 managers of public institutes and a senator.
She cautioned, however, that corruption is still widespread, alleging some hospital managers have taken millions of euros in bribes, while the defrauding of European Union funds has doubled.
President Klaus Iohannis congratulated Kovesi on the office’s work, saying “figures don’t lie.”
He called assaults on the credibility of the agency “the virulent manifestation of desperation from people who.... want to subordinate justice to politics.”
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has called for Kovesi to be removed from her post for allegedly being unfit for the job, but that request was rejected Tuesday by the country’s top legal body. Iohannis has the final say whether to dismiss her, which looks unlikely.
Kovesi said Wednesday that her office had instituted new mechanisms to investigate allegations of unprofessionalism or illegality among prosecutors. Last year, two prosecutors were fired.
The European Union keeps Romania’s justice system under special monitoring. Romania ranks as one of the bloc’s most corrupt countries.
Last year, the ruling Social Democratic Party tried to decriminalize several corruption offenses, triggering the largest street protests in Romania since communism ended.