Who are the prosecutors eyeing top jobs in key judiciary bodies
Romania is expecting to see who are the people due to take over the helm of its key prosecutorial bodies. As official terms in office came to pass, and major changes affected the judiciary under the past years of Social Democratic (PSD) government, the naming of the future bosses of key prosecutor’s offices is one of the most important issues in current affairs. But politicians turn a blind eye, while others also fail to speak in a relevant manner on the nominations submitted by Justice minister Catalin Predoiu.
As Romania still looks forward to have a settled government (the current one is deep into political games and attempting to replace itself, after losing a censure motion earlier this year), general focus is elsewhere. Still, the procedures for the naming of top prosecutors move on, amid efforts to turn the public eye towards those who have criticised the nominations, instead of the nominations proper.
Who are the people awaiting official confirmation after having been nominated to key jobs in the Judiciary? How have people such as Gabriela Scutea, Giorgiana Hosu, Bogdan Licu and Crin Bologa performed as professionals?
Based on a subjective procedure, which focused on interviews, Justice minister Catalin Predoiu has announced four names: Gabriela Scutea for Prosecutor General, Bogdan Licu for first deputy Prosecutor General, Giorgiana Hosu for the helm of the body in charge with organised crime and terrorism (DIICOT) and Crin Bologa at the National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA).
These bodies have been waiting for properly named managers, to replace the interim ones, some of them left around in the wake of major changes caused by the PSD governments of 2017-2019.
Opinions vary within the Judiciary system when it comes to Gabriela Scutea, the nominee for Prosecutor General. Some say she is a good professional, a learned, hard working person acting in good faith, but struggling with communication issues. She made herself a bossy reputation within the General Prosecutor’s Office, where she served as deputy to former PG, formed DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi. Some challenging Scutea’s nomination are affraid they’d have to move and work more.
Others see her as the person serving the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), an average-to-mediocre professional who was slightly bolder in attitude – in the past several years only and on opportunistic considerations. She also served a public office within the Justice ministry 3 years ago, when an emergency ordinance blasting the judicial sector and the fight against corruption was conceived by the ministry and the PSD-led government. But she says she had a positive role during those times, promoting changes that made the ordinance impossible to be applied.
The prosecutors’ section of the main body supervising the ativity of magistrates, CSM, gave here a non-biding negative note when she as a candidate for PG showed up for hearings on February 11. The reasoning related both to her answers, which the CSM found lacking, and to past attitudes towards issues such as a protocol with the intelligence service.
Opinions within the system when it comes to Georgiana Hosu, nominated to head the DIICOT – the main body dealing with organised crime – are unanimously negative. A toxic character with shady connections and a husband indicted under corruption charges, she is hardly fit to work as a simple posecutor within the DIICOT, way less so to lead such an important prosecutorial body.
Her husband’s business connections include shady former intelligence officers. And her Giorgiana Hosu’s 80-year-old mother appears as a shareholder in off-shore companies.
Her husband Dan Hosu was sent to court by anti-graft prosecutors in 2017, under charges of influence peddling and bribery in an insurance service-related case. Radio Free Europe revealed Dan Hosu was good friends with Catalin Paraschiv, a top officer within the gendarmerie who led the violent actions of riot police against anti-government protesters in Bucharest on August 10, 2018. Or, the case related to those acts of violence was passed from the Military Prosecutor’s Office to DIICOT in June 2019, to be handled by Giorgiana Hosu (then deputy head prosecutor of DIICOT) and a fellow prosecutor.
Giorgiana Hosu also received a non-biding negative approval from the CSM prosecutors’ section.
Bogdan Licu, who currently serves as interim Prosecutor General and is attempting to be confirmed as deputy head of the body, has a generally bad reputation and is seen as an opportunistic prosecutor who is also available for the intelligence services. Her wife was a psychologist working for the SRI intelligence service, according to Licu’s wealth statement. His father-in-law is a businessman, Mircea Tudor, who in the past has been investigated by the DNA (but case was dropped). Tudor is reputed to have contracts with the state, including the SRI.
