The first ever magistrate stands trial for illicit enrichment. Oleg Melniciuc prosecuted following CIJM’s investigation

Mariana Colun
Foto: CIJM

Judge Oleg Melniciuc, ex-president of the former Rascani District Court in Chisinau, who was targeted by an investigation carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism will stand trial for the illicit enrichment and bogus declarations of wealth. This is the first case ever when a magistrate is prosecuted based on the Article 330.2, included in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova in 2013. The case was initiated by the prosecutors in the summer of 2017. The magistrate is accused that in the period 2013-2017, he included deliberately incomplete or false data in the statement of wealth and personal interests and he owns goods which value substantially exceeds the means that could not be obtained legally.

Prosecutors have identified a number of irregularities in the process of declaring the judge's assets and interests. He omitted to report in the 2016 declaration of wealth an income of 48,000 lei on his bank card as money deposits from a citizen. According to prosecutors, in order to increase the declared revenues, Melniciuc would have included in the same statement, incomplete and false data on the alienation of a real estate, indicating a value of about 10,000 lei higher than he had previously reported. Also, the magistrate would have indicated a lower value for the cost of a 450,000 lei car, the actual price of the car being 41,000 euros (the equivalent of 895,555 lei according to the NBM exchange rate at the time of the acquisition).

The prosecutors also found that the magistrate and his wife showed in the statements of wealth for 2014-2016, a total income of 1,444,958 lei, including bank cards owned by the spouses, but they actually purchased goods and services and withdrew cash in the total amount of 2.085.101 lei. With a view to extensive confiscation, prosecutors seized the defendant's assets and financial means worth over 1,000,000 lei.

According to prosecutors, Oleg Melniciuc does not admit his guilt, and if he is charged of false in statements, he risks a fine from 20,000 to 30,000 lei or a prison term of up to one year, and for illicit enrichment, a fine in the amount of 400,000 to 500,000 lei or 7 to 15 years in prison. In both cases he will be deprived of the right to occupy offices for a period of 10 to 15 years.

Oleg Melniciuc is the first ever magistrate to be prosecuted on the basis of the article on illicit enrichment included in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova in 2013. He was arrested on June 27, 2017. The Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) examined the prosecutors' request to conduct investigative actions regarding Melniciuc. The SCM authorized searches and detention of the judge.

Oleg Melniciuc lives with his family in a ground house in Chisinau. Also, he owns another house, inherited from his parents, and in 2015 he received at a preferential price - 29,520 euros - a commercial area of 82 square meters on the ground floor of a block built in the same year to provide housing for employees of the Rascani District Court and the Constitutional Court, about which the Center for Investigative Journalism wrote in an investigation conducted under "Journalists for Integrity in Public Service" campaign with the support of the Good Governance Program of the Soros Foundation Moldova.

According to the investigation, the mother of the chairman of the court and some of his relatives received flats and commercial area in the residential block on Hristo Botev 6 str., in Chisinau.

In early January 2017, the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office initiated a criminal lawsuit against Melniciuc's actions in the case of the block built for employees of the Rascani District Court, following a complaint that Ion Diacov, the former prosecutor of Chisinau municipality, published on the Corruption Map of the portal. However, prosecutors have decided not to initiate criminal prosecution but have notified the National Integrity Authority (ANI) to check on a potential conflict of interest in this case.

Oleg Melniciuc, former chairman of the Rascani District Court in Chisinau, was not elected deputy chairman of the Chisinau Court. The Superior Council of Magistracy did not accept the request to be appointed repeatedly after President Igor Dodon rejected the magistrate's candidacy in early January. Three years ago, the SCM proposed Oleg Melniciuc, then the judge and deputy-chairman of the Rascani District Court to be promoted as chairman of the same court. Nicolae Timofti put down in black and white that the objectivity of the magistrate arises doubts. "In my opinion, the activity of Mr. Melniciuc as deputy-chairman and the execution of some civil cases are activities violating the norms of the Law on the Status of the Judge and the Code of Ethics of the Judge, as well as in conditions of conflict of interests", reads the document. In this context, the head of state reminded of a complex control carried out at this court, which resulted in the activity of this court being judged unsatisfactory. In June 2013, Nicolae Timofti appointed him chairman of the Rascani District Court. Previously, at the General Assembly of Judges, he applied for the seat of member of the College for the Selection and Career of Judges, but he was not elected. Oleg Melniciuc repeatedly criticized the reorganization of the judiciary.

Mariana Colun

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