Mold-Street: Company controlling Chișinău Airport transferred millions of lei to a firm of the Russian Presidential administration - Moldova.org
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Economy

Mold-Street: Company controlling Chișinău Airport transferred millions of lei to a firm of the Russian Presidential administration

In a recent investigation, the Moldovan business news portal Mold-street found out that Air Invest, company that controls Chișinău International Airport under a concession contract, has delays in its investment and dubious transfers to the Presidential Administration of Russia.

In a Facebook post, Air Invest claims that the article is a “cheap attempt to destroy the image and the activity of the enterprise, that successfully manages and modernizes the Chișinău Airport”.

Mold-Street writes that a government commission evaluated the company’s investment into the airport at the level of 61,79 million euros until 31 December 2016. At the same time, after three years of concession, the value of finished work was estimated at only 47,7 million euros until 25 August 2017.

In addition, dubious transfers from Avia Invest to other companies of decision-makers of the airport holder have been found, according to a case court in April 2016. The prosecutors then found that decision-makers at Avia Invest SRL, ” using their job positions in personal and material interests (…), fictitiously transferred a part of the company’s profits to affiliated companies, causing substantial damage to the public interest and/or to the rights and interests protected by law of the physical or juridical persons”.

During 2013-2015, Air Moldova paid Avia Invest some 256,1 million lei for the landing services and the “modernization tax”. Later, Avia Invest transferred the money to other companies affiliated to Ilan Shor, the banker thought to be the mind behind the Grand Moldovan Theft, who happened to be the chair of the company’s board.

Some transfers were directed to interesting destinations. Between 27 December 2014 and 30 March 2015, Avia Invest transferred 109,6 million lei to Nobil Air SRL as a loan, which then loans the money to Airklassika Group. The latter converted the funds in US dollars and sent them to the “Center for Financial and Juridical Assistance”, belonging to the Presidential Administration of Russia. A similar transfer of 8,25 million lei (US dollars, in the last position) was made from Avia Invest to the Russian “Center” through Moldclassica International, Dufremol SRL, and Airklassika Group.

The prosecutors also found that funds of approximately 4,1 million US dollars and 6 million euros coming as payment from Air Moldova was diverted by Avia Invest through Aviaconsulting to Stanlex Impex LP from the UK- dissolved in April 2016.

The court case was later closed by the Buiucani Court of Chișinău, citing the legality of company’s transfers. The Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office also closed the investigation in June 2016, claiming that the court decision is irrevocable.

In 4 years of Airport’s concession, Air Invest changed a lot of its owners and beneficiaries. The founding owner of the company, Habarovski Aeroport, holds only 5% of the shares, while the Cyprus-based, 2 years old Komaksavia Airport Invest Ltd has 95%.

The International Airport of Chișinău concession to Avia-Invest under dubious conditions in 2013 has been a subject of controversy in the Moldovan society as a case of high-level corruption. Avia-Invest is considered to be an off-shore company with dubious shareholders and almost no experience in the aviation services industry. The even more dubious businessman and mayor of Orhei, Ilan Shor, is the head of the administration council of Avia-Invest. Shor’s Air Klassica, a service provider in the airport, received a 40,4 million lei loan from the defrauded Unibank in 2014.

Even if the Anti-Corruption Center recommended the canceling of the contract in August 2015, the Justice Minister Vladimir Cebotari found no reasons for that and the prosecutors didn’t do anything to investigate the concession of the Chișinău airport, in the context of its rapidly growing traffic and profit.

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

Economy

Getting citizenship for investments: is it good or bad?

Granting citizenship to the people having invested into the Moldovan economy is a form of passively capitalizing on Moldova’s status as an internationally recognized country. At the same time, luring investors through international forums and exhibitions, what does have a right to exist, has turned up being not so efficient and may not be viewed as an exclusive tool to interact with and attract foreign investments.

