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INTERVIEW/DNA's Kovesi on amnesty and pardoning: Defendants won't serve sentences, money stays in their pocket


The chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, stated in an interview granted on Tuesday to AGERPRES, that the adoption of a law regarding the amnesty or pardoning of some crimes that are in the DNA area of competence would influence the anti-corruption fight, asserting that "defendants won't serve their sentences, and the money stays in their pocket."

She also speaks of the public debate on a law regarding magistrate responsibility, which, in the opinion of the DNA head, is, at this moment, no more than "an attempt to intimidate the judiciary as a whole".

The DNA head prosecutor also speaks of the relationship with the Romanian Intelligence Service, with defendants and in regards to attempts to destabilize the judiciary. 

AGERPRES: In the context of the scandal that took over Romania, how affected was the image of the DNA?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: We will see this. From our perspective, we are continuing investigations, we draw up cases, we send to court, we go to court, we plead our cases, we are careful at what we have to do, not what it is discussed in the public space.

AGERPRES: Did the prosecutors communicate to you that they felt this scandal as a pressure?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I would not limit myself to this scandal, as you call it, of the past few days. I would stop at the attacks that target the judicial system since last year's spring. Let's not forget that there were companies paid with a lot of money, over a million Euro, to make denigration, intimidation and harassment campaigns against the DNA prosecutors and not only. At the same time, I observed a systematic attack from several people sent to court by DNA, investigated by DNA, defendants in our cases or persons that support those persons and who, systematically, attacked the institution, attacked the case prosecutors, the judiciary as a whole. So, we are observing an assault on the judiciary that has as a purpose to destabilize, discredit, intimidate or harass magistrates. Surely this has an effect inside the judicial system, but we are not intimidated, we will continue our activity. Towards these attacks, we have constantly notified the CSM [Superior Council of Magistracy], there were 14 notifications sent to the Council last year, we have notified the National Audiovisual Council for 12 broadcasts. This year, again we notified the General Prosecutor, the Superior Council of Magistracy, we notified the Justice Ministry and, of course, we notified the new Superior Council of Magistracy because it is an unprecedented assault on the judiciary as a whole.

AGERPRES: Regarding these statements and accusations, did the DNA draw up cases at the request of the SRI or any politician?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No, only in the situation a politician has submitted a written notice to the DNA, that denouncement, that notice was the basis to open a criminal case. As I have stated several times and I have said in the public space, the DNA prosecutors are independent in their activity. They decide what solutions to give in cases. Surely, we cannot decide what cases to open. If we get complaints or notices, we are forced to register them and I always announced how many cases were opened following notices or complaints, how many were opened ex officio and in no case, no person in Romania can give indications to the DNA prosecutors on how to resolve such a case.

AGERPRES: The latest accusations targeting you, appearing in the public space, say that you and Mr. Florian Coldea are officers of a foreign secret service. How do you comment?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: That is excluded! It's a grave and false accusation. So it is not true.

AGERPRES: Have you participated in private events with politicians? There are accusations launched in the public space not only by Sebastian Ghita, but also by Elena Udrea.

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I would make a general comment regarding all these statements, because it is very strange for me to realize now how many friends I have had, so to speak. In my institutional capacity, I was invited to certain events organized by heads of institutions or public institutions, by embassies, public events or smaller events in which I participated. I responded to the invitations because one of my attributions as chief prosecutor is to represent the institution. I participated in events I was invited in in my institutional capacity that were also attended by politicians and other people who had no criminal cases at the time but who subsequently had criminal cases at DNA or in other institutions. Of course, at such events, I have come across people being investigated by DNA, especially at public events. But I cannot censor the guest list at the events where I am invited. I cannot say: 'This person should or shouldn't come because I am from DNA and that person might be at some point investigated by DNA or is already investigated.' But this fact, of me attending events organised by heads of institutions or by public institutions, does not make me friends with those people. It doesn't mean that if there is a group picture or a picture taken at a certain event, I am friends with all people in that group. I have never had private meetings with Sebastian Ghita, I never went on holidays or traveling with him. I never emailed him or talked to him on the phone. I never attended private events he organised. I was not, I am not and never will be a friend of his.

AGERPRES: But what about private or family events, as it is said in the public space?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I believe it's the only time I will comment on what I do in my spare time, because what happens in the private space of any dignitary should remain there. However, I will tell you that private events, organized by persons that had criminal cases, have criminal cases or are investigated by the DNA, I did not attend. I participated in private events organized by heads of institutions or representatives of public institutions, but not in private events organized by Sebastian Ghita or other persons we are investigating.

AGERPRES: You stated last year that you were not, you are not and will never be friends with defendant Sebastian Ghita. Were there meetings with him, before he was a defendant?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: There were no private meetings in any place. So, I say again, the meetings that I had were at the headquarters of public institutions or organized by heads of public institutions, I did not have private meetings. I believe it's the third time I've said this and I believe that, through what I said, I have clarified fully these subjects.

