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Romania’s Corruption Fighters Score Another Takedown

Lawmakers and pundits are scrutinizing the anti-graft unit’s close ties to the country’s main spy agency.

9 February 2018

Romania’s special DNA anti-corruption office is raking in more plaudits for securing a conviction in the latest in a string of political corruption cases.

 

Former Finance Minister Darius Valcov (pictured) was convicted yesterday of taking about $1.7 million in bribes and sentenced to eight years in prison.

 

Valcov was accused of taking backhanders while serving as the mayor the city of Slatina from 2009 to 2013. Prosecutors said artworks worth more than $500,000 and gold bars worth more than $100,000 were found in raids on Valcov and his associates, AFP reports.

 

Valcov’s legal troubles were no impediment to Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who named him an economic adviser in January.

 

The DNA is widely credited with helping turn around a culture of widespread political corruption in one of the EU’s poorest countries. But as one former officer for the Romanian intelligence service SRI writes, “there are increasing concerns that, in their determination to secure convictions, the DNA and SRI are leaving the rule of law by the wayside.”

 

A special parliamentary commission began examining ties between the two agencies last year, former SRI colonel Daniel Dragomir writes in a commentary for EU Observer.

 

In testimony before the commission, Dragomir says, he revealed that the SRI has carried out more than 20,000 wiretaps on behalf of DNA every year since 2015: “This is ten times the number carried out for reasons of national security, and an unacceptable contravention of Romanian citizens' basic right to privacy.”

 

He also testified about “attempts to undermine the independence of judiciary, at the highest levels of the SRI.”

 

A former adviser to the UK Foreign Office makes similar charges. DNA is “reverting to communist-era methods to serve its own interests and pursue political vendettas,” foreign policy consultant David Clark wrote recently for the Guardian.

 

Clark mentions the case of Alina Bica, the head of the organized crime and terrorism investigation bureau, who was arrested by the DNA in 2014 on corruption charges. Her case illustrates the DNA’s methods of placing suspects in pre-trial detention, harassing their families, and using the media to blacken reputations, Clark writes.

 

New Europe’s Kassandra columnist took up the same theme, writing in December that DNA’s impressive statistics – a 50 percent increase in indictments in the past 5 years and a conviction rate of 92 percent – mask its methods of “intimidation, coercion, and apparent collusion with the … SRI; a tragedy of corruption at the heart of the anti-corruption struggle.”

 

 

  • The parliamentary committee looking into DNA’s links with SRI asked for the resignation of SRI chief Dumitru Dumbrava in November, after hearing Dragomir’s allegations, The Romania Journal reported.

 

  • Dragomir was acquitted on five out of six counts of bribery brought against him after he left the DNA. He is appealing a conviction on the sixth count, according to EU Observer.

 

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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