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Justice

A Red Notice issued: Vladimir Plahotniuc is internationally wanted

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The former leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM), Vlad Plahotniuc, who was previously wanted nationally for prosecution, has been declared internationally wanted on October 28th, according to an Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office statement.

“In view of the disregard of the summons issued by the anti-corruption prosecutors and his failure to appear before the criminal prosecution body, the citizen Vladimir Plahotniuc, […] was declared internationally wanted by the National Anti-corruption Center,” is mentioned in the statement.

Vladimir Plahotniuc is criminally investigated in two criminal cases for money laundering. The criminal cases were linked into a single procedure. More information can be found here.

On October 11th, the Chișinău Municipal Court issued a 30-day arrest warrant for the former DPM leader Vlad Plahotniuc.

Even though the name of Vladimir Plahotniuc can’t be found on the Interpol list of red notices on the official website, the interim head of the General Police Inspectorate (GPI), Gheorghe Balan, stated that more details on this case are held by the Interpol subdivision within the GPI, according to ZdG.

Plahotniuc’s lawyer Vladislav Roșca, who at the time of arranging the arrest measure for Vlad Plahotniuc said that the prosecutors did not gather enough evidence, considers that there is no reason for his client to be announced internationally wanted, as TV8 stated.

At the moment when prosecutors issued a warrant of preventive arrest of Vladimir Plahotniuc, his lawyer asked for a three-week postponing of hearings because his client would not be in Moldova at that time.

The Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office imposed, on October 30th, a seizure of the assets of the former DPM leader worth 66 million lei.

According to prosecutors, “during the course of the criminal prosecution there were seizures of the bank accounts held by Plahotniuc – a deposit account held at Victoriabank with about 15 275 000 lei, a deposit account in euro with 278 090 euros, the 100% share capital of Srl Bb-Dialysis with a total value of 31 826 322 lei, the 100% share capital of Srl Bass-Systems with a total value of 2 950 000 lei, and the capital of Srl Gmg Production of 10 800 000 lei,” informed the anticoruptie.md portal.

The Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office announced that the application of the seizures is aimed at “avoiding the risk of alienating money.”

Photo credit: Dumitru Doru (EPA-EFE)

Politics

A leopard never changes its spots or the ambitions of President Igor Dodon

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Recently, a minority government was established in the Republic of Moldova at the initiative of the Moldovan president – Igor Dodon. It was formed of only one party – the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) – which is unofficially led by Igor Dodon (according to the law, the president can’t be a member of a political party). The socialists helped by democrats (the Democratic Party of Moldova – DPM) offered the confidence vote to the Government led by Ion Chicu, who is a closely connected person to the president. Therefore, President Dodon has now more and more influence on the key state institutions for promoting his own vision on how the things should be done in the Republic of Moldova. How is that possible? Let’s take it one by one.

The Parliament

On November 12th, the government led by Maia Sandu fell as a result of the no-confidence motion submitted by PSRM in the Parliament. The representatives of the previous government coalition (PSRM and the political bloc ACUM) couldn’t reach a compromise regarding submitting the list of candidates for the position of Prosecutor General. The no-confidence motion was voted by 63 Members of the Parliament (MPs) – 34 MPs from PSRM and 29 deputies from DPM.

The next day, socialists declared their support for the initiative of President Igor Dodon to create a minority Government. “It will be made up of professionals, apolitical and technocratic people, to ensure the good development and progress of the Republic of Moldova. […] The next Government will be a technocratic one, not a political one. However, the Government will have all the powers to implement the economic and social projects that the PSRM has promoted so far.” it was said in a PSRM statement.

Political experts though, have very big doubts that an apolitical minority government controlled by one political party is possible, from the very beginning, being clear that it will be directly connected to PSRM and President Dodon.

In such a way, beside assuming the responsibility for the minority government in Moldova, PSRM is currently represented by the speaker and the vice-president of the Parliament, as well as by four members of the Permanent Bureau of the legislative power.

The Government

The new prime minister along with the new Government were appointed as quick as lighting, President Dodon said there is no reason to wait 90 days as the law stipulates and Ion Chicu (the former adviser of the President Dodon) was appointed the prime minister of the country. In reality, all of it seemed like a hell of a plan: ruling in a coalition to gain credibility internationally and, at the proper moment, getting rid of it and establishing a new, controllable Government with the support of own political party.

Beside Prime Minister Ion Chicu, there are five more former advisers to the head of state who were appointed Ministers in the new Cabinet, as well as the PSRM lawyer. That is one of the reasons why the newly established Government can’t be categorised as apolitical by political analysts and civil society.

The first signs of attempting to control the Government were openly manifested at the first sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers, which was personally chaired by the President Dodon, even though that challenges the principle of separation of power in a state. The sitting was suddenly and without any explanation held behind closed doors, albeit it was initially announced as public.

“The Government led by Chicu is meant to solve problems certainly in the interests of society, but especially in the interests of the head of state. This is obvious,” declared the analyst Igor Boțan for FRE/RL.

source: gov.md| President Dodon sat on the Prime Minister’s chair, Prime Minister Chicu is on his right.

