Romanian PM talks about “presumption of guilt” in case of former anticorruption chief
Romania’s prime minister Viorica Dancila tried to explain once more on Friday, September 20, why she didn’t support Romanian candidate Laura Codruta Kovesi’s nomination for European chief prosecutor invoking the “presumption of guilt” in her case.
On Thursday, the EU Council’s permanent representatives committee (COREPER) voted Kovesi, a former head of Romania’s Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), as the EU Council’s candidate for the position of European chief prosecutor. One day before that, on Wednesday, PM Dancila said she would instruct Romania’s ambassador to the EU, Luminita Odobescu, to vote against Kovesi. However, after the vote, Dancila admitted that she didn’t know how Romania’s ambassador voted in this matter, because she hadn’t passed her the instructions. Official sources said that Romania’s ambassadors voted for Kovesi’s appointment and president Klaus Iohannis said he had a talk with her and told her that he, as head of state, supported Kovesi’s candidacy, according to Mediafax.
“As you know, I haven’t supported Laura Codruta Kovesi and I’ve said what I am going to say again – I considered that the law must be equal for all of us,” Dancila said in a speech in Resita, according to Hotnews.ro. She added that she didn’t know Kovesi personally, that she respected her and had nothing personal with her, but that “there’s a principle that we ask others to follow and we should ask anyone to follow.” Dancila said Kovesi must first explain the charges against her and clarify her situation in Romania before taking this position. Otherwise, Romania’s image will have to suffer if any of the accusations against Kovesi proves to be real.
The prime minister was referring to the charges of abuse of office brought against Laura Codruta Kovesi in a case related to the extradition of fugitive businessman Nicolae Popa from Indonesia. The case started after a denouncement against Kovesi filed by another fugitive businessman, Sebastian Ghita, who fled the country while investigated by DNA. The special section for investigating magistrates is conducting the investigation against Kovesi.
“There is the presumption of guilt, and I don’t want to appear that I accuse Ms. Kovesi of something, that I want to get involved in justice. I think that justice must be independent, but if one of the accusations turns out to be real, it’s clear that Romania’s image will suffer,” Dancila said.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD), the ruling party in Romania, now led by Viorica Dancila, has been at war with Laura Codruta Kovesi since coming to power, at the end of 2016. Kovesi was dismissed from the helm of DNA in July 2018, at the request of former justice minister Tudorel Toader. Moreover, the PSD-led Government undermined Kovesi’s candidacy for European chief prosecutor and lobbied against her during Romania’s EU Council presidency, in the first half of this year. Consequently, the EU Council initially voted to support French prosecutor Jean-Francois Bohnert for the job. Meanwhile, the European Parliament voted to support Kovesi. The EU Council and European Parliament failed to reach a compromise on who to appoint at the helm of the European Prosecutor’s Office, in spring, and postponed the matter until after the European elections.
The two sides resumed negotiations in early-September and, as the European Parliament firmly maintained its position, the Finnish presidency of the EU Council decided to hold another vote and test the support for Kovesi. On Thursday, 17 of the 22 ambassadors who voted were in favor of appointing Kovesi.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Ilona Andrei)