One former Prime Minister. Twenty former mayors. Dozens of members of Parliament. Hundreds of judges and thousands of officials. More than 1000 charges in one year. That is the rep sheet of notorious Romania’s corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.
Kovesi’s achievements turned her into disenfranchised people’s hero – thousands of people rallied in freezing weather across Romania in late February, protesting a government call to sack the prosecutor. The story went viral, resonating well with the international audience, which feels that corruption on high levels of their societies may require a similar Robin Hood-esque figure in prosecution offices.
But Kovesi didn’t earn enemies only in the Romanian political circles – European NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers levied accusations against Kovesi, claiming that her office fabricated evidence and used corruption probes for political fights. The allegations came from two former members of Kovesi’s team, who testified on video that the evidence was planted in the cases against former PM Victor Ponta and businessman Sebastian Ghita.
So who exactly is Laura Kovesi? Is she a much-needed break from Romanian, and by extension, the Balkanic legacy of rampant corruption – or continuation of it, disguised under the flashy story of a noble cause? And if it’s the former, does Romanian society have the strength to follow in her footsteps in all spheres of life?
The long arm of justice
Kovesi is a former basketball national team player for Romania, but she eventually decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and studied law. She first held the office of prosecutor in Sibiu County and became the general prosecutor in 2006.
Seven years later, Kovesi found herself at the head of newly formed National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). The driving force behind its formation was pressure from Brussels, concerned with its member’s scathing corruption record, which brought into question the legitimacy and legality of Romania’s admission to European Union.
If the Romanian political and economic elite was hoping that Kovesi was going to be merely a symbolic figure, they were mistaken. In 2014, she already charged over a thousand people from all branches of government, with a conviction rate of over 20 percent, which is high taking into account that some of these charges are hard to prove.