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Major Moldovan channel Jurnal TV to reduce its program, due to rent pressure and “unequal fight with oligarchic system”

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On January 12th, Jurnal Trust Media, the managing trust of the major Moldovan channel Jurnal TV, issued a statement on the reducing of the content of TV program beginning from 16 January 2017.

According to Jurnal Trust Media, the cause for the reducing is the request of the owner of the TV channel building to stop the rent contract and to quit the building in 35 days. The managers of the media holding believe that this action of the owner who has been renting out the building for 7 years was concerted by the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc.

Quoted by Agora.MD, Capital Estate SRL, the owner of the TV channel building, declared that it decided to end the rent contract after several attempts to recover the debt for the rent for previous months.

This last action is allegedly just one of Plahotniuc’s attempts to undermine its power: the targeted attacks of oligarch’s media outlets on Jurnal TV, the attempts to exclude Jurnal TV from Moldtelecom digital TV offers, the multiple perturbations of TV signal, the unfair competition along with the intimidation of the commercial partners, the lack of an objective measurement of audience, monopoly on the advertisement market. Jurnal TV stresses the partisan and discriminatory attitude of the Coordinating Audiovisual Council, that several times imposed allegedly illegal sanctions, impossible to challenge due to the lack of independent and equitable justice.

The media outlet blames it on Plahotniuc, who subjugated and took under his control the institutions in Moldova, making it a captured state:

“This oligarchic system intends to suppress at any price the freedom of expression, to distort the reality, to manipulate the public opinion”, reads the statement.

Jurnal TV will thus be obliged to keep broadcasting only little of its own content.

Nevertheless, Jurnal Trust Media calls for resistance and promises to provide new television, television of the People(!).

Jurnal Trust Media and Jurnal TV, in particular, is known for having a harsh position on the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc and his media outlets. At the same time, Jurnal TV was several times accused for exposing too much of the activity of the party Platform “Dignity and Truth”, emerged as a protest movement in 2015 and indirectly linked to the owner of the media trust, Victor Țopa. Țopa is currently residing in refuge in Germany, after a condemnation in a trial related to his ex-business partner, now-enemy Vlad(imir) Plahotniuc.

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

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A cooperation agreement on preventing and combating corruption was signed between the Moldovan and Romanian Governments

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A Cooperation Agreement on Prevention and Combating Corruption was concluded today in Chisinau between the Government of Moldova and Romania.

The document was signed by the director of the National Anticorruption Center, Bogdan Zumbreanu, and the Secretary of State of the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs, Gheorghe Nucu Marin.

The agreement provides for the strengthening of the cooperation relations between the two governments and the creation of an interaction mechanism in the field of preventing and combating corruption.

The document also sets out the possibility of exchanging experts to identify best practices in the fight against corruption, intensifying the exchange of data and operative information, and increasing the number of joint investigation.

According to the CNA Director Bogdan Zumbreanu, the signing of the Agreement will be an important step in strengthening the cooperation relations in the field of security at the EU border, as well as the development of EU initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership and the European Neighborhood Policy.

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Nepotism, fake contests and controlled institutions – the situation during the pre-election period in Moldova

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When everyone is sure that the apogee of the manipulation and illegal actions is already reached in the Republic of Moldova, a new limit is discovered. Recently, 3 new Judges of the Constitutional Court of Moldova were appointed in a big rush without any contest announcements. All of them are recognised as having connections or being a member of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM), the party that is responsible for the establishment of the oligarchic system in the Republic of Moldova.

“We have come under the situation when the government has the nepotism as the main criterion for selecting people for positions in public institutions.” This is what Maia Sandu, the president of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), declared on December 17th, after the documents’ submission to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for the registration of the Electoral Bloc “ACUM”. A closer analysis of the most important positions occupied in the key government institutions could test her declaration. Are the institutions under the DPM’s control? Is Moldova a captured state?

The Constitutional Court (CC)

One after another, Corneliu Gurin, Artur Reșetnicov and Raisa Apolschi were proposed by the state institutions and appointed as Judges of the Constitutional Court.

