Maior says controversial extradition legal, intel service extraordinarily efficient

Romania's ambassador to the U.S. George Maior said on Friday, after testifying before the Justice Crime Investigation Section (SIIJ), that the controversial extradition of legally embattled former businessman Nicolae Popa from Indonesia was done "in a clear, legal context defined by the Romanian legislation," claiming that he did not notice anything on the part of the persons involved in that operation that could have been deemed a criminal offence. The former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) testified as witness in this case, given that, according to SIIJ prosecutors, two SRI officers allegedly were on the plane that flew Popa to Romania. "It was a very good discussion with the lady prosecutor. I think I covered as a witness the entire context in which SRI was rightly involved in this successful operation, along with other countries. Also as a witness, I said that I did not notice anything on the part of the persons actually involved in that operation that could have been deemed a criminal offence. So it was a very good and clarifying testimony. (...) I cannot comment on what Sebastian Ghita says, I mention things that I know as director of the Romanian Intelligence Service and, in that context, SRI was extraordinarily efficient and proficient," said Maior upon when leaving the SIIJ building. Asked if at the time he discussed the extradition with former chief anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, including in an unofficial setting, Maior said: "The extradition was carried out in the clear, legal context defined by the Romanian legislation and the role of the Public Prosecution Service is clearly defined in that legislation. (...) It was carried out in the context of an interinstitutional task force, which I hope will continue to be done nowadays. [It was] pure institutional communication. (...) All the necessary explanations were given in the context of this testimony where it was specified exactly how SRI got involved in conducting this successful operation." Maior was also asked by journalists if SRI participating in extradition operations was a policy. "A national policy, I should say a good one, so that any Romanian citizen who had ever been convicted, and Mr Popa was a convict in a case that had traumatised 300,000 Romanian citizens, came back to the country. A policy affirmed including by the former President of Romania and, I hope, a policy that will remain in force," replied the former director of the SRI. Asked about the existence of a corruption case file built by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) alleging Maior having received money from businessman Tiberiu Urdareanu, Maior said: "This is silly. There is no such file. I have never received a penny from anybody." Former DNA chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi is accused of abuse of office, bribe taking and false testimony over the extradition to Romania of former director of the bankrupt National Investment Fund (FNI) Nicolae Popa. The investigation opened in December 2018 on a complaint filed by former MP Sebastian Ghita, who fled to Serbia after being sued in several corruption cases. Ghita claimed that in 2011 Kovesi asked him to pay 200,000 euros to bring Nicolae Popa from Indonesia by plane. Popa was the subject of an international arrest warrant. SIIJ prosecutors indicated that Kovesi had claimed and received in 2011 the amount of 268,689 lei from Sebastian Ghita in connection with the extradition of Popa. AGERPRES (RO - author: Eusebi Manolache, editor: Georgiana Tanasescu; EN- author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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