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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.

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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.

Economy

World Bank provides $10 million loan to Moldova for education reform

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16 February 2018- The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a 10 million USD loan for Moldova’s education system reform.

The loan with a maturity of 30 years is aimed at improving learning conditions in targeted schools and strengthen Moldova’s education monitoring systems while promoting efficiency reforms.

“One of our biggest concerns is the mismatch between labor market demand and the current training offered by Moldova’s educational system,” said Anna Akhalkatsi, World Bank Country Manager for Moldova.

According to a WB press-release, a considerable number of Moldovan students, teachers, and school managers will benefit from expanded training activities, the further provision of science laboratories and ICT equipment, as well as training for teaching support staff to promote inclusive education for students with special needs and/or disabilities.

Moldova Education Reform Project of the World Bank is worth 40 million USD started in 2013 and end in June 2019.

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Economy

Moldova Socialists submit motion on economic policy

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15 February 2018- The caucus of the Socialists’ Party of Moldova submitted to the Parliament a simple motion against the policy conducted by the Economy and Infrastructure, led by minister Chiril Gaburici. The Socialists are complaining about the “disastrous” economic state of the country.

According to Socialist MP Vasile Bolea, the year of 2017 was a total failure because of the over-taxation and cut capital investment policies.

“The submission of this motion represents our will to call on the minister to participate in a debate to explain the causes for economic disaster, to talk about the state of the national economy, jobs, the cut public investment, about the state enterprises that are sold for small money. The policy is going in the wrong direction and does not represent the interests of the citizens”, declared Bolea.

The motion is reportedly being sent to the Government.

Chiril Gaburici was sworn in as Economy minister at the beginning of January 2018.

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Economy

US Ambassador: Moldova’s “progress disappointed” in 2017, some laws are “a step back”

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The United States Ambassador to Moldova, James D. Pettit, declared in a TV8 interview that Moldova’s “progress” was disappointing in 2017. According to Pettit, some laws promoted by the Moldovan authorities constituted “a step back for the country”.

“Last years, the international development partners were slightly disappointed with the lack of progress. Recently, (I) have seen different draft laws that were effectively a step back”, declared His Excellency. As dubious and problematic, Pettit mentioned the switch to the new electoral system and the draft law on the “decriminalizing of the economic crimes”, pushed by the Economy Ministry. At the same time, he pointed out that corruption is the problem number one and that Moldova needs structural reforms, not only technical ones.

Ambassador Pettit is not impressed by the 4% economic growth either:

We are happy to have seen economic growth, but I would say that 4% for such a small country like Moldova is a relatively modest achievement”, added the American Ambassador.

Despite the critique brought by the US and EU Ambassadors, the Prime-Minister, Pavel Filip, did not renounce from the draft law on “decriminalizing economic crimes”, claiming that the idea came out of the “discussions with business”.

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