National Anticorruption Directorate
|National Anticorruption Directorate
Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie (DNA)
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Legal jurisdiction||As per operations jurisdiction.|
|Agency executive||Laura Codruța Kövesi, Prosecutor-General|
The National Anticorruption Directorate (Romanian: Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie (DNA)), formerly National Anticorruption Prosecution Office (Romanian: Parchetul Naţional Anticorupţie), is the Romanian agency tasked with preventing, investigating and prosecuting corruption-related offenses (such as bribery, graft, patronage and embezzlement) that caused a material damage to the romanian state.
The DNA is headed by a Chief-Prosecutor and 2 deputies, nominated by the Minister of Justice and appointed by the President of Romania. The Chief-Prosecutor of the Directorate is subordinated to the General-Prosecutor of the Prosecutor's Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
DNA was founded in 2003.
By 2015, acting under Laura Codruța Kövesi's leadership, the agency had gained traction against high-level corruption. The agency currently employs 120 prosecutors working on more than 6,000 cases, and has successfully prosecuted dozens of mayors, five MPs, two ex-ministers and a former prime minister in 2014 alone. Hundreds of former judges and prosecutors have also been brought to justice, with a conviction rate above 90%.
In 2015, 12 members of parliament have been investigated, including ministers: “we have investigated two sitting ministers, one of whom went from his ministerial chair directly to pre-trial detention”, Kövesi said.
The DNA has come under scrutiny for its “astonishingly high” conviction rates, which in 2015 were 92%. This conviction rate has been described as “more typical of countries like Russia and China, and highly suggestive of a system that is failing to protect defendants’ rights.”
Procedural violations in high-profile DNA cases have been highlighted as a significant problem, with examples including “guilty verdicts secured with the uncorroborated evidence of witnesses who testify in exchange for immunity.” In addition, “suspects are sometimes told that if they do not cooperate then family members could also face prosecution.”
The DNA has also been criticised for the use of ‘preventive detention’ as leverage against suspects, in some instances for up to 180 days. For instance, Elena Udrea – a high profile Romanian parliamentarian – was held in preventive detention for 72 days on suspicion of money laundering. Mariana Rarinca – a secretary for a lawyer – was arrested by SWAT team, charged with extortion and held for 6 months in preventive detention.
Judges and prosecutors who ruled against the DNA have later found themselves under investigation. Mariana Rarinca, originally jailed by the DNA on charges of blackmail, had her guilty verdict overturned on appeal in May 2015. The two appeal court judges who ruled in Rarinca’s favour were later placed under investigation by the DNA, which demanded a revision of the final judgement. Rarinca was effectively re-tried in September 2015 and the original guilty verdict was re-imposed along with the sentence.
Alina Bica, then Chief Prosecutor for Organised Crime, was jailed for 8 months without trial after conducting a routine review of DNA cases and upon opening an investigation into Laura Kövesi’s brother, Sergiu Lascu. Laura Kövesi, the Chief Prosecutor for the DNA, was forced to deny that the DNA’s prosecution of Bica was the result of a “personal conflict”.
The DNA, together with other Romanian governmental agencies, has come under scrutiny for politically motivated prosecutions. Darren White, the former head of the US Secret Service in Romania, stated in an interview in March 2016 that, “all too often the people you see being prosecuted by DNA, DIICOT, and the others, those are political targets… I would have some reservations about the legitimacy of their investigations.” He went on to add, “Even the intelligence services, the SIE and the SRI, are often used for political purposes, as opposed to what they’re designed to do.”
Human rights violations by the DNA in the conduct of its investigations and prosecutions has also been criticised. Loretta Sanchez, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee in the United States Congress, published a letter in June 2016 which expressed “concerns about documented human rights violations (under the pretext of fighting corruption), the violation of due process during penal investigations, and threats to the independence of the judiciary in Romania.”
The former President of Romania, Traian Basescu, interviewed in May 2016, called for the arrest of judges and prosecutors who breached defendants’ human rights. ““Over 100 people investigated in DNA cases have been acquitted this year. They served over 3,000 days in pre-trial arrest. I believe the prosecutors who asked for the pre-trial arrest of these people should be arrested immediately for abuse of power or malfeasance in office, because they falsified evidence. They should be arrested immediately alongside the judges who approved the arrests. This would be just because they destroyed destinies and careers.”
The DNA has also seen its relationship with Romania’s domestic intelligence service, the SRI, questioned by Romanian media and the President of the Romanian Parliament’s SRI Activity Oversight Committee.
Several Romanian media outlets have reported that a “secret collaboration protocol” between the SRI and the DNA, expressly prohibited under Romanian law, has been in operation since Laura Kövesi was appointed as Chief Prosecutor of the DNA in May 2013. This included monitoring “every important politician, journalist, businessman, under the pretext of national security.” Romania’s General Prosecutor, Augustin Lazar, confirmed the interference of the SRI in prosecutions in January 2017. It has been alleged that the SRI carries out 20,000 telephone intercepts on behalf of the DNA every year, initiates DNA investigations, and regards the judicial system as a “tactical field” of operations.
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