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Economy

Kroll 2 report: Summary and Reactions

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On 21 December 2017, the National Bank of Moldova published the summary of the investigation report made by Kroll and Steptoe&Johnson. The report, otherwise called “2nd Kroll report”, completes the 1st Kroll report on the loan exposure of the Three Moldovan banks (BEM, BS, Unibank) that were defrauded in 2012-2014.

The 2nd Report comes with a more detailed scheme of how the leading “Shor group” defrauded Banca de Economii, Banca Socială, and Unibank by directly participating in the administrative councils of these banks and by falsifying reports on bank liquidities. Moreover, Kroll revealed several laundering mechanisms that were used to channel the funds from the three banks to the destination accounts. Even if it mentions the name of Ilan Shor as one of the facilitators and beneficiaries of the banking frauds, the summary does not provide any other names in order not to impede the ongoing investigation and prosecution in some cases.

What 2nd Kroll report says

  • Control over the Moldovan banks, and not only the Three failed ones, was constantly the aim of several interest groups. Several shareholders took advantage of the poor evaluation of banks’ shares and some could acquire small portions of shares through proxies. In the case of the Three Banks, the so-called “Shor group” could take control by buying shares on the behalf of off-shore companies, thus hiding the origin of the funds;
  • The administration councils at the Three Moldovan Banks were acting in coordination, involving conflicts of interests and integrity lack in the bank governance process. At Banca de Economii, where the Moldovan Government was the main shareholder, the Government delegates were periodically not invited to the meeting of the administration council;
  • What Kroll continues to say in its 2nd report is that Ilan Shor and around 77 companies in his entourage are known to be the beneficiaries of the fraudulent loans given between 2011 and 2012:

    Source: bnm.md

  • The liquidity level at the Three Banks was maintained at acceptable levels with the help of resources coming from pensions and social security funds operated by the respective banks, with the help of loans given by the National Bank guaranteed by the Moldovan Government, but also with the help of fake deposits in Russian banks;
  • The summary shows that most of the defrauded funds were channeled through Latvian banks (otherwise called “Core Laundering Mechanism”) for mostly British off-shore companies.

    Source: bnm.md/ Kroll

    The Core Laundering Mechanism based in Latvia was either used for paying the loans back or to send the funds in different bank accounts in multiple jurisdictions such as Cyprus, China, Russia, Switzerland, USA or Hong Kong. Some banks in Moldova and Estonia were also used to launder money and disguise their origin.

    Source: bnm.md/ Kroll;

  • Since some of the loans, worth approximately 2 billion USD, were channeled back to the origin banks to create a good credit score, the net loss of the Three Banks between 2012 and 26 November 2014 is estimated at 600 million USD;
    Source: bnm.md/ Kroll
  • So far, the traces of only 50 million USD out of the total sum could be totally discovered;
  • Kroll and Steptoe&Johnson are planning to present a more detailed investigation in 2018 in Moldova;

Reactions

  • According to Expert-Grup, the 2nd Kroll report did not fully explain the role of the state guarantees issued in November 2014, but also the actions conducted by the Moldovan Government regarding the reimbursement for the clients of the Three Moldovan Banks. Moreover, multiple NGOs called on the Moldovan Government to abandon the initiative to decriminalize several economic crimes, including banking frauds, an action would impede the prosecution of those involved in the “Moldovan Grand Theft” and encourage new frauds in the area;
  • Ilan Shor, the main figure in the “Grand Theft”, announced that his lawyers filed in court against Kroll for defamation, conspiracy to injure by unlawful means and wrongful interference with his economic interests. According to Shor, the reports issued by Kroll do not reveal the real beneficiaries of the frauds;
  • Pavel Filip, Prime-Minister of Moldova: “If we had to publish all the names that are found in this report, I assure that 90% of the names are absolutely honest people, but that were simply part of this circle. These names cannot be made public”, claimed Moldova’s PM, promising that all the responsible persons would be prosecuted;
  • Maia Sandu, PAS leader, ex-Minister of Education in 2014, did not seem surprised that Kroll pointed out to Shor’s primary role in the banking frauds, but rather asked his case is slowed down by the Prosecution’s Office. Her party organized a flashmob asking for the restart of Shor’s case. In addition, Sandu stated that current Parliament speaker, Andrian Candu, was the main promoter of the state guarantees for the loans of the National Bank to the failing banks;
  • Andrian Candu, speaker of the Parliament and Economy Minister in 2014, is waiting for the Kroll experts to come in January 2018 in Moldova to coordinate the investigation of the banking frauds;
  • Iurie Leancă, PM in 2014, now appointed Deputy PM, says that he is the most interested in the results of the Kroll investigation, but rejects claims his Government rushed into offering the huge guarantees for BNM loans.

