OPINION The cartel against Romanian graft prosecutors: a major change of tactics in battle with anti-corruption chief Kovesi
A small cartel formed of influential business people, media owners and corrupt politicians is investing energy and resources in an attempt to persuade Western governments that the fight against corruption in Romania, the anti-graft body DNA and its chief Laura Codruta Kovesi no longer deserve their support. We are witnessing a major change of tactics in the fight against prosecutors investigating high level graft. DNA's "clients" have understood that in order to have peace in the country a lot of noise has to be made abroad. Changing laws and killing institutions would be in vain if Brussels or Washington intervene in their support and put them back under pressure.
So, they have been exporting attacks against the DNA (the National Anti-corruption Department) hoping that one they they could deliver the final blow to the judiciary, without risks of a new saving intervention from abroad. The change of tactics has been developing for some time, but their actions have become more visible over the past several weeks: hearings in the US Congress, US consultants paid to raise doubt about the actions of the judiciary, articles in Western media, so-called "devastating" reports on the workings of the judiciary - some of them already published, others yet to come - and eventually an intense lobby to discredit the fight against corruption in Romania as much as possible.
The members of the cartel - most of them known personalities - have all a common issue to solve. It's the cases currently investigated or sent to court by the anti-graft prosecutors. Their manipulation abroad is similar to what is visible back home: groundless accusations, distorted facts, lies mixed with pieces of truth, over extension of contextual information. One of the spearheads of the media campaign against the DNA abroad is Alexander Adamescu, son of late Romanian businessman Dan Adamescu.
Caught in London on the basis of a European arrest warrant last year, Adamescu Jr. is struggling hard to convince British courts that the whole Romanian judiciary works abusively. In order to avoid extradition to Romania, he has been pushing a massive lobby effort which is visible in major Western newspapers, his case presented in the pages of Der Spiegel or The Telegraph, among others. His name was also included in a recent report presented before the Helsinki Committee. But Adamescu is not fighting Romania's DNA and the judiciary by himself.
Other potent business people, well connected across the Ocean, have launched an extensive lobby activity in order to persuade Washington decision makers to withdraw their support for the DNA and DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi. According to HotNews.ro information, they were joined by a notorious group of business people known as the Monaco group as well as by relevant political leaders.
They all contribute a lot of money, mostly obtained from corrupt activities. They use this dirty money to smear everything that threatens their freedom and their businesses.
The leader of the governing Social Democrats (PSD) Liviu Dragnea and ex-president Traian Basescu, now an MP, are among the major beneficiaries of the operation, should it succeed and should the campaign reach its goals. By exporting scandals, accusations and attacks on the DNA, the cartel hopes that officials in Brussels and Washington would from now on avoid meddling in a dubious landscape where nobody is said to clearly understand who's the good guy and who's the bad one.
So their war is getting more sophisticated by the day and things at home are already incredibly complicated. The Constitutional Court has slowly become the main tool with which politicians have already weakened DNA's powers. It would be no surprise if Constitutional Court judges, who are intensely courted by PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, boost their own powers to become an authority that would check the constitutionality of final criminal sentences, as a local legal expert, Elenina Nicut, as well as journalist Ioana Ene Dogioiu have warned.
An ongoing internal scandal at the DNA fits the interests of DNA's detractors perfectly. Another journalist, Adriana Dutulescu, has described how and why a Romanian prosecutor involved in the scandal, Doru Tulus, has become a star for Bulgarian moguls, who are scared that the Romanian way in the fight against corruption would one day cross the Danube.
Of those who used to defend the judiciary, some have switched sides for various reasons. Some of them have become subjects of investigations themselves. Others, blinded by personal biases or disputes, are playing the hands of criminals. People who used to support DNA but who have now turned against DNA head Kovesi are lying to themselves when they look in the mirror and claim they are honest defenders of truth. The sad truth is that they remain out of place and out of time, unable to see the larger stakes, their voice heard only through the media serving corrupt politicians and business people.
There are others, well intended ones who waste their energy in underlying the shortcomings of the DNA, thus hoping to change things on the go before disaster comes. But they only contribute to the causes of the Cartel. There are problems of course, but they are far from a disaster, as proven by hundreds and thousands of sentences against corrupt power brokers, numbers that show a generally functional system.
They don't mean that prosecutors make no mistake or that abuse hasn't happened or that the system has worked perfectly all the time. They don't mean that nobody should criticize the DNA or Kovesi. On the contrary. All mistakes should be dealt with one by one, as they happen. But a sense of measure and lucidity are needed. If one does not understand that criminals have joined forces, cartel-style, as they prepare for a final siege, that they have taken the fight against the judiciary to the next level, then the last major battle is lost before it happened.
PS: A bad news for the Cartel has come from across the Ocean. Wess Mitchell, an expert well informed about the region, has just been announced to replace former deputy secretary of State for the region, Victoria Nuland. It is hard to imagine he would ever swallow the products of the Romanian lobby, no matter how nice the Cartel wraps them.