Corneliu Gurin, the former General Prosecutor of the Republic of Moldova between 2013 and 2016, was appointed on December 11th by the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) as a Judge of the Constitutional Court. He was the head of the General Prosecutor’s Office during the “Great Moldovan Bank Robbery”. According to an investigation made by Sic.md, Gurin had a close relationship with the DPM and its leader Vladimir Plahotniuc. The investigation shows that during his mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor General was controlled by the DPM. Corneliu Gurin was the one who demanded the withdrawal of the parliamentary immunity of the former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, accused of involvement in the bank fraud.

Photo source: adevarul.ro

In such a hurry, the SCM has not even managed to put the subject of designating a candidate for the constitutional judge’s seat on its agenda. The university professor and the former SCM member Alexandru Arseni explained for RFE/RL that, according to the law, the SCM magistrates should have first announced a contest, assessing candidates’ files and choosing the best ones. “The way in which Corneliu Gurin became one of the six people who can modify and interpret the Constitution without referendums and a parliamentary majority does not inspire much trust in the independence and impartiality of the Court,” said Arseni.

Next, Artur Reșetnicov, a deputy of the Parliament and a member of the DPM, was appointed on December 12th by the Government of the Republic of Moldova as a Judge of the Constitutional Court. During the period of 2007-2009, Artur Reșetnicov served as the Information and Security Service’s Director. Since December 2010, Artur Resetnicov has been a member of the Parliament, on behalf of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) in 2010-2015 and as a non-attached member in 2015-2017. He was among the 14 deputies who left the PCRM in 2015, joining the DPM in March 2017.

Photo source: tvrmoldova.md

Raisa Apolschi, the Vladimir Plahotniuc’s godmother[1], was appointed in the next days by the Parliament as a Judge of the Constitutional Court of Moldova. Since 2010 she has been a deputy in the Parliament and a member of the DPM. Apolschi is the head of the parliamentary “Legal, Appointments and Immunities” committee and a member of the DPM National Political Council.

Photo source: stiri.md

Therefore, 3 persons loyal to the DPM regime were appointed during last days. Their decisions have enormous consequences on the entire constitutional balance of the country, even the Moldova’s state structure. The Constitutional Court of Moldova represents the sole body of constitutional jurisdiction. It should be autonomous and independent from the executive, the legislature and the judiciary powers. Its main tasks include guarantying the supremacy of the constitution. The institution can interpret the Constitution and undertake the review of constitutionality of the Parliament’s laws and decisions, the decrees of the President and the acts of the Government.

Until today, the Constitutional Court has transformed the presidential institution into a tricky thing with unclear responsibilities and attributions. Consequently, the president of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, has been suspended temporarily several times to allow some Parliament initiatives to be promulgated.

The Constitutional Court of Moldova is formed of six judges, appointed for a six-year term. Two judges are appointed by the Parliament, two by the Government and two by the Superior Council of Magistracy. 3 out of 6 judges were appointed recently.

The Central Election Commission (CEC)

The CEC is a key institution when it comes to the electoral policy for organisation, supervision and operation of elections. It is also in charge of verifying the compliance with the legal provisions on the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. As the CEC’s mission states, it should be an independent state body, out of any political influence. However, the reputation of the Moldova’s CEC institution leaves room for improvement.

In August 2018, the leader of the PAS, Maia Sandu, accused the head of the CEC, Alina Russu, of political partiality for DPM in the matter of the funding of the party. “In April, we asked the CEC to analyse the audio recordings shared by the press, where the Criuleni district president and DPM member Veaceslav Burlac asks his colleagues to sign on party donations they did not actually make,” declared Maia Sandu. She also mentioned that during the investigation, the CEC sent requests to the DPM and presented the situation from the party’s perspective by not identifying any violations. “I am puzzled: Is the CEC a subsidiary of the DPM or the DPM is hired to investigate for CEC?” stated Maia Sandu. Alina Russu denied all the accusations.

Photo source: rise.md

In January 2018, the CEC’s decision of rejecting the registration of the initiative group #numixt raised more doubts regarding the independence of the CEC. The group proposed the organization of the legislative referendum to cancel the mixed electoral system. The CEC’s decision was criticized by the representatives of the opposition and civil society. Alina Russu declared in an interview that since the initiative group has admitted certain errors and violations of the Electoral Code, the CEC has applied the law by rejecting the group’s registration.

These days, CEC should take a decision regarding the registration of the electoral bloc “ACUM”, formed of the PAS and the DTPP Parties. “CEC is about to examine the submitted documents. The decision will be announced in a public meeting in maximum 7 days” the CEC president, Alina Russu, declared. In the same time, the PAS leader, Maia Sandu, expressed her hope in resolving this matter: “Even if we didn’t have a very good experience with the CEC institution previously, we express hope that things will happen differently this time. Everyone is aware of the necessity and the duty to respect the law.”

The National Anticorruption Centre (NAC)

The Chief of the NAC, Bogdan Zumbreanu, seems to also have connections with the Democratic Party and its leaders. First, he was the head of the “Argus-S” company, a security firm affiliated with the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, as one of the Ziarul de Garda’s investigation found. According to the same investigation, during his activity, Zumbreanu widely exploited the nepotism phenomenon. He occupied several positions at NAC and at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), following the path of his godfather Valentin Mejinschi, the former NAC Chief, and the former MIA minister.

Photo source: sputnik.md

The members of Zumbreanu’s family have also occupied important position in the current government. Iurie Serbulenco, Zumbreanu’s father-in-law, is the former Deputy Chief at MIA Hospital, currently working at a private hospital in Chișinău. Aliona Serbulenco, Zumbreanu’s mother-in law, is the former minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection, currently occupying the position of Deputy Minister of Health and being a DPM member.

The NAC is a specialized institution for preventing and combating corruption. It should be an apolitical institution that does not provide assistance and does not support any political party. It should be independent in its work, being only a law subject. The legal framework of the NAC activity is the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova.

The captured state

According to a report issued in 2017 by Transparency International, the “Adept” Association and IDIS “Viitorul”, the practice of ‘sharing’ the control over the public institutions is not new for the current government. Since 2009, the members of the Alliance for European Integration have divided all the law and regulation institutions disguising it under the alleged decommunization. “The politicization of the public institutions manifested itself later through the admittance of the Great Moldovan Bank Robbery,” as Igor Boțan, a political analyst, claimed.

The expert of IDIS “Viitorul”, Nadejda Hriptievschi, mentioned in the report that the NAC may be under the influence of the Democrats. Also under their influence may be the General Prosecutor’s Office, lead since 2016 by Eduard Harunjen, who held several positions in this institution since 2010.

A selective approach by the anti-corruption and the judiciary bodies from the Republic of Moldova is proved by the significant difference in examining the criminal case files of Vladimir Filat, Ilan Shor and Veaceslav Platon. “The mayor of Orhei, Ilan Shor, is clearly privileged compared to the other two, who have already received convictions in closed trials,” said Nadejda Hriptievschi.

“Nowadays, all decisions are taken at the DPM’s office. That denotes already a totally captured state.”

So, what do we have at the moment? A political Party – DPM, that is controlling or has under its influence all key institutions of the state (the Constitutional Court, the Central Election Commission and the National Anticorruption Centre) in the context of the future parliamentary election in February 2019. A government ruled by nepotism and corruption, whose decisions can be taken overnight and whose actions are totally unforeseeable. “No meritocracy, no contests for choosing people in public offices. No doubts that this is not a state of law anymore,” as Maia Sandu stated recently.

Featured photo source: Getty Images

[1] As an orthodox cultural concept, the godparents are witnesses at the wedding and also godparents for the future children of the couple
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Economy

The Citizenship by Investment Program in Moldova – embracing great opportunities or risks?

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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.

MEI signing the partnership contract with the MIC Holding| Source: mei.gov.md

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

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