Suspended by the newly created and controversial Special Section for the Investigation of Magistrates, Laura Codruta Kovesi presented herself today at the headquarters of the Bucharest Police Section no. 18.
“I am a prosecutor who managed to inspire fear to those who want to steal in peace,” she mockingly said upon leaving.
She was referring to the governing Socialist (PSD) party, led by Liviu Dragnea, the speaker of the lower chamber of the parliament, a man twice convicted, for vote-rigging and corruption.
On Thursday 28 March, right before she was preparing to fly to Brussels, Kovesi, the former Romanian anti-corruption prosecutor, has been placed under “judicial control”, after she has been indicted in two different criminal cases that seem trumped-up and do not stand serious scrutiny.
The charges seem spurious at least. She is accused by a fugitive former businessman who is seeking asylum in neighbouring Serbia, Sebastian Ghiță, of having asked him to pay 200,000 lei (43,000 €) for the extradition from Indonesia of Nicolae Popa, one of the key people involved in the National Investment Fund (FNI) Ponzi scheme at the end of the 1990s. Popa was brought back to Romania in April 2011.
A second case was opened in early March, in which she stands accused of abuse of power while leading the Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
The prosecutor assigned to her case, Adina Florea, also prohibited her from talking to the press.
“I am troubled by reports that Laura Kovesi has been placed under “judicial control” by Romanian authorities, prohibited from leaving the country, and banned from speaking to the media,” the Canadian ambassador Kevin Hamilton tweeted immediately.
Kovesi is expected to challenge these measures in court, but they will complicate her candidacy for head of the European Prosecutor’s Office, for which she has qualified through a serious selection procedure.
The move comes in a context in which the negotiations for the head of the European Prosecutor’s Office came to a final stage. On April 4 and 10, the EU Council and the European Parliament will have two rounds of negotiations, after the previous two have not come to a conclusion.
MEPs defied Bucharest and threw their support behind Kovesi, but member states have backed Kovesi’s French rival Jean-Francois Bohnert.
The main issue raised by her indictment is that if the dossier is sent to court and it is accepted, then Kovesi will automatically be suspended from the magistracy during her trial. This could really throw her out of the race for the European Prosecutor’s Office.
With all possible European goodwill, a chief prosecutor who is prohibited from leaving her native country is a situation unforeseen in any procedure and this makes her highly vulnerable.
It is a totally unforeseen situation that the EU might not be able to manage.