Israelis accused of spying in Romania ordered to stay in jail

Two employees of private intelligence firm Black Cube arrested 2 weeks ago on suspicion of cyber-attacks against state prosecutor

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

David Geclowitz and Ron Weiner, employees of the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, being brought to the appeals court in Bucharest, after their arrest on suspicion of spying on the country's chief anti-corruption persecutor, April 12, 2016. (Screenshot: Channel 2)
David Geclowitz and Ron Weiner, employees of the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, being brought to the appeals court in Bucharest, after their arrest on suspicion of spying on the country's chief anti-corruption persecutor, April 12, 2016. (Screenshot: Channel 2)

Two Israelis suspected of espionage in Romania were ordered by a local court to remain in police custody for another 30 days, Romanian media reported Monday.

David Geclowitz and Ron Weiner, employees of the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, were arrested on April 3 on suspicion that they had tried to intimidate the head of the national anti-corruption agency and had hacked her emails.

The Bucharest Magistrate’s Court accepted the request of the Romanian serious crime investigation unit and ruled that the two remain in police custody for the next month.

There was no immediate response from Black Cube following the Monday decision.

Last week, an appeals court in the Romanian capital decided the two could only be held for a total of 20 days after their arrest as opposed to the original 30 days granted to the police. They had requested to be released from their pre-trial detention.

Investigators claim that Ron Weiner was in charge of the operation that targeted Romania’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, while David Geclowicz was tasked with contacting people close to her as a form of intimidation, according to the Romanian news site Digi 24.

The organized crime prosecutors’ office said that the suspected activity took place in March, but didn’t say why the suspects would have tried to intimidate the prosecutor. Kovesi confirmed that there had been “an unsuccessful attempt” to intimidate her, but she did not elaborate.

The arrest warrant said Geclowitz and Weiner had in March set up a “criminal group… aimed at sullying Kovesi’s image.”

They are suspected of harassing three people close to her, making “numerous threatening telephone calls and hacking into emails… hoping to uncover possible acts of corruption.”

They are also thought to have hacked into the mails of Kovesi’s friends and relatives and are believed to have been employed by a client being investigated by the anti-corruption agency, judicial sources said.

Black Cube confirmed the two had been arrested, but denied wrongdoing by its employees.

Black Cube utilizes experts “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to the company website.

Romanian chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Romanian chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi (Screenshot from YouTube)

Romanian prosecutors are looking into who hired Black Cube to carry out the attack on Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism is quoted as saying.

Romanian media sources reported on Monday that two local media moguls were behind the attacks and had reached out to Black Cube to carry out the operation against Kovesi.

Kovesi, known for her tough approach to high-level corruption, was appointed last month for a second term as Romania’s chief anti-graft prosecutor. Having held the position since 2013, she was given a three-year extension to her mandate on the day of the arrests.

In 2015, her agency prosecuted 1,250 cases, with targets including a former prime minister and five former ministers.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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