The reaction of the Moldovan people to this 2nd Kroll report is that of confusion: nothing much new was revealed and the main figure of the “Grand Theft” is only under judiciary control in a delayed case.

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy.

Economy

Moldovan foreign investors ask the government to pass the reform on the control bodies

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Dear colleagues, representatives of the business community, civil society, state-owned institutions, citizens,

Foreign Investors Association, established in 2003 and which includes some of the largest foreign investment companies in the Republic of Moldova, actively promotes actions aimed at improving the investment climate. The Government and the Parliament have recently adopted a series of reforms of the regulatory framework, in particular in the field of state control over the business activity and permissive acts.

However, these reforms have less covered an important segment of state interference in business activity – the law enforcement bodies. Today, the law enforcement bodies, in particular the Economic Fraud Investigation Division, subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the National Anticorruption Center, enjoy a range of competences such as to seize goods, documents, information systems, to arrest, make proposals to preventively arrest and others, which may lead to a stop in the business activity and laying off of employees. Abusive enactment of such measures may cause major losses to the entrepreneurs and may ultimately determine the decrease in the potential to attract investments to Moldova, as a result of the deteriorated image of the investment climate.

Therefore, the Association welcomes, in principle, the initiative of the Ministry of Justice to promote the draft law amending and supplementing certain legislative acts (Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Contravention Code and other legislative acts) aimed at improving the investment climate by introducing less repressive criminal norms related to economic crimes and establishing additional procedural safeguards against abuses by the law enforcement and control bodies.

The draft was discussed in several meetings organized by both the Ministry of Justice as well as the Economic Council to the Prime Minister. The last meeting, with the participation of the Prime Minister, was held on 08.12.2017. Given the publicly launched suspicions referring to the recent high profile banking fraud cases, the participants to that meeting wanted to make sure that all the persons involved in these cases would not also benefit from the provisions of this initiative.

We understand and commend the fact that the Ministry of Justice has accepted to make changes, which would guarantee that this does not happen, and proposed to organize an additional technical meeting to discuss further proposals from the stakeholders with the subsequent completion of the draft.

To follow up on the above, we believe it is opportune to expressly provide for in the draft the manner in which the acts of the control bodies can be challenged, which would avoid putting the individual/legal entity in the situation of having to tacitly accept the accusations which are brought up to them and accept the starting of the criminal case.

We also draw your attention to a series of other provisions, which raise concerns among the business community, such as for instance:

  • Applying criminal liability for not obtaining any permissive act required for business operation, including regardless of the damages caused;
  • Applying criminal liability for concluding any anticompetitive agreement which causes extremely large scale damages or which generate extremely high profits (in international practice, such liability applies only in case of cartels, not vertical agreements);
  • If, during a control, a control body identifies that a crime had been committed, it has to mention in its control act the exact amount of damages caused by the crime and the actions which must be undertaken to remedy the violation. The act of control cannot be challenged in the court and serves as evidence for the criminal prosecution. There is the risk that common procedural safeguards, applicable to collecting evidence in the course of a criminal prosecution (including against self-incrimination) be disregarded by the control body;
  • Applying criminal liability for doing business in violation of the intellectual property rights and not indicating the fiscal code in the documents or indicating it with mistakes (it is not clear how these two issues can be combined).