Licu has been accused by journalist Emilia Sercan, who has focused her work on revealing high-level plagiarism cases, of having plagiarised his PhD thesis. A criminal case was launched at the General Prosecutor’s Office itself, but the case might have been dropped.
Under his interim term at the helm of the PG, prosecutors classified a case related to President Klaus Iohannis’ homes. The case was classified as nominees were about to be selected for the top jobs in prosecutorial offices – which included his nomination for first deputy PG.
His interim term in office at the helm of the PG ends on February 27. His hearing at the CSM for non-binding approval is due sometime in early March.
Crin Bologa, nominated to head the DNA anti-graft body, is the only one nof the four who is not surrounded by controversy. He is less known within the system because he served away from Bucharest and is less known in the capital city. He has served as deputy head prosecutor at the Salaj Tribunal. He is only known for leaving the DNA in 2008, due to friction with the then-head of the anti-corruption department, Daniel Morar.
He received the non-binding approval of the CSM prosecutors’ section. Yet it remains to be seen how daring he is and what level of real autonomy and professional authority he has among DNA prosecutors.
People who have criticised the nominations become targets
Instead of a real debate on the quality of these nominations, the talk lately was re-directed to those who have criticised them.
Even more serious is that two prosecutors of the CSM prosecutors’ section were summoned by a politically-charged special section which deals with cases involving magistrates. The cause of summoning were teo older cases which were re-opened, as they do, shortly after the two gave negative approvals for the nominations of Scutea and Hosu. The CSM section they belonged to reacted in an unprecedented manner, calling the summoning as a form of „pressure and institutional discreditation” and threatening to notify the European Commission.
In multiple media – starting with Gandul website, which is controlled by Radu Budeanu, a businessman who himself is investigated by the DNA – a campaign has been developing for days. The campaign is supported by media who have most often shown opposite attitudes – Antena 3 on one hand, Newsweek and Ziare.com on another hand – and it focuses on attacking prosecutors and journalists who have publicly criticised the nominations made by minister Predoiu. This campaign continuously dodges the main topic of public interest – the quality of the nominations.
Of minister Predoiu’s four nominations for jobs of utmost importance, two are unacceptable if not outright scandalous. What is his message to the system? That the top jobs are not for professionals?
It is relevant to note, in these circumstances, that European experts involved with the EC’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism aimed at evaluating Romania’s justice reform were in Bucharest when the CSM gave negative approval to the two nominations mentioned above.
It would not be the first time that the current Justice minister shows availability for compromise. Samples come from all the way back in 2008 when he served as Justice minister in the government of the time, when he played in the political clashes over the fight against corruption and the DNA body.
More recently and more relevant are his recent actions – or lack of. In his latest term in office, he did not use the tool of an emergency ordinance to dismantle the much criticised special section charged with investigating magistrates, but pushed a legislative bill in this regard. So the section does what it is to do – harrassing those who do not comply with the people in charge, as it did under the PSD with then-chief prosecutor of the DNA Laura Codruta Kovesi and other prosecutors.
Then, within the same bill on the special section, she pushed changes to the law of justice which are deemed unacceptable by magistrates.
Top prosecutors have major power within the state. That is why politicians, business people and intelligence services always wanted to have leverage on them, to control them through trusty people, to protect the eco-system, networks and influence.
Prosecutors, who follow hierarchical organisations, always look up for guidance. Should their leaders be brave professionals fighting for the independene of their institution, then prosecutors do their work and investigate properly. They do the opposite, should their bosses be weak, vulnerable and easy to manipulate – they see the time of opportunists.
Three of the nominations above are now on President Iohannis’ table already, awaiting final approval – two with negative approval from the CSM. The three are Gabriela Scutea, Giorgiana Hosu and Crin Bologa.
And President Iohannis, who depicts himself as a fighter against corruption and supporter of justice, will have to decide fast to put an end to the current provisional leadership of key judiciary bodies, who have been working on minimal power for a long time.
The current media protection to minister Predoiu’s nominations is boud to encourage the president to accept some unacceptable names. At least two nominations should be firmly rejected, if President Iohannis ants a strong, independent justice to support a democracy with strong institutions and the fight against corruption.
Traducerea: Costin Ionescu
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