Laura Codruta Kovesi, the boss of Romania’s highly effective anti-corruption agency, the DNA, held an extraordinary press conference on February 14 in which she said that she had no intention of resigning, and remained committed to leading the country’s fight against corruption.
“I have no reason to resign,” Ms Kovesi told journalists. “The justice system has been under attack for a year. And look who is attacking it: the accused, those sent for trial. People with the money and the resources to discredit this institution. These people want to bring the justice system to its knees, and to humiliate Romanian society and the Romanian people.”
Ms Kovesi was speaking in response to claims that two DNA prosecutors in the town of Ploiesti had fabricated evidence. The claims – which were made on RTV, a television news channel controlled by Sebastian Ghita, a disgraced politician and businessman currently under house arrest in Belgrade awaiting extradition to Romania – are unfounded, Ms Kovesi told reporters.
Ms Kovesi’s remarkable performance – she spoke without notes and answered questions for more than two hours – came amid rumours that the government is poised to call for her dismissal, or that it is planning to merge the DNA with DIICOT – a hitherto separate agency which fights organised crime. Commentators in Romania have made it clear that either move would signal the end of any serious commitment to fighting graft.
Ms Kovesi has long been a thorn in the side of the ruling PSD-ALDE coalition. Under current legislation, she can only be fired by the Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader. Mr Toader flew home from a visit to Japan on February 14, three days earlier than planned.
Calin Popescu Tariceanu, speaker of the Romanian Senate and leader of ALDE, denied that the DNA is being placed under any untoward pressure, and claimed that it was in the public interest to place it under scrutiny. “I seriously question whether the DNA is acting within the law,” he said.
“We have heard that there may be a parliamentary vote on the matter of Ms Kovesi’s removal from office,” said Dan Barna, leader of the opposition Save Romania Union (USR). “Only Klaus Iohannis can dismiss Ms Kovesi, and I am certain that the president will continue to offer his full support.”
“Whatever happens, the gang of criminals which surrounds the ruling coalition will continue its attacks on the justice system,” concluded Mr Barna.
Photo: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea