Israelis arrested for spying on Romanian anti-corruption czar

Israelis arrested for spying on Romanian anti-corruption czar

2 ex-Mossad agents at head of firm also reportedly under investigation for cyber-attacks on state prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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

Four Israelis, including two former Mossad agents, are being investigated in Romania for spying on the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, according to a Romanian investigative journalism team.

Two of those being probed are former Mossad agents Dan Zorella and Avi Yanus, co-founders and directors of private Israeli investigation firm Black Cube, the report by the Rise Project investigators says. However, the company denies they are under investigation.

The other two, Black Cube employees Ron Weiner and David Geclowicz, have been arrested by Romanian police on suspicion of carrying out a series of cyber-attacks on Romania’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.

Email accounts of Kosevi and her associates were also reportedly hacked, according to the report as cited by Romanian news site Romania Insider.

Black Cube confirmed the two had been arrested, in a statement to The Times of Israel.

Black Cube denies wrongdoing by its employees and says the reports that company co-CEOs Zorella and Yanus are being investigated are false.

In a statement released in response to the reports, the company says its employees were themselves investigating claims of corruption by the Romanian government.

​”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,” the statement read.

“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.”

Former Mossad director Meir Dagan was honorary president of Black Cube until his death last month.

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

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

In December 2011 it was reported that three Israelis had been implicated in a 136 million euro corruption investigation in Romania against businessman Remus Truica, the former chief of staff of Prime Minister Adrian Nastase.

Romanian prosecutors accused the Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and several other Israelis of conducting illicit real estate deals that cost the state nearly $150 million.

Judicial sources in Bucharest said they believed Steinmetz, a mining magnate, and Shimon Sheves, the former chief of staff of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the Israeli political consultant Tal Ziberstein, conspired with Truica to illicitly bring about the transfer of state-held lands to another Romanian citizen, the Romania Libera daily reported in December.

Spokespersons for all three Israelis denied their involvement in illegal actions attributed to Truica, a media tycoon who was arrested in December and incarcerated by the Brasov Court of Appeals pending further investigation.

Beny Steinmetz (Courtesy)
Beny Steinmetz (Courtesy)

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 a document written by the prosecutors, in which they reportedly sought the issuing of an arrest warrant against the three Israelis.

Update May 24, 2016: In late May, Israeli media, quoting news reports in Romania, reported that Sheves was not to be indicted and that the case against him would be closed.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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