The Moldovan economy goes on feeding on remittances, as the exports – although up 38% (in January-February 2018) – are not capable though to unleash the overgrowth badly needed for the essential improvement of the living standard. Under these circumstances is or is not the program of granting citizenship for investments the panacea, the element able to miraculously boost the economic growth? Certainly, the answer is ‘no.’ The program can yield contingent effects, as raising the amount of direct foreign investment, as a substantial increase of the financial flows to Moldova and implicitly shaping the investment climate so much talked about for so long.

The Economy Ministry assesses an investment flow of about 1.3 bn euros, a difficult thing to assess as the program is launched for the first time and there is no any market response as to the Moldovan passport yet. Still there is a steady demand for such services on the international market: businesspeople having to migrate because of various reasons ask for a second citizenship. For example, according to a study carried out by CS Global Partners in the UK in 2017, about 89% of the British would like having a second citizenship, and about 34% made the effort to find out how such a one may be acquired.

Most countries do have programs of gaining investor visas or citizenship, what’s more these people are sought for in a tough luring competition. If suich countries as the USA, the UK or Switzerland but display the eligibility conditions, in Moldova’s case, this strategy won’t work because of competitive attractiveness of the Moldovan passport compared to the British or American ones, for instance. Hiring a company specialized in providing such services as Henley&Partners is highly increases the chances of attaining the program goals, given Henley&Partners’ experience in providing a wide range of services for potential applicants, but also its massive database of clients and potential applicants.

The risks implied and the critique targeting such programs of gaining citizenship through investments – hinting it’s an illegal scheme of money laundering – are detached from the real context such programs unfold in. First, these services are provided by companies often related to renowned consulting firms, which would incur reputational risks and would be liable to criminal investigation in many countries. Second, gaining one’s citizenship is a public act, your name becomes public what is not proper for “the strategies” used to launder money, which need interposed persons, shell companies and fake identities for short times. Third, as the campaign is going on at the national scale, were it a money laundering scheme, it would have immediately draw the attention of Moldova’s development partners: the USA, the EU, the IMF and other international financial entities.

And last but not least, all the applicants will be checked up by law-enforcing bodies and the Interpol, as the law provides for.

Roman Chircă, director of Market Economy Institute

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Economy

“State secret”: Finance Ministry refuses to publish EU letter “appreciating Moldova’s progress” on €100 mln. pact

22 May 2018- Newsmaker.md was refused by the Finance Ministry to obtain a copy of the letter of the European Commission on the fulfillment of the first 10 priority actions, necessary for disbursement of the €100 million fund.

Signed by Finance Minister Octavian Armașu, the refusal letter explains to Newsmaker that the letter contains information that is subject to the “state secret” protection due to the national security risks of publishing it.

In March 2018, Armașu declared that the letter from the DG ECFIN (European Commission) appreciated the efforts of the Moldovan authorities on the fulfillment of the first 10 (28, in total) conditions from the agreement on the 100 million euros macro-financial assistance.

This “appreciating” letter was then requested by the Chișinău-based Center for Policy and Reforms (CPR Moldova), but the request was refused on the claim that NGOs cannot request information from the state institutions. Now, CPR Moldova is suing the Finance Ministry for violating the access to information laws, suggesting that an NGO is nothing but an association of individuals, which should freely access information of public interest. Moreover, CPR is asking the Ministry to present a copy of the report on the implementation of the first 10 conditions for the disbursement of the first tranche of those 100 million euros.


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.

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Economy

Moldova Automotive Days, automotive components and suppliers forum, to take place on 29-30 May

Moldova Automotive Days, the automotive components and suppliers forum, will take place on 29-30 May, at the Tekwill center.

Moldova Automotive Days 2018 is the leading industry event aimed to gather all industry stakeholders, including government, business, multinationals, professionals and academia, to discuss trends and challenges facing the automotive components industry regionally and in the country, set the premises for sustainable entrepreneurship environment to foster sector development and attract investment.

According to the organizers, the Moldovan Government and the Moldovan Investment and Export Promotion Organization, the goal of the event is to develop an international annual platform for national and international stakeholders, public, private entities, international partners and diplomatic staff for promoting the potential of the Moldovan automotive components sector worldwide.

Registration is already open for participating at the Moldova Automotive Days. Check the agenda and list of speakers here.

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