How several presidential candidates pocketed electoral money
The campaign for 2016 presidential elections with a budget worth almost 60 million lei has been one of the most expensive in Moldova so far. The money collected from thousands of sponsors: students, pensioners or unemployed, prosperous businessmen reached the accounts of some companies that manage TV channels. The main beneficiary of the electoral campaign held this autumn fall is the first deputy-chairman of the Democratic Party, owner of 4 TV channels. Most of the contenders aired election ads on these TV channels. About 40 per cent of electoral funds of the 12 candidates were paid to the accounts of companies affiliated to Plahotniuc. Each of the parties that submitted a presidential candidate took advantage of transferring large sums of money to companies close to their parties or their leaders.
The beneficiary of Marian Lupu’s electoral campaign
Democrat candidate Marian Lupu is the candidate with the largest electoral budget, though he withdrew from the presidential race four days before the election. Democratic Party has spent 24.250.150 lei within 4 weeks of campaigning. 68% of this sum (16,641,647 lei) reached the accounts of General Media Group, that manages Prime TV, Publika TV, Canal 2 and Canal 3. The beneficiary of these TV stations is the businessman Plahotniuc, first deputy-chairman of the Democratic Party. Officially, the businessman who allegedly is the sponsor of this party, is not among donors of PDM in this electoral campaign.
The sum of over 16.6 million lei paid to TV channels of the holding owned by Plahotniuc would be enough to purchase 384 minutes of political advertising. According to the prices presented by the broadcasters at CEC, one minute of electoral advertising on Prime TV costs 2,500 euros, Publika TV and Canal 3 -2000 euros and on Canal 2-1500 euros.
77,58 % from budget for Vlad Plahotniuc’s companies
Other 1.822.457 lei from the electoral fund of Marian Lupu were spent for electoral advertising on CTC-Mega TV. Officially, this TV is owned by company Real Radio SRL, whose sole founder is Dorin Pavelescu. Also, he is manager of the company Casa Media Plus SRL, founded by OTIV Prime Media B.V., an offshore company which the press wrote that it is owned by Vlad Plahotniuc. Otherwise, Casa Media Plus has its office on str. Ghioceilor 1, where the TV channels of the holding of democratic politician are placed.
Other 439.104 lei from the electoral fund of Marian Lupu reached the account of company Radio Media Grup INC, founder of the radio stations Publika FM, Muz FM and Maestro FM. The founder of the company is Vlad Plahotniuc. 191.262 lei were paid from the electoral fund for services of street ads, provided by company Angel-S, another company affiliated to the same party colleague of Marian Lupu. In all, PR services of candidate Marian Lupu, rendered by TV channels, radio stations and advertising agency affiliated to Vlad Plahotniuc cost over 19 million lei or 77,58 % from the electoral fund of Marian Lupu.
Contracts with TV channels of socialists
Other 5 million lei were used by the electoral staff of Democrats’ candidate to buy ads from 2 TV channels of Marian Lupu’s opponent, Igor Dodon (NTV – 1.885.818 lei and Accent TV – 273.278 lei), and other TV channels and radio stations. In all, electoral staff of Marian Lupu signed servicing agreements with 69 economic units, many of which manage TV channels or regional newspapers.
Party of Socialists paid to TV channels owned by Vlad Plahotniuc more than to its TV channel
Igor Dodon was declared by the Central Election Commission winner of the presidential elections. He spent 8.427.771 lei in the electoral campaign. Almost all money was paid for ads and most of the part- to media institutions affiliated to socialists. Half of the electoral budget– 4,6 million lei – was paid for TVads. Almost 1.5 million lei were used for print media and over one million lei - for radio ads and billboards.
