AG Augustin Lazar: Avoiding leniency acts for corruption deeds - necessary
Romania's Attorney General, Augustin Lazar declared on Tuesday that in the future, it is necessary to avoid acts of leniency for corruption deeds that would create a sentiment of social insecurity.
'The end of 2016 marked 10 years since the implementation of the decision by which the European Commission has established the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). Romania has made major advance in achieving these goals on fighting corruption, a fact revealed in the monitoring reports, which praised the work of combating the big and small corruption. In the future, it is necessary to avoid negative evolutions that question the progress made. For instance, acts of leniency for corruption deeds that would create a sentiment of social insecurity," said Lazar, at the activity report presentation of the Public Ministry last year.
The Attorney General stated that the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) activity in 2016 was considerable, with senior officials, parliamentarians, magistrates, lawyers, judicial police officers being sent to court.
"The number of cases solved in substance registered an important increase, by almost 26 percent over the previous year, as well as the number of indictments, by almost 13 percent. The cases that DNA has solved regarding corruption in the public and private domains are among the most complex cases of the Public Ministry. People prosecuted during 2016 were senior officials, parliamentarians, magistrates, lawyers, judicial police officers. We note the final conviction for corruption in the case of numerous parliamentarians, magistrates, lawyers and generals of military structures. The Directorate has preserved and managed to recover for the Romanian state large sums of money," Lazar specified.
The Attorney General added that a maximum of indictments was accomplished in 2016 (395 cases), but most individual defendants were sent to court for corruption in 2015. The number of defendants in custody, in 2016, was lower, the provisional detention representing an exceptional measure. The cases have targeted corruption in the health, education, public administration systems, the fictitious placement of staff in companies and public institutions, nepotism, clientelism and patronage.
Augustin Lazar further said that DIICOT has also had good results in 2016, pointing out an increase in indictments by 28.46 percent over the previous year, even if the number of cases solved in substance fell. In addition, the biggest cocaine seizure on Romanian territory was operated .
Prosecutors from all over the country participated, during 2016, in about half a million Court sittings, carried out in about 300,000 cases, and examined, in view of exercising the appeal procedure, about 280,000 criminal judgments. In 2016, 346 cases on conflicts of interest were solved (versus 237 in 2015), out of which 52 with indictments (as compared to 45 in 2015), with 58 individual defendants.
In the area of tax evasion, the number of individuals defendants prosecuted increased as compared to 2015, but Augustin Lazar considers this number insufficient compared to the criminal phenomenon.
"The recovery of crimes' products is as important as punishing the offenders. It creates the premise for the reformation of the social evil produced by the crime, in terms of heritage. The value of precautionary measures decreased compared with 2015 when a complex fuel evasion cases was solved. It is necessary to organize a good cooperation with ANABI (National Impounded Asset Management Agency) in order to boost the recovery of crimes' products," stated Lazar.
He went on to say that the approach of the service's organisational mission is underpinned by the 2015-2019 National Defence Strategy called "A strong Romania in Europe and the world," the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and the 2015-2020 National Judiciary Reform Strategy.
"The Prosecution Office with the Supreme Court of Justice also put forth its own strategic plan in line with the recommendation included in Opinion 11 of November 2016 of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors on the quality and efficiency of the work of prosecutors, including major current challenges in fighting terrorism and organised crime. Called 'Strategy of the Public Prosecution Service for the consolidation of organisational development and affirmation for years 2017-2020,' it is the first programmatic document of the service," said Lazar.
Attorney General Augustin Lazar on Tuesday said that Romania's prosecutors in 2016 solved 569,673 cases and sent to court 63,722 individual defendants, up 8.2 percent from 2015, while the number of final acquittals dwindled significantly.
"In 2016, 63,722 individual defendants were sent to court, up 8.2 percent from 2015. There was a continuing positive trend in this area. The increase from reference year 2009 was 27 percent, which indicates an increase in the judiciary's efficacy in disciplining society," Lazar told a meeting where the 2016 activity report of the Public Prosecution Service was unveiled.
Lazar said there was a 10-percent drop in people sent to court under pre-trial detention in 2016, explaining that the decrease is the result of balanced evaluations by prosecutors, given that pre-trial detention is an exceptional punishment and only taken when other preventive measures fail to achieve the goals.
Evident to that, he said, is a proportional increase in the number of court files where court supervision was ordered, and such development is an example of the Public Prosecution Service adjusting its practice for the constant jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In 2016, 569,673 cases were solved, making up 32.1 percent of the total caseload.
"The number of pending cases as of the end of the statistical period was 1,117,702 in 2016, compared with 1,095,394 in 2015. This very important indicator permanently scrutinised by Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) experts increased by an insignificant 2 percent. That is a special achievement, given that previously the indictor would increase continually and significantly. An analysis of the quality of criminal prosecution in 2016 shows the number of defendants finally acquitted in 2016 dropped significantly from 2015, and even more from 2013, with just 809 final acquittals, 118 of which as a result of offences being decriminalised," said Lazar.
Moreover, out of the finally acquitted, just 30 had been under pre-trial detention - down 25 percent from 2015 - with their weight in the total of defendants brought to court in 2016 standing at 1.3 percent. Property returning ordered by courts made up just 0.46 percent of the cases before courts.
Lazar went on to say that as far as case resolution celerity was concerned, about half of the total cases were solved in less than six months after being registered.
In his opinion, this indicator has to be improved by specialising prosecutors and police officers.
"Exigence on the part of prosecutors determined a nearly 5-percent drop from the previous year in the weight of rulings in favour of dropping prosecution in the total number of solved cases. We can notice a continual rise in the average of individual defendants sent to court in 100,000 in 2007-2016 with the exception of a sudden drop in 2014," said Lazar.