Romania: Magistrates won't ask for anti-graft chief's ouster

FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Romania's chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania. Romania's justice minister Tudorel Toader says there are serious concerns about the way Laura Codruta Kovesi does her job and she will be asked to answer accusations, which Kovesi denies. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, FILE)

BUCHAREST, Romania - Romania's top legal body on Tuesday rejected the justice minister's request to oust the country's chief anti-corruption prosecutor because he considered her unfit for the job.

The prosecutors' department of the Supreme Council of Magistrates said it would not recommend that Romania's president remove National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi in a 6-1 vote.

Ahead of the vote, Kovesi responded Tuesday to a report by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader that cast doubts on her office's credibility and alleged prosecutors falsified evidence.

She conceded "there may be errors of transcription," but called Toader's report "unreal, unproven and unfounded." Kovesi said the European Court of Human Rights hadn't questioned the office's prosecutions since she became chief in 2013.

Under her leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery, fraud, abuse of power and other corruption-related offences.

Kovesi also denied Toader's claim that she was authoritarian and said Romania's acquittal rate in corruption cases was lower than the European average. She refuted his assertion that she had harmed Romania's image in interviews with foreign journalists.

"We...improved Romania's image...and showed the anti-corruption fight is efficient," Kovesi said.

She also responded to justice minister's contention that the Anti-Corruption Directorate was too costly. Kovesi said the office's budget was 27 million euros ($33 million) in 2016, of which one-tenth was spent on actual probes. Successful prosecutions also netted the federal budget 226 million euros ($276 million) that year, she said.

Listening to her response, Toader told Kovesi, "You don't convince me" and said her comments "may be seductive for people who know nothing."

President Klaus Iohannis has the final say on the prosecutor's position and he has reiterated his support for Kovesi in recent days.


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