Dubai, November 5th – The Citizenship by Investment Program in the Republic of Moldova was officially launched at the 12th annual Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in Dubai. Since the very first moment when the legislative initiative was registered in the Parliament (December 2016), the law of citizenship by investment gained support, along with a lot of criticism. The government presented the program as an opportunity to attract new investments, whereas the opposition and some experts argued that granting citizenship to foreign investors involves major risks to the state security and could affect the liberalized visa regime with the EU, as reported by Ziarul de Gardă.
The law adoption outlines
The law of citizenship by investment was adopted and promulgated in record time without waiting the results of the anti-corruption expertise report published by the National Anticorruption Centre (NAC). One week after the final voting of the bill, the results of NAC report stated that “the promoted interests through the law of citizenship by investment are detrimental to the public interest, and imply major risks to the safety and security of the citizens and the state of the Republic of Moldova, , in the context of the emigration crisis in EU and the global terrorism threat.”
In March 2018, the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure (MEI) has published a decision to amend the Regulation on Acquisition of Citizenship by Investment. According to the Transparency International Moldova experts, the changes to the selection procedure of candidates for granting citizenship were made without public debates and a preliminary notification. The procedure was simplified by omitting the governmental institutions from the examination process.
A series of law amendments came next, enabling the persons who would obtain the Moldovan citizenship by investment to be exempted from the obligation to know the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and to speak the Romanian language. Moreover, the name and other personal data of the candidates would be kept in secret, only the applicant file number being published.
The ex-president of the Parliamentary Commission for national security, defence and public order, Roman Boţan, qualified the amendments as doubtful. “It’s strange that the names of the candidates for granting the Moldovan citizenship by investment is concealed. It is plausible that such investments could come from fraud, and premises of decriminalizing illegal assets could be created,” declared Boţan.
Vlad Ţurcanu, a political commentator and a former presidential adviser, mentioned that the relationship Moldova – EU could be negatively affected in the light of a non-transparent citizenship granting process. Furthermore, such problematic future citizens could create crises which would be very hard to be managed by the Moldovan institutions.
In July 2018, MEI signed a partnership contract with the Moldovan Investment Company (MIC) Holding and with Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd. The stated scope of the contract was the development, implementation and international promotion of the Citizenship by Investment Program. The official MIC Holding website presents neither the name of the founding persons or companies nor the contact address of the holding.
The Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd appears in an investigation article written by The Guardian that presents the company as doing business with ‘golden’ passports. “For a few hundred thousand dollars, the right passport, from the right place, can get its owner into almost any country,” is stated in the article. The company was involved in the Maltese program of citizenship by investments and was accused of intimidating the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The journalist examined the scheme of offering the Maltese citizenship but was assassinated in October 2017.
The Henley & Partners’ perspective
In an interview for Newsmaker, the president of Henley & Partners, Christian Kälin and the Group Public Relations Director at Henley & Partners, Paddy Blewer talked about the candidate selection process of Moldovan citizenship granting and the benefits of the program.
First, it is important to mention that the Henley & Partners company, as a part of the MIC Holding, is responsible for the consultancy and the strategy implementation for the Moldovan Citizenship by Investment Program.
When asked about the possible applicants for the Citizenship by Investment Program, Christian Kälin clarified that they would be wealthy people that want to enlarge their possibilities of traveling and moving around the world.
“It is not about a Russian oligarch with lots of money and relationships in the political world. It is more about an UAE citizen who is not sure he wants to stay in his country in the next 15 years or an American citizen that can’t enter an Arabic country using his American passport and needs the second citizenship for security reasons.”
According to Kälin, the applicants would be interested in being protected and moving around, not tax evasion. He admitted that among the beneficiaries of the program could be not well-intended people: “It’s like in the bank. There are thousands of clients and among them there could be 5,7,10 delinquents. Still, that’s not a reason for the bank to cease its activity.”
“The most important benefit for a country that implements a program of citizenship by investment is the possibility to attract new investments,” as Paddy Blewer stated. In the case of the Republic of Moldova there is a possibility, at the moment, to invest in the Public Investment Fund. The law of citizenship by investment stipulates for now only the opportunity of real estate investments, according to Christian Kälin. He also added that the real estate sector is a key one in the economy of any country and that most programs of granting citizenship in return for investment provide such a component. “Real estate investments have a considerable positive effect on the economy of a country. They increase the number of transactions and develop the construction industry. The real estate sector has many intersections with other sectors of the economy. Thus, it will be a driver of job creation,” said Kälin.
