Romania former anti-graft chief indicted

Bucharest (AFP) –


Romanian magistrate Laura Codruta Kovesi, a hot favourite to become the EU's first-ever top prosecutor, was indicted on corruption charges Thursday, a judicial source told AFP, confirming local media reports.

Kovesi received the news during a six-hour hearing in front of a special panel charged with investigating magistrates.

Kovesi told reporters after the hearing that prosecutors had barred from publicly discussing the specifics of the case.

However, she said: "It's a measure intended to silence me, to harass all of us in the judicial system who did our job.

"Probably some people are in such despair that I might get this job (of chief EU prosecutor) that I'm not allowed to speak to the media anymore."

Kovesi became a household name as head of Romania's National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), which she led from 2013 to 2018 before being controversially removed at the government's behest.

She was questioned in two different cases. In one she is accused of abuse of office, bribery and giving false testimony, charges she rejects.

A source told AFP that Kovesi would be forbidden from exercising her profession and would have to report regularly to police in Bucharest.

Local media reported she would not be allowed to leave the country.

Kovesi is expected to challenge these measures in court but they will complicate her candidacy for head of the new European Prosecutor's Office.

The former anti-graft chief has been locked in an escalating battle with Romania's leftwing government in the last few years.

The rows have overshadowed Romania's first-ever term as president of the European Union, with the government in Bucharest making clear its opposition to Kovesi taking the job in Brussels.

During her time as head of the DNA, hundreds of elected officials were convicted of corruption offences, earning her the enmity of many in Romania's political class and criticism that she had overstepped her mandate.

Many Romanians retain a positive view of her as a symbol of the fight to rid the country of endemic corruption.

Bucharest has sought to dissuade other EU countries from appointing the 45-year-old to lead the European prosecutor's office, meant to be in place by the end of 2020.

MEPs defied Bucharest and threw their support behind the Romanian magistrate, but member states have backed Kovesi's French rival Jean-Francois Bohnert.