Almost 1,3 million lei were used for NTV and newspaper in Russian language „Argumenti i Fakti”. Officially, these 2 institutions are owned by the Socialist MP Corneliu Furculita, through Exclusiv Media SRL and PP Exclusiv Media SRL. Otherwise, Igor Dodon’s wife, Galina and Corneliu Furculita’s wife, Ludmila work for Exclusiv Media SRL. Ludmila donated over 165.000 lei to PSRM in the parliamentary elections held a year ago. 246.000 lei were spent for Accent TV, another channel close to the Party of Socialists. This TV channel is owned by Telesistem TV SRL, founded by Media Invest Service, company managed by Vadim Ciubara. Rise Moldova wrote that Vadim Ciubara is the shadow adviser of Igor Dodon.
RTR TV has received from socialists over 900.000 lei in the electoral campaign. The license for this TV is owned by TV-Comunicații Grup SRL, company founded by SB Grup Media SRL (25%), Valentina Stetco (25%) and an NGO from Russia, Rosmediacom, that has among founders the state radio and TV company from Moscow. Almost one million lei cost maintenance of the newspaper „Socialistii”, founded by PSRM. Last 3 editions of the publication - from September, October and November- were printed in over 300.000 copies. Artur Bodrug, employee at Edit Tipar Grup SRL, company that prints the newspaper donated a symbolic sum for Igor Dodon – 4.800 lei.
PSRM sent to the budget of the TV of the holding General Media Grup (GMG) owned by Vlad Plahotniuc over 1,4 million lei (17% from budget) more than it paid to own TV channel. Public Company Teleradio Moldova gained 706.630 lei. Also, the socialists paid 142.000 lei for radio ads on Radio Noroc, a station affiliated to liberals. Igor Dodon was one of the most visible candidates on street ads, the billboards with chairman of PSRM were placed on the most important streets in the capital and in other towns in the country. PSRM ordered these billboards at Independent Media SRL, company that owns magazine Aquarelle and radio station Aquarelle FM. The company gained over 274.000 lei.
Silvia Radu and Iurie Leanca, about 65% of electoral funds reached GMG’s accounts
Silvia Radu was generous with TV channels owned by Vlad Plahotniuc. Out of 4,7 million lei invested in the electoral campaign, the independent candidate spent almost all money for ads, over 4,5 million lei. A sum of 3,7 million lei was spent for PR on TV, of which almost 3 million reached Prime TV, one of the channels that had the highest advertising fees. „It is the channel with most TV viewers in Moldova. I do not have other explanations”, said Silvia Radu.
The rest of the money was shared to Pro TV, TV7, TNT Bravo, online platform Privesc.eu etc. Standart SRL and Independent Media SRL provided services of billboards for this candidate. Silvia Radu showed in the report expenditures for legal services. She paid about 66.000 lei Law Company „Efrim, Rosca si Asociatii”, that includes the former minister of Justice Oleg Efrim.
Iurie Leanca, chairman of European People’s Party in Moldova had an electoral budget estimated at almost 3,7 million lei. Most of the money, 65% he paid to the media group owned by the first deputy-chairman of Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc. Electoral staff of Iurie Leanca paid both to the GMG TV channels and to radio stations owned by the democrat through Radio Media Grup INC. Other over 200.000 lei were paid to the Public TV channel Moldova 1. Most of money for billboards- almost 200.000 lei – were paid to company Trendseter SRL, that announces on its page that operates with 1.000 spaces. For the same service, Iurie Leanca’s team paid to companies Aquarelle SRL and Standart SRL about 100.000 lei.
Favorable expenditures in the electoral campaign of Dumitru Ciubasenco
Electoral staff of Dumitru Ciubasenco, candidate of Partidul Nostru (Our Party) in presidential elections spent almost half of over 2 million lei from the electoral fund for services rendered by companies close to the party or candidate. Most of money, 1.572.600 lei, reached the account of newspaper Partidul Nostru, other 206.609 lei reached the account of the company Euroshow Grup, owner of Ru TV. This company was founded by Renato Usatii, chairman of Partidul Nostru. 206.000 lei were paid for ads to Balti TV. According to data of the State Registration Chamber, the founder of this TV channel is SRL TV Balti, company managed by Rodica Deleu. Press from Balti writes that the TV channel was actually taken over by Renato Usatii. In the show „Politica” on TV 7, the politician admitted that he knows this TV channel. „It is owned by a foreign person and I do not try to hide it”, said Renato Usatii.
