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Important

Vlad Plahotniuc risks life inprisonment amid drug trafficking accusations from Russia

No, this isn’t an article about politics. Recently, Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has accused Vlad Plahotniuc, oligarch and former Democratic Party leader, of leading an international drug cartel. According to the Russian investigators, he was involved in providing Moroccan hashish, through Spain, all the way to Russia.

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Because of that, Plahotniuc risks life imprisonment. The same accusations have been brought against former DPM deputy Constantin Ţuţu – the investigation considers that he was an accomplice of Plahotniuc and gave the instructions of the drug cartel, writes RBK.ru.

“Today, investigators of the Department of Investigations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, filed charges with the former President of the Democratic Party of Moldova Vladimir Plahotniuc and his trusted person – a professional athlete Constantin Ţuţu – for committing an offense under Article 210 (1) and (2) of the Criminal Code the organization of a criminal community),” said the Russian Interior Ministry’s official source.

Caption: Vlad Plahotniuc and athlete Constantin Tutu

Plahotniuc is also accused of 28 cases of smuggling and illegal sale of narcotic drugs in particularly large proportions.

In the course of the investigation, it was found that the former President of the Democratic Party of Moldova, Vlad Plahotniuc, “having the capacity to influence the political situation and the authorities in Chisinau, through criminal methods of influencing persons, aiming at personal enrichment, entered into a criminal conspiracy with the leaders of the criminal group in Moldova”.

According to available information, as of 2012, Plahotniuc has become one of the leaders of transnational drug transport.

The investigators also managed to gather evidence of a personal meeting of Vlad Plahotniuc with the criminal leaders Oleg Pruteanu, Alexandr Stegherescu alias Shasha-Sportivul and the Spanish citizen Manuel Silvio de la Paz, alias “Lolo”, in which “during the negotiations of which they discussed the amount of hashish delivered, the cost of purchasing, transit, storage, sale price, and the size of their income.”

Interaction with the organizer of the criminal community, Oleg Pruteanu, as well as direct control over this area of ​​criminal activity, directed by Vladimir Plahotniuc, were exercised by the professional Moldavian sportsman, former deputy in the Parliament, Constantin Ţuţu, writes the quoted source.

This is not the first charge against Plahotniuc in Russia.

In February, the Russian Interior Ministry accused Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc and businessman Veaceslav Platon of organizing an international criminal group and illegal withdrawal of money from the Russian Federation. But there is more on that here and here.

Important

EU official: “It’s been a long time we’ve been patient. We will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”

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Director for Russia, Eastern partnership, Central Asia and OSCE, and Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Luc Pierre Devigne, paid a visit to Chișinău today to participate in the 5th meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Committee.

He addressed a message to the Moldovan government during a press conference, criticising the way the reforms were implemented in the country, especially the way the famous bank fraud from Moldova, called also “the theft of the century” was investigated. Devigne considers inadmissible the fact that, after five years, the persons and companies that were involved in the fraud were not held accountable.

“It is unacceptable that after the theft of the billion was uncovered and deeply investigated by a leading financial investigation team – the Kroll company, whose findings were made publicly available, the investigation was still not finalised on various pretexts. We cannot believe that it is legally not possible to prosecute such a fraud.[…] It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that justice works in the country. We want to see an open and transparent process that includes not only the Government, but also the consultation of opposition, civil society and the EU institutions recommendations.” said Devigne.

The EU official told the Moldovan politicians: “It’s time for actions. It’s been a long time we’ve been supportive, we’ve been patient. Now, we will judge the Government’s actions objectively.”

“The EU has always supported the Republic of Moldova, but the EU cannot substitute for good governance and the actions that should be taken by the Government. Our support is not unconditional.”

He said that European assistance will depend on how laws and democratic standards will be respected in Moldova. Particularly, Luc Pierre Devigne mentioned that the Republic of Moldova should join the Anticorruption Network for an effective fight against corruption, strengthen independent media and improve the quality of life in the case of the Moldovan citizens.

Luc Pierre Devigne also referred to the subject of the Citizenship by Investment Law, on which the Government applied a moratorium, but only until February 24, 2020. The official was disappointed that people who obtained such kind of citizenship remained anonymous. “We do not see this as compatible with a serious and secure visa liberalisation regime. It’s a security issue.” highlighted Devigne.

One of the central messages of the EU delegation to Moldova concerned the importance of boosting the cooperation between Moldova and the community bloc.