According to the officials’ declarations at the Moldova Business Week of this year, the industries that should have priority when it comes to investments in Moldova are the tourism and information technologies sectors. Also, the automotive and manufacturing industries need the government’s support in order to be developed as the country’s strategical sectors.
The expert’s perspective
The expert and activist Sergiu Tofilat explained for Moldova.org several important aspects regarding the law of citizenship by investment. First, “some European countries are trying to attract investment by selling citizenship. Such programs are interesting for wealthy people who want to be able to travel visa-free in the EU and the US, who would like to easily open bank accounts in western banks,” said Tofilat. He highlighted the serious issues in verifying the source of the ‘invested’ money for acquiring citizenship, but also national security issues when different criminals or terrorists get foreign citizenship.
In case of the Republic of Moldova, “there are problems related to politically subordinate justice, labour shortages, the lack of predictability of public policies as when the government changes the law, and this affects the business environment that can’t plan its activity for at least 3-5 years,” as Tofilat mentioned. Taking into consideration these circumstances, “the Citizenship by Investment program raises suspicions of money laundering, especially since nothing of the stolen billion has been recovered,” stated Tofilat. He indicated that the program in question must be analysed together with the so-called tax amnesty law, which allows the legalization of any dirty money for a 6% tax. “As a result, the beneficiaries of the bank fraud can decriminalize their money through certain foreign citizens who will receive citizenship by granting loans to the Moldovan Government, after which the new Moldovan citizens will benefit from the tax amnesty,” explained Tofilat.
“The authorities stated that the objective of the citizenship program is to attract foreign investments in Moldova. It is absurd to believe that foreign investors queue up for investing their money in Moldova and that getting citizenship is the biggest obstacle for them.”
According to the Tofilat’s opinion, “a special attention should be paid to the dangerous similarities of the Moldovan program with the programs in Hungary and Malta.” Just as in the case of Hungary, the names of those who will receive the citizenship of the Republic of Moldova will be classified under the pretext of protecting their personal data.
An international inquiry from September 2018 revealed that especially Russian officials are interested in receiving the Hungarian citizenship for being able to travel without any visa and to leave Russia in case they need it. “It’s the case of Russian deputies, heads of state-owned enterprises, and even Serghei Naryshkin’s family, the head of the Russian espionage service, who received the citizenship of Hungary. This happened despite the fact that some officials appear on international sanctions lists,” specified Tofilat.
Featured image source: anticoruptie.md
An International Monetary Fund mission will visit Chişinău next week
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Ruben Atoyan, will be visiting the capital city of the Republic of Moldova during January 22 – February 5, 2020, as a press release of the IMF permanent representative office in Moldova stated.
According to the statement, during the visit, the mission will hold discussions with Moldovan authorities “in preparation of the 2020 Article IV consultation and in the context of the sixth and final reviews of Moldova’s IMF-supported program under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangements.”
Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members. First, a staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board (IMF Factsheet on Surveillance), as it is explained on the organisation’s official page.
“The mission will take stock of the recent economic developments and the progress in authorities’ program implementation, update and assess the macroeconomic outlook, and discuss with the authorities medium-term challenges and risk facing Moldova’s economy and policies to address them,” is mentioned in the press release.
The last visit of the IMF staff team in Moldova took place during October 2–8, 2019. At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Atoyan made the following statement:
“We commend the authorities for taking decisive actions to bring the IMF-supported program back on track and advancing reforms. During the past week, we have held constructive discussions on recent economic developments and policies to maintain macroeconomic and fiscal stability. To this end, the mission initiated discussions on policy priorities and financing for the 2020 budget. Discussions on measures and reforms to support the fiscal policy package for 2020 will continue in the period ahead, including during the upcoming IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C.”
In December 2019, Prime Minister Ion Chicu declared that a pause in the relationship with the IMF could be taken if the given organisation opposes investments in infrastructure or insists on the rise in gas tariffs. “Our goal is to build lasting relationships with the IMF, but not at any cost,” stated Premier Ion Chicu.