Also, Rodica Deleu manages the company Media Pro Business, that gained the contest of installing wi-fi system in trolleybuses in the capital. In exchange for the investment, the Company has received the right to operate ad space in public transport in Chisinau. Electoral staff of Dumitru Ciubasenco paid 340.582 lei for services rendered by Media Pro Business.
Electoral money for Ciubasenco’s newspaper
Newspaper „Panorama gained a contract worth 100.830 lei for electoral ads for the candidate. Dumitru Ciubașenco has been editor-in-chief of this newspaper for several years.
Almost one million lei from the electoral fund of the candidate of Partidul Nostru (Our Party) reached the account of company BM Public SRL. This advertising company is owned by Mihai Bumbu. This businessman is allegedly close to some members of Partidul Nostru. We found on Facebook some photos from a family holiday of one of the members of Partidul Nostru, employee of Mayor’s office Balti, Nicolae Margarint together with Mihai Bumbu. Another agreement worth 384.750 lei was signed with company Intelreflect, owned by Ion Bumbu. Both companies have the same legal address. The most important beneficiaries of electoral money of candidate of Partidul Nostru are RTR TV (823.010 lei), Moldova 1 TV (542.367 lei) and TV 7 (540.722 lei).
Clientelism in Mihai Ghimpu’s election campaign
Mihai Ghimpu had a budget twice smaller and he spent almost one third of money (942.500 lei) for services provided by company Baster Media, owned by businessman Adrian Țurcan. According to the website of the company, this company has previously created PR movies for the Division of Health of municipality Chisinau, headed by liberal MP Mihai Moldovanu.
The second agreement worth (422.941 lei) was signed by the electoral staff of Mihai Ghimpu with the company EVZ Online, founder of the newspaper and of the portal Evenimentul Zilei in Moldova. Mihai Ghimpu paid 353.029 lei for the ads on Pro TV Chisinau.
Agreements signed with SRL Noroc Media, company that manages Noroc TV and Noroc FM are surprising. The founders of the company are Marius Belibov and Artur and Nichifor Banzaru. In early September 2016, the Communist Party in Moldova issued a press release and said that Mihai Ghimpu was the owner of Noroc TV and of Radio Noroc. The transaction cost one million euros. „The parliamentary faction of PCRM requests the Central Election Commission and the General Prosecutor to check on the legality of this transaction”, writes the press release of PCRM. The notification of the communists coincided with many changes in the broadcasting grid and staff of the TV, so that the entertaining television changed into a generalist one. Also, they invested in the equipment. Contacted by the Center for Investigative Journalism, director of Noroc TV Artur Banzaru denied any transaction with this TV channel of radio station Noroc FM. „Certainly, we are having discussions, but we have been doing it for 5 years. This is a business. I have never discussed with Mihai Ghimpu about a possible transaction to take over these channels”, said Banzaru. Mihai Ghimpu paid 124.603 lei for the electoral ads on these Radio and TV channels.
Nephew and colleague of faction
A sum of 123.360 lei was paid for advertising services for liberal candidate to company Aldora Art. An investigation of Ziarul de Garda carried out in partnership with the Center for Investigative Journalism reveals that this company is allegedly controlled by Mihai Ghimpu’s nephew, Lucian Chirtoaca, brother of mayor of Chisinau City Hall. Officially, the founder and manager is an employee of the Central Shop „Unic”, Ludmila Razmerita. A case initiated by the National Anti-corruption Center for tax evasion, shows that the company is actually managed by Lucian Chirtoaca. Razmerita denies it, but admits that she sometimes calls for help to Mihai Ghimpu’s nephew for company management. Aldora Art has its office in the apartment of Doina Ceban, daughter of Veaceslav Ceban, business partner of Mihai Ghimpu in Eurosim company.