In relation to the above, we express our readiness to continue the consultations with the authorities of the Republic of Moldova for finalizing the respective draft, taking into account the relevant comments, and we kindly call upon the Government, the Parliament and the President of the Republic of Moldova to support the respective legal initiative of the Ministry of Justice, that will substantially improve the business and investment climate in the Republic of Moldova.

The Foreign Investors Association also urges the representatives of other business associations and business community to join this call.

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Economy

Conditions that the European Union imposed to Moldova before disbursing tranches of €100 million assistance

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On 23 November 2017, the Republic of Moldova signed the agreement with the European Union regarding the macro-financial assistance of 100 million euros: 40 million of grants and 60 million as a loan.

The so-called MFA was requested in August 2015 and in March 2016 by the Moldovan authorities. After long debates on the conditionality, the European Parliament, and the EU Council came to an agreement to offer Moldova the macro-financial assistance for 2 years and a half in three tranches, whose disbursement is conditioned by a certain list of criteria. According to the agreement, the European Commission will monitor the progress on key reforms together with the International Monetary Fund.

Technical criteria

Unlocking the first tranche of the macro-financial assistance will require Chișinău to implement 10 reforms in five different domains:

Public sector governance:

  • implementing the new reform strategy of the public administration;
  • ensuring the efficient functioning of the National Agency for Solving Contestations;
  • adopting the law on the state and municipal enterprises with the aim of increasing transparency and responsibility of the latter;
  • adopting the new law of the Court of Accounts and creating a Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.

Fight against corruption and money laundering:

  • adopting the law on preventing money laundering and combatting terrorism financing;
  • selection of the president and vice-president of the National Authority of Integrity by the Integrity Council;
  • ensuring the efficient functioning of the Agency for Recovering the Defrauded Goods by the Parliament through sufficient funding and personnel.

Reforms of the energy sector:

  • adopting a new Energy Law with the aim of consolidating the governance and regulation of the energy sector, including the independence of the National Agency for Reglementation in Energetics.

Business climate and DCFTA implementation:

  • implementing measures to reduce the administrative tasks needed to start and manage a business;
  • adopting the new law on the Customs Service.

Respect to multi-party system and the degree of implementation of the recommendations of the Venice Commission

According to ZdG.md, the agreement stipulates that the European Union will also take into the consideration the respect to efficient democratic mechanisms- a multi-party parliamentary system, rule of law, respect for human rights-, but also progress in improving liberal, independent and pluralist governance,  consolidation of the independence of the judiciary system and the implementation of the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. A special focus is drawn upon the fact that the EU Commission and the External Action Service will also particularly monitor how the Moldovan authorities implement recommendations formulated by the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR in regard to the recent change of the electoral system.

If the Commission gives a negative evaluation to the work of the Moldovan Government, it reserves the right to stop the payment of the tranches until Moldova proves the respect of conditionality.

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Economy

2018 budget plan adopted in first reading by Moldova Parliament

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On December 1st, the Parliament of Moldova adopted in the first reading the Law on the state budget for 2018.

The plan forecasts a GDP growth of 3% in 2018 up to the level of 160,1 billion lei (9,3 billion USD). The annual inflation rate is expected to be 6%.

In 2018, the Government expects incomes of 56,9 billion lei- 7,8% more than in 2017-, and expenditures of 61,7 billion lei (8,2% more than in 2017). Thus, the budgetary deficit is estimated to be 4,7 billion lei.

The main source of income would be the income taxes, while the external grants meant for the budget and for public projects are expected to cover around 2,8 billion lei- 1,6 billion lei more than in 2017.

The general budget plan for 2018 is adopted in the first reading, while the specific articles of the law on public finances and fiscal responsibility are voted on separately in the second reading.

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