AGERPRES: Did you meet former Prime Minister Victor Ponta in a vineyard owned by Sebastian Ghita?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Let's make a short history of public events. I would like to recall that, in the spring of 2009, I launched a book titled "Preventive arrest." The book launch took place at the Romanian Academy and I ask you to recall that, in the spring of 2009, Mr. Ponta came and had a small speech at that book launch. I invited him because he was the chairman of the Parliament committee that discussed at that moment the draft Penal Code and the draft Penal Procedure Code. I remind you that, in that same period, members of the committee that were part of that group of MPs debating the drafts for the two codes were invited to the General Prosecutor's office. It's also a public event so, as such, we cannot say that in 2009, if he came at the public presentation of a book published by me and even held a speech, we did not meet. There are pictures in the public space when we met. I believe I answered the question — when we met.

AGERPRES: But not at that vineyard...

Laura Codruta Kovesi: If I told you we met in 2009... please check the images which are public.

AGERPRES: What relation does Laura Codruta Kovesi have with the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and how often did you go to the headquarters of the Service or other spaces owned by them?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Laura Codruta Kovesi has no sort of relation with the SRI. The head of the DNA has institutional relations with other institutions, including the SRI. All the collaboration that took place with the SRI, with the other intelligence services and other public institutions, took place on the basis of the law and on the basis of protocols concluded. I do not count how many trips I have to each institution, I do not hold a chart of how often I go to an institution or another, but I find it natural, as leaders of institutions that have somewhat complementary attributions in combating the criminal phenomenon — whether we speak of the Internal Affairs Ministry, we talk of courts, of the CSM, of the Justice Ministry, ANAF [National Agency for Tax Administration], OLAF [European Anti-Fraud Office], all the institutions which we meet in our activity — I find it normal for institutional meetings to take place and for us to visit each other. I do not believe that public institutions in Romania were established so that each acts separately. There is a need for collaboration. Just as defendants meet and often times establish organized groups and agree on how to commit a crime, so the state's institutions must combat the criminal phenomenon by collaborating.

AGERPRES: All these meetings in the spaces of this service were solely institutional?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I was invited in my institutional quality, not because I am Codruta Kovesi, but because I was General Prosecutor or because I was the head of the DNA.

AGERPRES: After the accusations launched by Sebastian Ghita that led to the suspension of the SRI First-Deputy Director Florian Coldea, did the DNA verify the information ex officio?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No! It's the duty of the Romanian Intelligence Service to... I understand from the public space that an internal inquiry was started.

AGERPRES: Is there any monitoring of DNA cases done by SRI, as some politicians, magistrates or former magistrates claim?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Who knows that should answer. I cannot answer for others. Those who claim those things should explain it. I can only say that the cases through which we notify the courts are public. Even you, the journalists, follow when there are appearances in certain trials, when the court decides and when they solve a case. All that is judged by the courts is public. Anyone accessing the website of a court of justice can see what trials are being judged, when they are being judged, at what hour, in which chamber. Thus, that's public information. Those who claim there is another type of monitoring, I believe they should respond. I have no way of knowing what they had in view when they made this statement and it's very hard to comment on it.

AGERPRES: But in this kind of monitoring, as you said, of the court dates, would you find it normal for the Service to monitor it?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I don't know! If they are doing this, those who are doing it should respond. I say again, it's public information that appear on the website, any person who desires to know what trials are judged can check.

AGERPRES: Would an eventual pardoning and amnesty lead to the stopping of the anti-corruption fight? Today, the Minister of Justice said he will speak about these laws with the Prime Minister.

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Categorically, if a law regarding the amnesty or pardoning of some crimes that are in the investigation competence of the DNA is adopted, categorically that law would influence the anti-corruption fight. In both situations, the defendants would not serve their sentences, and the money would stay in their pockets. For example, in the case of amnesty, in all the cases where conviction sentences were handed down, the consequences of the conviction are erased, all the cases that were forwarded to the court of justice with an indictment would stop, and all the cases which are currently investigated by the DNA will close, if the crimes that we are investigating are the object of an amnesty law, for example, or a pardoning law. But, what is extremely important to say, beside the consequences in regards to convictions, is that, in such a situation, the damages caused by the state are left uncovered. In the past three years, the DNA has placed liens on goods and sums of money totaling one billion and a half Euro, and these sums will never be recuperated, if we do not have final rulings to confiscate.

AGERPRES: Is a law regarding magistrate responsibility necessary?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: There are provisions in law that regulate this institution of magistrate responsibility, it functions very well at present, I don't know what the arguments of those who claim this law should amended are, I did not see a draft law so I can comment on an amendment, if it's bad or not. From my perspective, this public debate regarding an eventual magistrate responsibility law is nothing but an attempt to intimidate the judiciary system as a whole.