Also, Mihai Ghimpu required the services of another company Egostil SRL specialized in electoral ads. This company was founded by Svetlana Darda, wife of the liberal MP Iurie Darda, manager of the construction company Dansicons, about which the Center for Investigative Journalism wrote previously that it has built many blocks of flats on lands gained on preferential terms in Chisinau.
Currently, Svetlana Darda is not among the shareholders of Egostil. She was replaced by Andrei Corovai. Manager of the company is Ion Tantar, member of the territorial organization in Rascani sector of the Liberal Party. In the electoral campaign for presidential elections, Iurie Darda donated 500.000 lei for the electoral fund of Mihai Ghimpu.
Electoral fund of Inna Popenco
Inna Popenco was excluded from the electoral race one week before the elections. The candidate of the party Ravnopravie Inna Popenco showed in the financial reports submitted to CEC, expenditures worth 2,851 million lei in the campaigning. Almost one third of this money reached the accounts of two advertising companies - Casa Radio Vanzari and Total Media. The first company is an advertising sales house, that was founded and is managed by Andrei Jicol, manager of a similar company, Trendseter. Almost all presidential candidates in these elections signed agreements of ad purchase with this company. The last company is known for its furniture salon. Also, this company provides advertising services, we just found a website, created and managed by Total Media.
The electoral staff of Inna Popenco spent the rest of the money for advertising on Pro TV, RTR, TRM. The candidate of the party led by Ilan Shor paid just 79.979 lei for advertising on TV channels from media holding owned by Vlad Plahotniuc, which was enough just for one minute and a half. Though, it is known that Ilan Shor owns Orhei TV and Euro TV, the candidate backed by mayor of Orhei, allocated only 20.359 lei for advertising on these TV channels.
Maia Sandu invested in promotional materials
President of PAS Maia Sandu, who according to the CEC gained by 67.000 votes less than Igor Dodon, had an electoral budget of 1,5 million lei. Half of the sum was spent for advertising on public television, radio stations and print media. For example, Maia Sandu’s team concluded an agreement worth 150.000 lei with Moldova 1 TV, with company EvZ Online, founder of the newspaper and portal Evenimentul Zilei in Moldova, worth 110.000 lei, with newspaper Timpul – 48.000 lei. The candidate spent an large sum of money on promotional materials, about 400.000 lei. She required the services of Balacron SRL, company founded by Galina and Nicolae Roscot, Aurora Media SRL, founded by Artur Gurau and Veaceslav Cebotari and publishing house Epigraf, founded by Ala and Oleg Bujor.
Journalist Ion Terguta: „Comparing revenues of GMG and TRM, we realize who favored the games
Structure of expenditures for the presidential campaign demonstrates the dimension of the concentration of media business and the real stake of this mega-business, believes journalist Ion Terguta. According to him, under a careful analysis we will see that the offer of Radio and TV programs is dictated by several large producers, who dominate the market both at level of distribution and advertising.
"It is curious the fact that the whole scheme merely obliges candidates to turn to widely distributed media sources, which serve as a double instrument: discouragement by price and absorbing financial resources. It's interesting the situation of the company Teleradio Moldova. Analyzing the company's revenue with the largest audience in the country, we understand what was the real stake of the elections at administrative level, operated with much scandal. The real stake was that it does not become a competitor on the advertising market. Comparing revenues of GMG and TRM, we will understand who favored the games. Other two other big beneficiaries are RTR and NTV Moldova, 2 companies for whose appearance Broadcasting Coordinating Council should have solid proofs, since it accuses that 80 percent of the media market is dominated by Russian TV channels. And this should not be commented just in terms of the danger of manipulation, but also in terms of business, since large sums of money were absorbed from the market to the detriment of local producers", explains Ion Terguta.
This investigation was accomplished within „Shining a light on electoral transparency in Moldova” project, carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism, with the support of Freedom House.
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