Romanian judicial authorities have launched an investigation into Laura Codruta Kovesi, who was dismissed as the head of the country’s National Anti-corruption Directorate (NDA) last year and is now the frontrunner to secure the new post of European Prosecutor General.
The news was announced by Kovesi herself, who says she was called in for questioning on suspicion of abuse of power, false testimony and receiving a bribe.
“The subpoena comes just before I go to the European Parliament for hearings, but it’s probably also a coincidence,” Kovesi said sarcastically.
The investigation, launched by a new special office against crimes in the judicial system, comes as Kovesi is preparing for her interview with the European Parliament to complete the selection process for the position of European Prosecutor General, which should start its work in 2020.
“It’s obvious that, through this method, someone is trying to stop me from participating in this procedure and from getting this position,” she added.
The head of the special section for investigating magistrates, Adina Florea, said on Thursday morning that the case against Kovesi was opened following a complaint filed by businessman Sebastian Ghita, who fled to Serbia in 2016 to escape corruption charges.
In a statement Ghita alleged that Kovesi asked him to pay the cost of flying Nicolae Popa from Indonesia to Romania on a private plane to face a 15-year prison sentence for fraud and embezzlement related to the 2000 collapse of the Fondul Naţional de Investiţii (FNI) ponzi scheme.
According to Ghita, Kovesi pressured him into paying by pointing out the ‘disadvantages’ that could come his way if he refused.
“I gave the money because Mrs. Kovesi asked me. At that moment I did not perceive it for what it is: a bribe, according to her standards, she was bribed, Ghita told the Antena 3 news channel.
This version of events is contradicted by the Romanian police, who say that they covered the cost of Popa’s extradition from Indonesia.
During her tenure at the helm of the DNA between 2013 and 2018 Kovesi prosecuted numerous Romanian politicians for corruption, including members of the now ruling Social Democratic Party PSD, whose leader Liviu Dragnea was convicted in 2016 for electoral manipulation, which prevents him from being prime minister.
Anti-corruption campaigners have praised Kovesi’s efforts in bringing to trial hundreds of officials accused of graft in a country that is regularly named as the most corrupt in the EU, winning her widespread support among Romanians tired of the impunity with which corrupt politicians had previously operated.
Kovesi was dismissed as the head of the NDA at the request of Interior Minister Tudorel Toader after he criticised her methods for pursuing individuals suspected of corruption.
Kovesi’s supporters argue that her firing was due to her successful prosecution of ruling Social Democrat politicians and officials.
Kovesi said yesterday that, despite the ‘harassment’ against her, she will continue with her candidacy.
According to political observers, Kovesi is the most likely candidate to secure the position of Prosecutor General, despite the Romanian government announcing last week that it will do everything possible to prevent her election.