At the same time, the Moldovan authorities reiterated their commitment to comply with the recommendations of international organisations such as the OSCE and the Venice Commission, and to ensure public consultations on major projects.

Photo: cotidianul.md

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Economy

The IMF conclusions// will the last part of the program funds be disbursed to Moldova?

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An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team, led by Ruben Atoyan, the head of the IMF Mission, visited Moldova between January 22 to February 5 to conduct the 2020 Article IV consultation and the sixth and final review of Moldova’s economic program supported by the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangements.

Ruben Atoyan appreciated the discussions with the Moldovan authorities as consistent and insistent and confirmed that the Government team has demonstrated openness and determination in implementing the necessary reforms. Most of the objectives of the Moldova – IMF program were achieved and the program was a successful one, as a statement of the Government of the Republic of Moldova communicated.

At the meeting of Prime Minister Ion Chicu with the IMF team staff, the objectives to be achieved in the next period were discussed, including the approval of the legislation regarding non-banking financial institutions for the sustainable and safe development of this sector.

The parties also exchanged views on the consolidation of the national banking system and the pension system, concluded the need to focus on the objective of ensuring a sustainable, balanced and more inclusive economic growth, as well as discussed the reforms in education, healthcare and social policies to increase the standard of living in the Republic of Moldova, to combat migration and to change demographic trends.

On February 5, the IMF Communication Department issued a concluding statement that describes the preliminary findings of IMF staff at the end of the official visit to Moldova.

The most important conclusions were:

  • The last review under the IMF program is scheduled for March 16, 2020. The completion of the review will make available another  SDR 14.4 million (about $20 million) for Moldova;
  • The program has been successful in achieving its objectives. Comprehensive reforms have rehabilitated the banking system and strengthened financial sector governance, entrenching macro-financial stability;
  • Despite successful economical stabilisation efforts, widespread and significant governance and institutional vulnerabilities are major impediments to boosting living standards of Moldovan people, especially high perception of corruption, weak rule of law and political instability present risks;
  • Prudent and well-coordinated policies are needed to safeguard the progress achieved. Decisive governance and institutional reforms are necessary for faster, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

“The program was success and achieved its goals. The comprehensive reforms have rehabilitated the banking system and strengthened the finance sector, this progress is commendable under the conditions of a volatile political situation,” said Ruben Atoyan, the head of the IMF Mission at a press conference.

source: gov.md

Next, Prime Minister of Moldova is going to send a letter to the IMF asking for another mission’s visit to Chisinau for conducting an evaluation and prepare a new international program.

“With the current program successfully completed, half the chances of having a new program are assured,” Ion Chicu claimed optimistically.

The prime minister said that the Government wants a new program with the IMF, not only for the international funds that can be granted, but also for the support and assistance that can be received in promoting reforms.

**

Moldova’s three-year IMF program was approved on November 7, 2016, being supported by a loan of 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.

Photo: gov.md

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Justice

Is the judicial reform in Moldova controversial? Facts and experts’ opinions

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Often when talking about a judicial reform one can refer to improving the law, establishing a stronger judicial independence of prosecution, changes to the appointment procedure, establishing mandatory retirement age for judges or enhancing supervision over the activities in the area.

That is the case for the Republic of Moldova as well. But is it actually happening or is implemented only on paper? What is the hidden part of the iceberg when it comes to the Moldovan judiciary? Below are some events that happened lately:

Controllers with integrity problems

In December 2019, Prosecutor General, Alexandr Stoianoglo, signed an order to carry out controls at the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organised Crime and Special Cases. Most of the 21 state prosecutors, appointed by the Prosecutor General, to verify the activity of the Prosecutors’ Offices have been found to have problems of integrity themselves in the last four years. Some of the controllers are even related or have common interests in the assigned controlled cases, wrote an investigation made by the anticoruptie.md portal.

The cases filed against the controllers at the Prosecutors’ Offices are related to offering or taking bribes, illicit enrichment, illegal transfers and influence peddling.

Vitalie Zamă, a lawyer representing the Association of Jurists for Human Rights, argues that prosecutors who have even a small connection with a filed case are forced to refrain from carrying out the control. “It is inadmissible for someone involved in a criminal case to have access to it,” he said.

Lilia Carasciuc, president of Transparency International Moldova, mentioned that if there are suspicions of conflict of interest or integrity issues regarding a prosecutor, he must be removed from such controls. “These prosecutors must have an immaculate reputation. Unfortunately, one almost can’t find such prosecutors in our country. In this case, it seems that the wolf was let to guard the sheep, but at least the most correct prosecutors had to be chosen to carry out the control,” Carasciuc declared as being cited by anticoruptie.md.