The head of the Moldovan Government noted that a new program could be signed with IMF, after the current program expires in March. However, according to him, the IMF is a partner that imposes conditions that can restrict the Government’s development plans and investments in infrastructure. “The IMF is a partner of the Republic of Moldova and I am for having a program supported by this institution. Beyond the financial aspect, there is the one of reforms. I want to finalise the existing program by March and then have another,” said Ion Chicu.
Moldova’s three-year IMF program was approved on November 7, 2016, being supported by a loan of s 129.4 million special drawing rights (SDR), which is about $182 million, or 75% of the Republic of Moldova’s quota. 115 million SDR (about US$160 million) have been already disbursed. Two thirds of the loan are 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 1.7 percent), and is repayable over 10 years with a 4½ -year grace period.
What is the Moldovans’ budget share spent on food? Comparative figures
While most of the European countries’ population spend not more than a quarter of their minimum wage on food, Moldovan people allocate 50,1% of it on food expenditures, estimated a study conducted by Picodi.com.
The analysts compared food prices with the minimum wage, by creating a ‘shopping cart’, which included eight basic products designated to cover the daily nutritional needs of an adult: bread, milk, eggs, rice, cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables.
The total estimated value of the included products was 1034 lei, representing 50.1% of the net minimum wage in Moldova – 113 euros. In comparison with Moldova, the lowest minimum wages in the EU countries are in Bulgaria and Romania – 242 euros and 282 euros respectively, Bulgarians and Romanians spending 23,4% and 29,5% of their minimum wage value on food. At the same time, such countries as Luxembourg and Ireland have settled their minimum wage level among the highest in the EU – 1796 euros and 1574 euros per month respectively, the food expenditures in these countries reaching only 9,5% and 7,3% of the minimum countries’ budget.
According to the national statistics of Moldova, provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the monthly average wage earning in 2018 was 5141.9 lei (about 250 euros at that moment), that being 12% more than in 2017. Also, the consumer price index (CPI) for food products amounted 107.5% in December 2019, as compared to December 2018, while in December 2018 the CPI marked 100.9%, as compared to December 2017.
The same source shows that the average monthly expenditure budget of the population of the Republic of Moldova in 2018 was on average 2407.9 lei per person (117 euros), increasing by 7.0% compared to the previous year. In real terms (with the adjustment to the consumer price index) the population spent on average 3.9% more in 2018 compared to 2017.
The national statistics prove the same thing: most of the Moldovans’ expenses are designated for food purchasing – 43.8%, being followed by the maintenance of the house expenses – 18.2% of the total consumption expenses, clothing and footwear – 10.7%, health services – 5.1%, communications – 4.6%, transportation – 4.0%, housing – 3.8% and education – 0.5%.
In addition, almost 40% of the population of the Republic of Moldova said that their income is only enough for their basic needs, while 24,3% said that the money they earn are not even enough for the basic needs they have, as a survey conducted by the Sociologists and Demographers Association displayed. The biggest concerns of Moldovans are poverty (25,8%), unemployment (23,1%), migration (21,3%) and corruption (19,2%).
Moldova in the last decade// the most prominent political fiascoes the country experienced
The decisions taken by the Constitutional Court, the expulsion of Turkish teachers, the adoption of the mixed electoral system, the president removed from office “for 5 minutes”, the lack of Government or the doubled Government – there were so many failures in the Moldovan politics in the last 10 years, that it’s hard to count them.
During the last ten years, the citizens of the country have witnessed many changes of the political and state institutions. Moldova.org selected the most relevant events. Here is where we can remember the saying “Every nation has the leaders it deserves.”
1 Decisions of the Constitutional Court from 7 to 9 June 2019
The Constitutional Court of Moldova (CC) announced, on June 7, that the deadline for the Parliament, which was elected on February 24 and validated on March 9, to appoint the new Government expired. The CC calculated that the constitutional term of “three months” provided for the formation of the Government actually means “90 days” and that it expired on June 7, not on June 9. The next day, the political bloc ACUM and the PSRM signed a temporary agreement for the formation of a majority government, Zinaida Greceanii being voted the president of the Parliament and Maia Sandu being appointed the head of the Government.