Former Prime Minister Maia Sandu declared that she had information about negotiations between President Dodon, socialists and democrats to tear down the government since September. “No matter if we had assumed the responsibility (for the  amendments to the Law on Prosecutor’s Office) or not, the government would have been anyway dismissed.[…] I was aware that, once Plahotniuc was away, Dodon would also try to subordinate the state institutions, but we could not fight both Plahotniuc and Dodon at the same time. We had to get rid of the most toxic first. The fact that Dodon subsequently violated the agreements with ACUM, showed his true self,” said Maia Sandu in an interview for G4Media.ro.

The Prosecutor General

The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) has a new Prosecutor General – Alexandr Stoianoglo, the only candidate (out of 4 proposed) who previously had a political (DPM) affiliation. President Igor Dodon signed the decree and presented him to the GPO. Everything happened in less than 24 hours since the interviews with candidates were conducted. “The appointment of the Prosecutor General is a long awaited moment, in order to overcome the deadlock of the General Prosecutor’s Office. I reiterate that, nowadays, the Republic of Moldova cannot afford to maintain a key institution in a semi-functional regime,” declared Igor Dodon.

Despite the lawsuit filed by the deputy of Prosecutor General Eduard Bulat against the Ministry of Justice, as well as the allegations made by former Minister of Justice Olesea Stamate, the same list of four candidates for the position of Prosecutor General was transmitted to the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP) by the decision of the new Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi.

More details on the subject here.

“The political situation that took place around the dismissal of the Government led by Sandu and the appointment of the Government led by Chicu was the high stake of President Igor Dodon to obtain and take control of the Prosecutor General, which would give him personal comfort and neutralise any surprise that could have appeared in the case of an independent prosecutor, as well as would ensure him a smooth election campaign and the second term in the next presidential elections,” opinated the economic expert Veaceslav Negruța in a press conference organised by IPN and Radio Moldova.

Media control

Accent TV (one of four TV stations affiliated with PSRM) has been renamed “the First in Moldova” and has obtained the right to re-transmit the broadcasts of the Russian main TV station Pervii Kanal. After the creation of “the First in Moldova” TV channel, Telesistem TV SRL (the founder of Accent TV) requested to the Audiovisual Council (AC) to issue a new broadcast license for the TV station Accent TV. Previously, Prime TV, a TV station affiliated with the former democrat leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, had this exclusive right.

Additionally, two other televisions – NTV Moldova, which re-transmits the Russian NTV channel, and Exclusiv TV, which re-transmits the Russian TV station TNT – are both administered by Exclusiv Media SRL, founded by the PSRM member Corneliu Furculiță.

As a result of these events, several NGOs from Moldova expressed their concern about the latest decisions of the AC, which would, according to them, stimulate media monopolisation in the Republic of Moldova. Also, the NGOs drew the attention of the AC members to the fact that PSRM affiliated TV stations reflect the most important topics on the public agenda by strongly favouring and promoting the PSRM members.

“It may happen that we will have an ideology that dominates the country again. We already had a time when everyone was thinking the same way. This led to nothing. The history repeats itself. When the government is changing, the redistribution of the media market is beginning. It’s sad. It proves that we didn’t develop as a society, as a state or as a political culture,” said the media expert Ion Bunduchi.

**

Igor Dodon is one of the most trusted persons in the Moldovan society. According to the last survey performed by the Public Opinion Fund, 26% of respondents said they trust President Igor Dodon the most. Therefore, having the society’s support, control over media and the most important state institutions, it seems that the plans of President Dodon to gain the second presidential seat and switch to the presidential system have a big potential to become true. But will they?

Photo: gov.md

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Justice

Former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat was released from detention

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Former prime minister Vladimir Filat was freed from detention on December 3rd, after a request was registered at the Chișinău District Court by the administration  of the prison no. 13 (the prison where the former prime minister spent his detention) on November 12th. The detention of Vladimir Filat was reduced by 709 days based on the decision of the national court as compensation for the inhuman and degrading treatment that was inflicted to him.

Vladimir Filat was supposed to serve a nine years prison sentence until November 5th, 2022. However, the law provides for the possibility of conditional release after serving 2/3 of the sentence. The former prime minister could have been released from detention on October 15th, 2021.

However, in July and October this year, there were two court decisions (based on a decision of the European Court of Human Rights) on reducing the sentence by 709 days, as a compensation for the bad conditions of detention. Thus, after the execution of 709 days reduction, it was concluded that Vladimir Filat has already reached 2/3 of his sentence on November 6th.

“Filat was sentenced to nine years in prison. Two-thirds of the sentence is six years. Now he’s four years old. One year was calculated for two, because he was sentenced in inhuman conditions. […] The law allows that when there are no civil actions and no recovery of damages,” explained  Filat’s lawyer Ion Vâzdoaga for TV8.

Vladimir Filat was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment on October 15th, 2015, being found guilty of passive corruption and traffic of influence. His criminal case was directly related to the disappearance of one billion dollars from 3 banks of the Republic of Moldova.