The former head of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office is still under arrest

Viorel Morari, former head of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office, was detained on January 10. A criminal case related to forgery of administrative documents and abuse of power was filed against him on December 26. Viorel Morari is suspected that, in March 2017, he received from Vladimir Plahotniuc a complaint that was registered against the legal requirements, filing a criminal case and subsequently criminal prosecution, and falsifying several procedural documents within the criminal case.

On January 29, the Chișinău District Court decided to extend the Morari’s preventive arrest by 20 days, until February 19.

Viorel Morari requested that his case would be sent to the court as soon as possible in order to have the opportunity to prove his innocence, according to the declarations of his lawyer.

Morari was removed from office, at the beginning of December, during an internal control of prosecutors initiated by the new Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo. The decision to perform the controls was issued after Viorel Morari’s announcement of resuming the investigation into the Russian financing of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova.

Victor Munteanu, the department director at the Soros Moldova Foundation stated: “I see in this scandal [ referring to the previously mentioned integrity problems of prosecutors] the Stoianoglo’s attempt to centralise all the power of the institution. I suppose this is not done without political support. An argument would be that the control at the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office began after Morari announced about the resumption of the criminal prosecution regarding the financing of the Party of Socialists.”

The opinion of the Venice Commission

In the opinion on the Draft Law on Amending the Law on Superior Council of Magistracy, published on January 22, the Venice Commission welcomed the proposal to increase the members of the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) from 12 to 15, as well as the fact that its composition will also be represented by lower courts.The proposal to increase the number of the members of the SCM from twelve to fifteen may be positive as the functions of the Council concerning evaluation, management, discipline and accountability of judges can be qualitatively strengthened with a broader and more representative composition,” is stated in the opinion report.

It also noted that Parliament is welcomed to appoint the five members of the SCM, with the vote of the majority of elected members, and a stronger majority should include the opposition, which should be also considered in the context of preparing constitutional changes. “The election of non-judge members by Parliament with the vote of the “majority of the elected deputies”, assuming that it is constitutional, is welcome, as a positive step towards a larger support of the candidates by Parliament. A stronger majority would be more appropriate because it would involve the opposition too: this should at any rate be examined in the context of the constitutional reform in preparation.” On the other hand, the Venice Commission recommended the Moldovan authorities to consider other solutions, such as vesting outside bodies that are not under government control (the law faculties that could propose candidates or establishing an independent, non-political commission in this regard).

However, the Commission stated that it is regrettable that the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova did not wait for the present opinion before the adoption at the second and final reading of the draft law amending Law no. 947/1996 on SCM on 20 December 2019, nor before submitting it to the President for promulgation.

The next day, the members of the Cabinet of Ministers approved the bill regarding the amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, in aspects related to the activity of judges, the Superior Council of Magistracy and provisions that would allow the president of the country to directly appoint judges. More details here.

The CoE working group’s recommendation

The experts of the Council of Europe recommended to the Government of the Republic of Moldova, during an official visit in January 2019, to ensure a real process of public discussions of the draft law on the evaluation of judges with all the interested parties, including the judiciary and civil society representatives. Only afterwards, the project can be submitted to the Venice Commission for expertise.

The CoE representatives mentioned that it would be unacceptable to speed up the drafting process only to be able to submit it for examination to the Venice Commission during the March plenary session. It was recommended to submit the draft law on the evaluation of judges rather at the June 2020 plenary session.

Report on justice

In 2018, Moldova allocated for judiciary EUR 14.3 per inhabitant, that was 4.5 times smaller than the Council of Europe (CoE) average, as it was reported by the Legal Resources Centre from Moldova. The budget allocated for justice (courts, legal aid and prosecutor’s office) accounted for 1.3% of the entire public expenditures.

Moldova still remains among the countries with the lowest salaries for judges and prosecutors. In 2018, the entry-level salary paid to Moldovan judges and prosecutors was five times smaller than the CoE average.

Also, the same report concluded that Moldovans go to court considerably less frequently than the CoE average, when considering the number of registered commercial, administrative and criminal cases per 100 inhabitants.

In Moldova, the examination of a case lasts 259 days on average, as compared to the CoE average, which is 735 days. Moldova is one of the countries with the fastest justice system, that meaning a lower quality of justice, as confirmed by numerous cases lost by Moldova at the
European Court of Human Rights.

Photo: Shutterstock/image

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