Immediately thereafter, the CC declared all the laws and decisions adopted by the new Parliament as unconstitutional. On June 9, the Constitutional Court decided to remove President Igor Dodon from office and appointed Pavel Filip as the interim president. After the Democratic Party announced its power withdrawal, on June 15, the CC cancelled its own previously taken decisions.
The Venice Commission published an opinion, stating that the CC violated its own procedures when taking the respective decisions, but also the principle of impartiality towards the political parties. The Commission recalled that the Court’s role is to be equidistant and to act as an impartial arbitrator in the event of a confrontation between political parties.
2 The period of two Governments
Between June 8-15, 2019, the Republic of Moldova had two Governments – the Government appointed by the newly formed majority government, led by Maia Sandu and the previous Government who still remained in power, according to the decision of the CC. Pavel Filip, the so-called interim president, announced the dissolution of the Parliament and the date of future snap elections.
The newly elected Parliament had its first session in the dark, as the technical employees of the building did not come to work that day. The democrats stated that they did’t recognise the new Government and didn’t intend to give up the power. The democrats’ leader Vladimir Plahotniuc accused the socialists of trying to usurp power. A week later, the Democratic Party decided to give up the power in favour of the Government appointed by the ACUM and socialists’ majority.
3 Clandestine interceptions’ scandal
A RISE Moldova investigation has discovered an entire operation of intercepting and chasing the political opponents of the democratic government, which has been carried out in recent years. The operation was carried out under cover of three criminal cases, filed because of inconvenient Facebook messages or statements at press conferences. As a result, it was established that the activities of 52 people, including politicians, representatives of civil society, organisations representatives and journalists, were investigated by prosecutors and police officers.
After coming to power, the ACUM representatives declared that the number of people chased by the former government was much higher. In addition to intercepting phone calls, some of them have also been monitored, as microphones and video cameras were installed in their houses. President Igor Dodon claimed that, in 2018, there were 10 thousand interceptions, out of which 600 at the request of the Information and Security Service (ISS), and 3 300 interception in 2019, out of which 200 were initiated at the request of ISS. Most interceptions were initiated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). Based on the interception scandal, criminal cases were filed against four MIA employees, three prosecutors and four judges.
4 Camouflaged expulsion of Turkish teachers
On September 6, 2018, seven Turkish citizens who were teachers at Horizon High School, were removed from their homes by employees of the ISS and taken in an unknown direction. The state institutions declared the action as “expulsion”, saying that the Turkish nationals were suspected of links with an Islamist group. They have been declared undesirable by the competent bodies and expelled from the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
The Turkish citizens were taken to Turkey by a charter plane and were sentenced to years of imprisonment. Immediately after the expulsion operation, European officials asked the Moldovan authorities “to comply with the rule of law and all judicial procedures” in this case. On June 11, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights issued a conclusion stating that Moldova violated the rights of Turkish citizens and required the government to pay 25 thousand euros for each of the Turkish citizens, whose rights were violated.
5 Cancellation of Andrei Nastase mayoral mandate
In June 2018, the Chișinău District Court cancelled the results of the snap local elections for the mayoral seat of the capital city. The elections were won by the Dignity and Truth Platform Party leader, Andrei Năstase. His mandate was not validated on the grounds that he would have campaigned on social media on the day before elections. Andrei Năstase addressed voters on Facebook and advised them to participate in the vote.
The decision was heavily criticised by local experts, ambassadors and representatives of international forums. The decision remained in force and after being challenged in the higher courts. After one year and three months, the mandate of Andrei Năstase was validated. By that moment other local elections were organised and his rival, socialist Ion Ceban won the mayor seat.
6 The Citizenship by Investments Law
Also in 2018, the Parliament adopted the law on granting citizenship by investments – a mechanism by which foreign citizens could obtain citizenship of the Republic of Moldova. “The Law on Citizenship by Investments of the Republic of Moldova is one of the projects that created favourable conditions for international money laundering,” Transparency International-Moldova states in a report. Such models for granting citizenship are criticized by European officials, and some countries have already given up these programs. In the summer of 2019, the Government instituted a moratorium on this law for a period of four months.
