Remand reduced for Israelis accused of spying in Romania
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Remand reduced for Israelis accused of spying in Romania

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

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

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)

The remand of two Israelis suspected of espionage in Romania was reduced Tuesday by a local court following their arrest last week, according to Romanian media reports.

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 hacked her emails.

The appeals court in the Romanian capital of Bucharest 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.

Geclowitz and Weiner were reportedly brought to the court in handcuffs for the hearing, which was attended by their mothers.

Speaking to journalists after the hearing, Rose Geclowitz said that her son was “completely innocent” and had never been in trouble before in his life.

Rose Geclowitz, the mother of David Geclowitz, speaking outside of the appeals court in Bucharest, April 12, 2016. (Screenshot from Digiti 24)
Rose Geclowitz, the mother of David Geclowitz, speaking outside of the appeals court in Bucharest, April 12, 2016. (Screenshot from Digiti 24)

Black Cube welcomed the court decision, in a statement to The Times of Israel, and said it would continue to work for the two’s release.

The company also said their activities in Romania had been carried out in accordance with Romanian authorities.

“There is no doubt that Black Cube acted in Romania in accordance with the law and with the authorization and permission of the highest possible echelons, and that it will continue to act with its full force in order to come to a successful end to this affair and the immediate return home of Ron and David,” the statement said.

Investigators claim that Ron Weiner was in charge of the operation that targeted Romania’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor Codruţa Laura 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 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 Kosevi, 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 Kosevi.

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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