Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has formally called for the dismissal of Laura Codruta Kovesi, the head of the country’s anti-corruption agency, the DNA.
In a press conference on February 22 – which lasted almost 90 minutes – Mr Toader presented the findings of a 36-page report in which he accused Ms Kovesi of undermining the government, and of defying Romania’s constitutional court, amongst much else. He also claimed that the DNA boss had exceeded the legal limits of her role by making unfounded claims in interviews given to foreign news agencies.
“At the beginning of 2017, [Ms Kovesi] told the BBC that she feared the DNA would be closed down,” said Mr Toader, pictured above. “In another interview, for Euronews, she fiercely criticised proposed changes to the justice laws which at that time were being debated in parliament. In making these claims she created the false impression that the rule of law in Romania was under threat.”
Mr Toader went on to say that the DNA should continue its work, but should do so legally. “I therefore recommend that the head of the DNA be removed from office,” he said.
Ionel Danca, spokesperson of the opposition PNL, called Mr Toader’s decision “a sad day for justice in Romania.”
“Mr Toader today became the minister of crooks,” he said. “He is no longer the minister of justice.”
The final decision as to whether or not Ms Kovesi keeps her job rests with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. The president has repeatedly backed Ms Kovesi, saying as recently as February 16 that he has no reason to fire her. He issued a statement immediately after Mr Toader’s press conference to say that the minister of justice’s arguments were “not convincing enough” for him to change his mind.
Ms Kovesi is one of the most popular public figures in Romania and Mr Toader’s recommendation she be dismissed is likely to unleash a new wave of protests similar in size to those of February 2017. Then, more than half a million Romanians took to the streets to protest against an emergency government ordinance which would have seen corruption charges against a number of leading politicians from the ruling PSD-ALDE coalition dropped.