There is also a second criminal case, in which the former prime minister is charged with committing large-scale money laundering. The former prime minister pleads innocent.

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Justice

The same old way of selecting a new Prosecutor General of the Republic of Moldova?

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The process of selecting the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Moldova is ongoing, as well as the reform of judiciary. It seems that in a short time Moldova will have a new head of the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO). However, the impression that the same old methods based on politicised decisions, violation of the legal regime of conflict of interests, opacity and impartiality is still there.

A while ago, the contest for selecting the Prosecutor General became the apple of discord within the previous coalition government (formed of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova -PSRM – and the political bloc ACUM), after former Minister of Justice Olesea Stamate issued an order of cancelling the results of the contest for the position of Prosecutor General. The former minister declared that the contest was vitiated due to the lack of enough information about the candidates and the impartiality of one member of the Commission in charge with the evaluation.

In a snowball effect, the Government assumed the responsibility for amending the Law on Prosecutor’s Office, so that the prime minister would have been responsible for pre-selecting the candidates for the position of Prosecutor General and submitting the list of candidates to the Superior Council of Prosecutors (SCP), while the existing legal provisions stipulate that the pre-selection is done by a Commission of Ministry of Justice. The socialists (PSRM) was totally against such an amendment. As a result, the coalition fell and the Government was dismissed by a no-confidence vote adopted by the Parliament.

The old contest is the new contest

The same list of four selected candidates for the position of Prosecutor General was transmitted to the SCP by the decision of the new Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi, despite all allegations made by the previous Minister of Justice.

On November 28th, the interviews for the position of Prosecutor General contest took place. Subsequently, the members of the SCP have to evaluate the results and appoint a winner, submitting the candidacy to the president of the Republic of Moldova, who has to decide whether to sign the appointment decree or not.

According to the regulation, the SCP has to publish the average of the total score obtained by each candidate on its official web page within 24 hours from the end of the interview. This time though, it was decided (internally) that only the average total score for each candidate will be made public, as during the last evaluations, the score given by each member of the Commission was made public and, as a consequence, the former Minister Stamati refused to submit the list of candidates to the SCP.

Minister of Justice Fadei Nagacevschi declared that “There are elements of privacy. Not everything needs to be made transparent. This time, the new Minister of Justice wanted to make sure that the contest would not be suspended and the list of candidates would be passed on.

Doubts from inside

Eduard Bulat, a former candidates for the position of Prosecutor General who also holds the office of the deputy of Prosecutor General, filed a lawsuit for violation of the legal regime of conflict of interest and lack of transparency against the Ministry of Justice, challenging the way the contest for the pre-selection of the head of the General Prosecutor’s Office candidates was conducted, as well as the results of this contest. 

“One of the issues is regarding the absolute nullity of the act issued by the Commission, determined by the violation of the legal regime of conflict of interests, because one of the candidates was in certain relations with one of the members of the Commission. […] There was a margin of subjectivity left for the members of the Commission who evaluated the candidates according to criteria I am not aware of,” said Eduard Bulat.

The Chisinau Court rejected the application submitted by Eduard Bulat, mentioning that there are not enough reasonable suspicions, sufficient and relevant reasons that would justify the suspension of the administrative act until its legality is verified in the judicial proceedings.

The candidates

There are still four candidates selected by the Commission of the Ministry of Justice out of whom the Prosecutor General could be appointed.

One of them is Alexandr Stoianoglo who was also a deputy speaker of the Parliament, being elected on the lists of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM).  In July 2019, after Vladimir Plahotniuc’s resignation from the DPM leadership, Stoianoglo’s name was mentioned among the potential future leaders of DPM.

Vladislav Gribincea is another candidate who was the president of the Centre for Legal Resources of Moldova (CLRM). He didn’t hold any office, but has been involved as an expert in the elaboration of the Strategy for the Reform of the Judiciary for the years 2011-2016. The candidate has been a loyal donor of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) for the last three years.

Veaceslav Soltan is a prosecutor at the General Prosecutor’s Office, being also the head of the Information Technologies and Fight Against Cyber Crimes Department within the General Prosecutor’s Office.

And the last candidate is Oleg Crâșmaru who is a senior criminal prosecution officer at the National Anti-corruption Centre (NAC), previously working at the Customs Service, being head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and head of the Special Cases Section.

More information about the candidates here.

(Update) The new Prosecutor General

The SCP already selected one candidate out of 4 proposed and submitted the candidacy to the Head of State for signing the appointing decree. Alexandr Stoianoglo, the candidate that had previously a DPM affiliation, was announced as the candidate with the highest average score.

President Igor Dodon signed the decree. The new Prosecutor General has already been presented to the General Prosecutor’s Office. Everything happened in less than 24 hours since the interviews with candidates were conducted.

“The appointment of the Prosecutor General is a long awaited moment, in order to overcome the deadlock of the General Prosecutor’s Office. I reiterate that, nowadays, the Republic of Moldova cannot afford to maintain a key institution in a semi-functional regime,” declared Igor Dodon.

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