7 The president removed from power “for 5 minutes”
In 2017, the Constitutional Court decided that the president’s refusal to carry out his constitutional duties in appointing a minister represented “a temporary impossibility to exercise his duties” and justified assigning the president of the Parliament or the prime minister as the interim head of state. In other words, the CC decided that the president Igor Dodon had no veto in appointing a minister, and the signature of the head of state on the confirmation decree is only a formal one.
In the period of 2017 to 2018, Igor Dodon was temporarily removed from office for five times, and the respective decrees were signed by the President of the Parliament Andrian Candu. The removal for “five minutes” became a joke of the representatives of civil society and experts who stated that Igor Dodon may claim to be included in the Guinness Book of Records. In December 2018, Igor Dodon stated that he had called for protest in case another removal from power would have taken place.
8 The adoption of the mixed electoral system
In the summer of 2017, the Parliament adopted the law on the mixed voting system. It provided that 50 deputies would be elected on party lists, and 51 – directly by citizens, in single-seat constituencies. The mixed voting system was adopted by the socialists, democrats and popular-Europeans and has been criticised by the Venice Commission, the European Union, the United States and by the political opposition.
After the formation of the new majority government, the Parliament adopted, in the summer of 2019, the return to the proportional representation system, cancelling the mixed voting system.
9 The appointment of the Government led by Pavel Filip
On January 20, 2016, the Parliament where the democrats held the majority, granted a vote of confidence to the candidate Pavel Filip and his Cabinet of Ministers. At that time, neither the draft Government activity program, nor the list of proposed Government members had been made public. The new Government was voted in a session that lasted about 30 minutes, in which the designated PM held a speech for 8 minutes and, in another 2 minutes, presented the Executive’s list. The discussions and debates were omitted.
Moreover, the procedure for taking the oath by the members of the Government also took place on January 20, secretly, at midnight. Thousands of protesters surrounded Parliament, calling for snap parliamentary elections. Subsequently, the protesters entered the Parliament building forcefully, and altercations took place.
10 Ilan Șor became the mayor of Orhei
Being criminally investigated in the “Theft of the century” case and being arrested at home, on June 14, 2015, Ilan Shor won the mayoral elections with 61.97% of the votes. Political analysts described his involvement in politics as an intention to escape house detention.
In 2017, he was sentenced by the first court to 7 and a half years in prison. Despite the accusations, Ilan Șor pleaded not guilty and continued his political activity . Moreover, he also obtained a mandate as a member of the Parliament. In 2019, he received the certificate of integrity to run for parliamentary elections. Later on, Ilan Şor left the country despite the court ban, after the democrats’ power withdrawal.
11 The theft of the century
In 2014, the Republic of Moldova became the scene of an international scandal, following a fraudulent scheme of 1 billion withdrawal from 3 saving banks from Moldova. To save the situation, two governments (led by Iurie Leancă and Chiril Gaburici) took decisions to grant state guarantees for covering the hole in the banking system. To investigate the case, Kroll company was invited.
At the initiative of the political bloc ACUM, a new parliamentary commission was created in order to investigate the banking fraud. It’s conclusions were that the amount of damage could be much higher than initially stated and that the main beneficiaries of the bank robbery were the Vladimir Plahotniuc, Ilan Șor and Vladimir Filat groups.
12 The stolen billion has to be paid by Moldovan citizens in the next 21 years
In 2016, the Government led by Pavel Filip decided to convert the emergency loans, amounting to 13.5 billion Moldovan lei, transferred by the National Bank of Moldova to three affected by the robbery banks, into state debt. Therefore, the citizens of Moldova would have to return in the next 25 years about 21 billion Moldovan lei (including the interest for the emergency loans). It was calculated that every child born in the Republic of Moldova would owe the state 4000 lei (182 euros) from the first day of his life.
13 No president, for almost three years
In 2009, when the former head of state Vladimir Voronin announced his resignation, the Parliament tried twice, but without success, to elect the democratic leader Marian Lupu to this position. In November 2010, due to Parliament’s inability to elect the head of state, snap parliamentary elections were held again. Finally, in March 2012 the candidacy of the former president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Nicolae Timofti, was voted to be the president. Therefore, the constitutional crisis lasted for about two and a half years (from September 2009 to March 2012).
This text is a translation. The original article can be found here.
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