1000s in Romania urge gov’t to step up anti-graft fight. Prosecutors accused of pursuing ‘pizza,’ other small-time bribes

Foto: INQUAM/George Călin

Under former chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romania gained a reputation in Europe and beyond for leading a crusade against graft at the highest levels.

In Romania, Ms Kovesi ruffled the feathers of the elite and became a hero for some ordinary Romanians until the government fired her in 2018. She is now Europe’s first European Public Prosecutor investigating fraud against EU funds.

Back home, the anti-corruption fight now barely makes the news. And when it does, the cases focus on minor allegations of wrongdoing.

More than 16,000 Romanians have signed a petition on the declic.ro site urging the government to crack down on corruption, saying that prosecutors are going easy on high-level graft.

The petition which is headlined „DNA (the acronym for the anti-corruption office), resume the fight against corrupt persons!” is addressed to the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, the justice minister and President Klaus Iohannis.

It claims that under Crin Bologa, the head the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, the office “of elite prosecutors is investigating small cases, while nobody is disturbing the big-time corrupt people.”

“In the last two years, the big corruption files appear to be non-existent. Moreover, since Crin Bologa took over, small files such as bribes in the form of pizzas and other foods have come out, files which should be handled by local prosecutors.”

By Sunday afternoon, the petition had chalked up more than 16,600 signatures.

It said the prosecution of a local police officer accused of taking a bribe of 300 lei a day in exchange for not fining beach vendors for not having a permit “caused a wave of jokes on social media.”

The signatories called on Mr. Iohannis and Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu to review the activity of the anti-corruption office.

The letter recalled the the 2013-2018 period when Ms Kovesi was in charge of the anti-corruption office without mentioning her by name.

“There were 68 high-ranking officials, 37 were condemned, nine ministers and former ministers, 21 deputies, 6 senators and one European Parliament lawmaker.”

“For months, we went on to the streets to defend the independence of the justice system. Now the justice system is pretending it has forgotten about big-time corruption.”

“It’s hard to believe that all of a sudden, corrupt individuals have disappeared at the highest levels, “ the letter said.


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