AGERPRES: An eventual law of magistrate responsibility, as compared to the other state powers, how do you see it?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I would limit myself to the attributions that the judiciary system has. I can say that there is such a responsibility instituted in law, there are provisions regarding the material accountability of magistrates and they should not be amended. If there is a belief that such provisions should be extended to other powers, I don't believe it's my turn to comment on it.

AGERPRES: You were saying of sums seized by the National Anti-corruption Directorate in the past three years, but what sums did the DNA place liens on in 2016?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: In 2016 we placed liens on goods and sums of money totalling 640 million Euro.

AGERPRES: Have you noticed in the past year an improvement in what regards recuperating damages from cases instrumented by the DNA?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Yes, categorically. I would recall, I have also presented it in the activity report for 2015, that the sum seized by the DNA was of half a billion Euro, namely 500 million Euro, and in this year the liens are placed on 640 million Euro. So a 40 percent increase, if I'm not mistaken.

AGERPRES: Do you have cases open regarding possible crimes tied to the last elections?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I cannot confirm this piece of information.

AGERPRES: How about regarding current members of Government?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: I cannot confirm this piece of information.

AGERPRES: Have you evaluated the impact of the decision of the Constitutional Court regarding wiretaps? Do you expect other legislative changes in this domain?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Yes, we are currently evaluating, we are now preparing last year's activity report. A chapter in the activity report will be represented by the effects of the Constitutional Court's decisions, because there were several decisions handed down last year. As a general aspect, I can say that those decisions were sometimes interpreted differently in judiciary practice and led to different situations. We will analyze exactly what were the effects when we present our activity report. There is an emergency ordinance, that we respect fully, in what regards the implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court regarding technical surveillance measures. Surely, on some aspects, from the point of view of our activity, we are out in the open, if I can say so. That operative surveillance, (...) we cannot conduct with our own resources because we do not have enough material resources and we do not have enough policemen to do this activity, meaning we need to appeal to the structures of the Internal Affairs Ministry. Otherwise, all the other activities are conducted through the DNA's technical service.

AGERPRES: Do you expect legislative changes in this domain?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: Regarding the multiple discussions in the public space, we expect all sorts of amendments be made, because there are very many statements, including from the Justice Minister, who mentioned that the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and other special laws will be amended. So, we will see what drafts and what amendments will be made. What is, however, very important, and I hope the Justice Minister holds his promise, is that those amendments be made with the consultation of the judiciary system. And when those laws that we apply, we implement or affect our activity are amended, we be consulted so we can state our point of view. To not see, as has happened before in Parliament, that we now have various draft laws on the day's agenda, without being able to make an evaluation of those amendments.

AGERPRES: Will you contest the verdict regarding your doctoral thesis?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No.

AGERPRES: When did you last speak with the President of Romania and in what context?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: The discussions with the President of Romania are only in an institutional context. The last discussion I believe referred to the naming of some prosecutors in the DNA, where the President of Romania has attributions in signing the decrees, of course, after the preapproval was issued by the Superior Council of Magistracy.

AGERPRES: Did he call you for explanations after the recordings scandal, as Florian Coldea was also called?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No.

AGERPRES: Have you though in the recent period to withdraw from the leadership of the DNA? Are there pressures made upon you in this sense or has anyone requested your resignation?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No, why step down? Because I've done my job? Because I stepped on defendants' toes? Resign for that? I've been appointed chief-prosecutor with the DNA to do my job. And the job of the DNA is to investigate high-level corruption. And this is what I did. This is what I'm paid for. I have no reason whatsoever to step down only because I've stepped on defendants' toes.

Those who are interested can make a summary calculation regarding the assets had by some of the defendants investigated by the DNA in the past two years. There, you'll see what a huge amount of money is piled up. Defendants who have the money to pay companies for intimidation, for harassment, for lobby in order to issue all kinds of reports and public pressure upon the prosecutors and justices, upon the judiciary. These attacks are not aimed only at the DNA or me or DNA prosecutors, they are aimed at the entire judiciary. Well, when making untrue statements that a case is fabricated, when a case is judged by various courts of law, in various structures, by justices with different levels of the courts of law, we are talking of a pressure upon the entire judicial system. Who is interested in undermining the judiciary? Who's interested in discrediting the judiciary? Lately, no word was spoken on the court hearings, on certain files that were completed. All that the culprits say is sometimes taken as truth. We cannot come out and comment the accusations we are thrown at in the public space by people we are investigating. We can only reply in the files, through the proofs we have, through the answers to the exceptions and demands they claim, at the requests the justices send to us.

AGERPRES: But did anyone ask for your resignation?

Laura Codruta Kovesi: No.