Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romania’s highly-respected former chief prosecutor, has been charged with corruption, jeopardising her bid to become the EU first public prosecutor.
Kovesi was interviewed for six hours on Thursday in relation to allegations that she asked a former MP to pay for a private plane to fly an exiled businessman from Indonesia to Romania to face a prison sentence related to the collapse of a Ponzi scheme in 2000.
Kovesi was charged with bribery, abuse of office and and false testimony by the Special Section for the Investigation of Magistrates. She was also placed under judicial control, meaning she can’t leave the country for 60 days and must present herself regularly at a police station.
Kovesi said on Thursday that she had been told not to speak to the press about the case.
“It is an attempt to shut me up and harass all of us in the justice system who did our jobs properly,” she told journalists after her hearing at the special prosecutor’s office.
“Some people are probably desperate that I might get the job [of chief EU Chief Prosecutor] so I am not allowed to speak to the media any more,” she added.
The Romanian government bitterly opposes Kovesi’s nomination to the role of European Public Prosecutor, having long accused accused her of overstepping her authority as Chief Prosecutor in Romania.
During her time in office Kovesi indicted dozens of PSD and politicians others linked to the party for corruption, a record which won her praise from abroad and among the Romanian people, but opprobrium from the Romanian government which finally succeeded in firing her last July.
Kovesi is the European Parliament’s candidate for the new role, while the EU Council, which is led by Romania, supports the French candidate Jean François Bohnert.
On April 4 and 10, the EU Council and the European Parliament will have two rounds of negotiations after the previous one failed to reach a conclusion.
Senior EU leaders have expressed their disquiet at the the latest proceedings against Kovesi by government in Bucharest.
President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani wrote on Twitter that he was: “Concerned by news that Laura Codruţa Kövesi has been placed under judicial control. @Europarl_EN stands by its candidate for European Public Prosecutor.”
Yesterday, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, who comes from the centre-right opposition and is vocal supporter of Kovesi’s, called a referendum on the ruling coalition’s efforts to roll back the anticorruption reforms that Romania committed to when it joined the EU.
The referendum will be held alongside the vote for the European Parliament on May 26, Iohannis said in a televised statement on Thursday.
“It cannot go on,” Iohannis said, adding that the government must be prevented from turning “corruption into state policy.”