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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

IMF mission completes third review visit to Moldova, making $34,9 million ready for approval

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Source: gov.md

27 March 2018- A delegation of the International Monetary Fund ended its visit from March 15-27, concluding the third review of the current economic reform program of the Moldovan Government.

According to a press-release, the IMF mission and the Moldovan authorities reached an agreement on the review, acknowledging the progress in strengthening economic policies and addressing vulnerabilities in the financial sector. The IMF team led by Ben Kelmanson added that the economic growth must be sustained by continuous reforms:

Economic growth was strong in 2017, supported by robust domestic demand and a favorable external environment. These are expected to continue in 2018, and growth is projected to remain solid, at 3.8 percent. Sustained and determined efforts to rehabilitate the financial system – including by strengthening the governance and financial condition of banks, and enhancing regulatory and supervisory frameworks – are vital to maintaining financial stability, sustaining growth and job creation.

The IMF experts stressed that the Chișinău’s efforts should continue to focus on improving public investment and social spending, tax and customs reforms, and improving the efficiency of spending. Moreover, they recommended stricter conditions for the management of the energy sector:

Promoting greater transparency, predictability, and good governance in the energy sector remain a priority.

Kelmanson stated that the IMF Executive Board could consider the review on Moldova “as early as May”, which would possibly make 34,9 million USD available for the Moldovan Government.

Moldova’s three-year IMF program, approved on November 7, 2016, is supported by a loan of SDR 129.4 million (about US$176 million, or 75 percent of the Republic of Moldova’s quota), of which SDR 26 million (about US$35 million) have been already disbursed. Two-thirds of the loan is provided under the Extended Credit Facility, which carries a zero interest rate through 2018, a grace period of 5½ years, and a 10-year maturity. The rest of the loan is provided under the Extended Fund Facility, which carries an annual interest rate equal to the SDR basic rate of charge (currently 1.3 percent), and is repayable over 10 years with a 4½ -year grace period.

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Economy

The economy of the Republic of Moldova increased by 4.5% in 2017

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The economy of Moldova registered an increase of 4.5% in 2017 compared to 2016, the GDP exceeding 150 billion lei, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The most significant share in GDP growth was recorded by retail, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transport and storage, accommodation and catering – with a contribution of 1,3 points percentage of GDP growth.

For the years 2018-2020, the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure forecasts an increase in the economy by 3-4%.

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Economy

Over 20 million US dollars from Moldova’s electricity bills ended up in offshore firms’ accounts// RISE

Over 20 million dollars from electricity invoices paid by Moldovan consumers have reached the accounts of offshore companies. The money was removed from the Victoriabank accounts of a company in Tiraspol that has been interfering with the supply of energy for several years in Moldova.

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RISE outlined the scheme by which the buffer company in the separatist region became the main electricity supplier overnight, earned millions of profits and hid them in tax havens.

Only around 20% of the country’s total electricity demand is produced on the territory of the Republic of Moldova on the right bank of the River Nistru. In recent years, the battle for Moldova’s electricity supply contract has usually been made between two regional players: a representative of the Ukrainian group DTEK, which is part of the business empire of Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, and the Cuciurgan plant, which is owned by the giant Inter RAO UES, controlled by the Russian state.

Source: MediaCenter (The Cuciurgan plant)

How EnergoKapital appeared in the scheme:

After the spring of 2014, when the Ministry of Economy announced that between April 1, 2014, and April 1, 2015, the Republic of Moldova bought electricity from DTEK Vostokenergo and from the Cuciurgan plant, due to the crisis in the Eastern Ukraine that degraded into an armed conflict, in autumn of 2014, DTEK has completely ceased delivery of energy to the Republic of Moldova. Consequently, DTEK’s contractual obligations were taken over by the Cuciurgan Power Plant.

At this point in the scheme, an intermediary appeared – the company EnergoKapital in Tiraspol, which was founded in October 2014, a few weeks before the DTEK ceased its deliveries. Founders of the company that emerged overnight were Bas-Market SA in Tiraspol, with offshore shareholders, and Ornamental Art Limited in Hong Kong.

In the following years, the EnergoKapital’s license was prolonged four times, with the left bank becoming the main electricity supplier in the Republic of Moldova. Thus, from the end of 2014 until the end of March 2017, EnergoKapital delivered energy worth about 400 million dollars to the consumers on the right bank of Nistru.

The offshore compromise

Victor Parlicov, the former director of the National Energy Reglementation Agency, claims that such schemes have happened in the past, but the emergence of EnergoKapital as an intermediary is also due to some misunderstandings between business partners in Chisinau, Tiraspol, and Moscow.

Former director of EnergoKapital in 2014-2016, Mihail Dobrov, now head of Dnestrenergo, an enterprise that manages Transnistrian energy transport networks, refused to speak on this subject.

Criminal law in Chișinău

The criminal scheme by which Moldova was supplied with electricity also came into view of the law enforcement bodies, the General Prosecutor’s Office, stating beforehand that the EnergoKapital intermediary figured in a criminal case. Vladimir Mosneaga, prosecutor at the Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Causes, refused to rule on the file, suggesting that RISE should wait for the official response.

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