Laura Codruta Kovesi, director of DNA
Romania arrests four Israelis on espionage charges
Ian Allen, Intel News, Apr 7 2016
A Romanian agency tasked with security and counterterrorism has announced the arrest of four Israeli citizens on charges of hacking the email accounts of Romanian government officials. The arrests were announced on Thursday by Daniel Horodniceanu, chief of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism, known as DIICOT). In a press statement, Horodniceanu said the Israeli citizens are all employees of Black Cube, an Israeli security firm that is known for hiring former members of Israel’s intelligence and and SOF agencies. Among the company’s board members was Meir Dagan, the former director of Mossad who died in March. Reports in the Romanian press have named two of the four Israeli citizens as Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, both former members of the Israeli intelligence community, who are believed to be the founders of Black Cube. Two other Israelis, David Geclowicz and Ron Weiner, are accused of having hacked three email accounts belonging to a high-profile Romanian government agency tasked with anti-corruption efforts. Romanian media claim that the primary target of the Black Cube employees was Laura Codruta Kovesi, director of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) created in 2003 with the aim of combating serious organized crime and corruption in Romanian politics. According to DIICOT, the arrests of the four Israelis were “preventive” and were prompted by an initial complaint filed against them by a former public prosecutor, Ion Lascu, who is Kovesi’s father. When approached by Israeli media, Black Cube confirmed that four of its employees had been arrested in Romania. It said its employees were careful to follow Romanian law and dismissed the espionage allegations against them as “unfounded and untrue.” In a statement, the company said it was recently hired to work on a project to collect intelligence on large-scale corruption in Romanian politics. The statement added that Black Cube employees were arrested “after having made significant discoveries” relating to the aforementioned project. Late on Thursday, Romanian investigators said they were still trying to find out who hired Black Cube to work in Romania.
This from one week ago, which I would call significant timing:
Israeli Firm Discloses Possible Bribery Issue in Romania
Stephen Dockery, WSJ, Apr 1 2016
Israeli holding company Elbit Imaging disclosed a possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violation over agreements that were part of developing a building complex in the capital of Romania, the company said in a securities filing. The company, which does business in real estate, medical imaging and shopping malls, said it is looking into the matter and will cooperate with government inquiries on the issue. The company identified “certain issues with respect to certain agreements that were executed in the past in connection with the Casa Radio Project in Bucharest, Romania that may contain potential violation of the requirements of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including the books and records provisions of the FCPA,” the filing said Thursday. Elbit said its “audit committee has decided to appoint a special committee to examine these matters, including any internal control and reporting issues. The company intends to fully cooperate with the relevant governmental agencies in this matter.” Elbit said it can’t yet estimate the total cost of the matter. The company didn’t immediately respond for comment Friday. The Casa Radio Project is the development of the city’s Dambovita Center that dates back to the country’s 1980s Communist rule. Romania has stepped up its anti-corruption efforts in recent years, trying and convicting former leaders for corruption.
Here is some background that cannot but be relevant somehow:
Former Rabin CoS among Israelis accused of corruption in Romania
JTA, Dec 13 2015
Romanian prosecutors have accused billionaire Benny Steinmetz and several other Israelis of conducting illicit real estate deals that cost the state nearly $150m. Judicial sources in Bucharest said they believe Steinmetz, a mining magnate, and Shimon Sheves, Yitzhak Rabin’s former chief of staff, as well as the political consultant Tal Zilberstein conspired with Romanian businessman Remus Truica to illicitly bring about the transfer of state-held lands to another Romanian citizen, the Romania Libera daily reported on Thursday. Spokesmen for all three denied their involvement in illegal actions attributed to Truica, a media tycoon who was arrested on Wednesday and jailed by the Brasov Court of Appeals pending further investigation. But the Romanian prosecutors say they recorded a telephone conversation between Steinmetz and Truica, in which they discuss the transfer of lands claimed by Paul-Philippe Hohenzollern, a Romanian prince. He received the lands a few years ago as part of restitution offered by the state for assets confiscated during communist times. A transcript of the conversation published by the daily has Steinmetz asking Truica whether any additional action was necessary to secure the transfer of lands to the prince. Sheves, Zilberstein and Steinmetz belonged to “a criminal group that aimed to acquire the whole property claimed by Prince Paul as proceeds of crime of corruption acquired by providing money or goods to officials/institutions holding these properties to influence their decisions by inciting, aiding and abetting to commit abuse of office by these persons,” Romania Libera quoted from the prosecution’s application for an arrest warrant against the Israelis.
‘Ties with Romania won’t be hurt by arrest of Israelis’
Herb Keinon, JPost, Apr 8 2016
A boxtop in Jayloomia said on Thursday:
Israel and Romania have excellent relations, and the recent arrest of two Israelis working for a private firm for allegedly spying on a senior Romanian official will not impact on those ties. The Romanian government understands that the Israelis, identified as Ron Weiner and David Geclowicz who work for a company called Black Cube, are private citizens and were acting in a private capacity. Conversely, if a Romanian national is arrested in Israel, Jayloomia does not hold Romania responsible. (Not yet, anyway, hehe hehehe – RB)
The two men had their remands extended by 30 days on Wednesday on charges of information fraud and harassment for allegedly spying on Laura Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directorate. The Black Cube website describes the company, which has offices in Tel Aviv, Paris and London, as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.” The website listed the late Meir Dagan, a former Mossad head, as honorary president of its advisory board. Israel, according to diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, is providing consular services to the arrested men, as it does when Israelis are arrested abroad. Media outlets in Romania and Israel quoted a Black Cube statement on Wednesday saying:
Recently, the company undertook a project in Romania to collect evidence of serious corruption in the Romanian government and its agencies. Whilst performing this work, two of the company’s employees were arrested after having made significant discoveries. Needless to say, all of Black Cube’s employees follow local law to the letter, and the allegations against them are unfounded and untrue. We have total confidence that the truth will be revealed, and they will both be released safely to return home in the coming days.
Channel 2 reported on Thursday that the firm has hired attorneys in an effort to gain the release of the two men. The two were arrested in their hotel room. According to the Romanian media, the suspects are accused of hacking into three email accounts of people close to Kovesi.