Let the heads roll: Laura Corduta Kovesi’s mass production of corruption in Romania

LONDON—Alexander Adamescu, a German citizen of Jewish descent who lives in London since 2012, is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued against him by Romania or allegedly being an accomplice in the fraud case of his father, Dan Adamescu, a businessman who died in a hospital in Bucharest in January while serving a prison sentence of four years and four months for alleged corruption. 

​As the son of a prominent businessman working in Romania, Adamescu, a playwright who studied in France, the US and the UK, made every effort to stay out of the limelight. But his Western, liberal democratic views and the fact that his father’s company owned Romania Libera, a widely respected pro-democracy and anti-corruption newspaper, made him a political target.

Romania is known for its cheap and adaptable workforce that has flooded European labour markets. But its main internal product has been overlooked: the corrupt criminal.

Thousands of Romanians have been convicted in a frenzy of prosecutions: daily mediatized arrests, denunciations and asset freezes that have ridden roughshod over principles of due process. The machinery of “necessary progress” in the fight against corruption will generate more abuses if Brussels continue to applaud Ms Kovesi’s flawed methods.

Laura-Codruta Kovesi has tackled Romania’s corruption problem headlong. Since her first mandate as chief prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Agency (DNA) began in 2012, the number of people indicted has risen by 50% to 1.270 in 2016. The DNA’s conviction rate has been constant at a staggering 90% in the past years.  Every year Ms Kovesi has achieved “growth in prosecutions” lodging more arrests, more convictions and more asset freezes. Ms Kovesi’s yearly presentation of her achievements in spring have become the equivalent of Warren Buffet’s public appearances in the United States. Romania’s elite listen in awe to her achievements and wonder who’s of them is going to be the next target.

Brussels is similarly enthralled by Ms Kovesi’s mass production of white-collar criminals. Ms Kovesi is alternatively hailed as a rock star in the media or as a Jeanne d’Arc of Romania by its foreign ambassadors. Romania’s international currency is now being measured in the number of criminal files.

As any successful business leader, Ms Kovesi’s public value depends on the results she can deliver tomorrow. She must increase the number of prosecutions, she must get more people convicted and she needs to be in the continuing focus of media attention. Good stats know only one direction: up.

This pressure on Ms Kovesi has affected the way she’s conducting her anti-corruption crusade. As output has risen, acloser look at the DNA’s activities reveals that the methods routinely employed amount to serious abuses of process. At the centre of the DNA’s toolbox are denunciations. They are the lifeblood of the flow of arrests and sufficient to ensure heavy convictions in the courtrooms of today’s Romania.

The methods used to extort denunciations show a considerable degree of continuity with the practices and attitudes of Communist Romania. Suspects are offered immunity in exchange for implicating the targeted person, or, if they are recalcitrant, are remanded in pre-trial detention for long periods until they say what is expected of them. Relatives of targeted persons are threatened with arrest if they don’t implicate the person. Numerous Romanians, politicians and ordinary people alike, have testified how they were blackmailed to write down juicy denunciations. Some paid with their life for not doing so.

As another fallback to dark times, Ms Kovesi has succeeded in enlisting the help of Romania’s successor organization to the Securitate, the SRI. The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) carries out 20,000 telephone intercepts on behalf of the DNA every year, initiates DNA investigations and, in its own words, regards the judicial system as a “tactical field” of operations.

The recent revelation of SRI whistleblower Daniel Dragomir in front of a Romanian Parliamentary Committee about the covert actions of the intelligence agency has sent shockwaves through the country. Again Brussels has greeted such disturbing news with total silence.

For supporters of Ms Kovesi, her results justify her methods. As long as the numbers go up, everything is permitted. Ms Kovesi was recorded by her own colleagues in June as she scolded them for not achieving any results and instructed them to target the Prime Minister. Brussels is knowingly closing its eyes to breaches of core fundamentals of the acquis communitaire, important principles of justice enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights – all in exchange for flashing figures in the mass production of criminals in Romania.   The business logic of increasing results in the fight against corruption will drive Ms Kovesi into more and deeper breaches of human rights. As she needs ever increasing results, the pressure to produce output, i.e. criminals, will grow.

Ms Kovesi’s ballooning stats remind one of the fate of Enron, “America’s most innovative company” for 6 consecutive years, until it imploded under the weight of its internal fraud. Like Enron, the DNA reporting is sustained by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned criminal statistics. But unlike Enron, the polished figures of Ms Kovesi are not just mere number games, but the gravestone markers of thousands of destroyed lives in Romania. Brussels is complicit in the cooked reporting. Its politicians will eventually bear the consequences of their behaviour if it they not begin to hold Ms Kovesi to task.

 

 

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