DNA, Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate is on the frontline of the fight against corruption which has cost the country billions of euros since the fall of Communism.
Laura Codruta Kövesi has been at its head since May 2013, when the organisation launched a major crackdown. Between 2014 and 2016 1,171 people, in particular, national and local politicians as well as high ranking officials, have been convicted for abuse of office, for damages totaling more than one billion euros.
The cases represent the most common offences and they will be greatly impacted by the government’s reform.
The decree reduces the sentences for abuse of power, which will drop from a maximum of seven years in jail to three years, and will decriminalise offences of official misconduct where the financial damages are less than 44,000 euros. It also stipulates that a crime can’t be reported more than six months after it has been committed.
According to the DNA, this will mean a significant number of cases will be dropped. Up until this point the anti-corruption office relied on suspects informing on others in return for a reduction in their sentence. Now the incentive is no longer there.
“The moment a suspect would have nothing to gain from informing, then he would have no interest in doing it,” explained Daniel Horodniceanu, the Head of National Organised Crime Division. “Therefore, such acts may remain in a dark area, a discrete area where the state could never find or prove them,” he added.
A draft bill has has also approved 2,700 pardons issued to prisoners for minor offences. The head of the parliamentary Justice Committee Eugene Nicolicea defended the decision.
“We have an over population in prisons and this problem can be solved either by increasing the number of places or by reducing the number of inmates. The fastest way to solve this is an amnesty. We were criticised by the European Court for Human Rights who gave us the examples of other states, so we followed that example. And suddenly we are criticised for doing exactly what we were told to do.”
In a report published at the end of January by NGO Transparency International, Romania ranks amongst the worst in the EU in terms of how strongly the population feels corruption adversely affects their everyday lives.