Economic

The confidential report of the Commission of Minister Cebotari and Airport leasing

Foto: Olga Bulat, Ziarul de Gardă
Author: Marina Ciobanu
13/11/2015 6125

President of the Commission on assessing the Chisinau International Airport leasing agreement, Minister of Justice Vladimir Cebotari admitted that "Avia Invest" has not fulfilled some of the provisions stipulated by the agreement, but he argues that there are no grounds for terminating the agreement. Termination was recommended by the National Anti-Corruption Center, after they had identified some irregularities about set investments and after certain revenues of the airport would have arrived at the football club of mayor in Orhei, Ilan Sor. Ex-Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet claims that the first part of the Report shows grounds for termination and the leasing agreement covers many "tricks". A new Inquiry Commission, Parliamentary one,  must be designated to establish final conclusions.

Cebotari said that the working group concluded that there were made investments totaling € 46 million so far, but did not specify the origin of financing sources, stating that they were "adequate". It was established that out of the  three primary components,  only the parking was arranged, the concessionaire  has arrears at commissioning the terminal for arrivals / departures and upgraded runway for takeoff and landing of aircraft.

A confidential report

Cebotari refused to give details of the Report, adding that the document is strictly confidential because of the vulnerability of the Government in relation to the concessionaire. He said that this is not his decision, but of the working group. Only the PM is entitled to demand removal of the document from privacy. "The reasons of Report’s confidentiality are generated by vulnerabilities of the state because in a litigation situation with the concessionaire, the Government might lose all chances to improve something", said Vladimir Cebotari.

According to the Minister of Justice, the leasing agreement stipulates a period of 36 months for fulfillment of obligations. Cebotari said that the leasing agreement signed in 2013, is confidential for the same reasons. Moreover, the Minister stated that the working group hardly got the agreement during the assessment period.

According to Cebotari, the immediate termination of the leasing agreement of the airport would bring the Republic of Moldova in an international dispute. Therefore, the working group recommended that the Government, if it finds irregularities, should insist on a period of remediation and only after that, it can initiate the procedure of terminating the leasing agreement.

The minister did not give the names of people who formed the Commission, but he said that people were selected based on knowledge. "The group was not formed nominally, but institutionally. But they had management jobs in those institutions, accompanied by professional specialists. The working group, if we take distribution by parties, more than half are members of the PLDM and PD. The group unanimously voted, so we cannot talk about any influence. No one influenced me, but it is not my decision, it is of the working group", said Cebotari.

The Commission was made up from representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Economy, Customs Service, State Construction Inspection, Fiscal Inspectorate, SIS, National Anti-corruption Center (CNA) and other state institutions. According to the Minister of Justice, the Commission just examined the grounds for terminating the contract, based on all legal and contractual requirements.

Previously, Vladimir Cebotari  was part of the commission for selecting the winner of the tender for privatizing the Chisinau International Airport. The minister denied of being influenced by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc or PD. "I was not influenced either in 2013 or now. It was my decision. I sent several letters to the Government in 2013 and I warned it on the process of the contest. I was the person who assigned a very low score in the bidding process, compared to my colleagues".

"The big trick" admitted in the agreement

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet, who ordered the formation of the Inquiry Commission, said that the three-year lease offered to the concessionaire for remediation is a "big trick" admitted in the contract, but that there are others. Strelet said that one relates to the illegal privatization of airport competition conditions and the amount of the social capital of the investor.  

Thus, under the agreement, the concessionaire must have a minimum of two years of experience in civil aviation services. SRL "Avia Invest" was registered as a legal entity on 2 August 2013 and on 30 August 2013 it was designated the winner of the contest. Moreover, though the conditions of the competition stipulated a minimum social capital of 30 mln. euros, "Avia Invest" had 85.1 million lei.

According to the chairman of PLDM Valeriu Streleţ, in case the civil society requires transparency, 90% of Report could be made public. Only 10% that constitute “legal conclusions concerning vulnerabilities for the Republic of Moldova should yet remain confidential".

Strelet said that at the first stage of the Report, they identified the problems of authorizations in construction: "It is not clear if the documentation for this project was issued and the State Inspectorate for Constructions did not give any answers to this effect".

In this regard, Cebotari said that the Legislation on the authorization of construction allows the issuing by stages of the construction project. "By the time we examined, there was not a project and an authorization, but there were phased sequences".

Ex-Prime Minister said that after reporting gaps, he ordered the Economy Ministry to inform the concessionaire about not honoring its contractual commitments. "The Economy Ministry deliberately and fraudulently executed this order. They did not send to "Avia Invest" a notification made in accordance with the stipulations of the Civil Code, the stipulations of the agreement, but they sent a simple notice with the attachment of my order. To me, it is a trick to allow concessionaires to invoke the reason that they have not been notified as required by law. There are many questions related to this story".

The decision of airport leasing by investors in Russia was taken on the last day of the term of the government led by Vladimir Filat on May 30, 2013. The transaction was harshly criticized by experts, who spoke about "alienation" of a healthy and profitable company.

Ex-Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici insisted in May current year, on the need for terminating the agreement on the grounds that some of the money taken from the Savings Bank, Social Bank and Unibank had reached the account of the company "Avia Invest", which leased the Airport and which would stand behind businessman, current mayor of Orhei, Ilan Shor.

Subsequently, Valeriu Strelet insisted on the cancellation of the leasing contract, based on a report of CNA.

Foto: Olga Bulat, Ziarul de Gardă

Money from the airport went to the football club "Milsami"

According to the head of CNA Viorel Chetraru, the Government’s decision dated 30 May 2013 on airport leasing, was taken in the absence of notifications from several ministries, including the Ministry of Transport and Road Infrastructure, of the Interior Ministry, Security Service etc. According to the report of CNA, inspectors of the Financial Inspection determined that "Avia Invest" has not made investments in airport development, but instead spent 430 million lei, obtained from airport activity. Furthermore, SRL "Avia Invest" had several transactions with enterprises of the Group Shor, which have nothing to do with the airport services, such as the donation of 9.3 million lei for the football club "Milsami", loans for "Dufremol","Aviaconsulting "etc. The CNA report recommended cancellation of the illegal fee amounted at 9 euros per passenger for modernization and initiation of the proceedings to annul the leasing agreement of Chisinau International Airport. The reason given by CNA is that this contract was signed between the Public Property Agency and SRL “Avia Invest" and not with SA "Khabarovsk airport" and SA " Kolomensky Zavod" that have been declared winners of the auction.

Requested by us, spokeswoman  of CNA, Angela Starinschi said that the institution is investigating the legality of the airport leasing under a criminal case: "CNA has previously presented a Report to the Government Strelet. Now we have a criminal case, we investigate the legality of the airport leasing, which has nothing in common with the Government Report. We perform a lot of actions to establish the correctness of the conditions of leasing and whether they took forced decisions. They requested information from abroad about the veracity of transactions. When judged appropriately, prosecutors will present details and conclusions. "

Director of the Institute of Market Economy Roman Chirca, is part of the group of experts who believe that the decision to release the airport is detrimental to the interests of the state and insists on terminating the agreement. As for the conclusions of the working group that reviewed how the airport was leased, experts say that these would rely rather on political than economic reasons.

Economic analyst, Gheorghe Costandache argues that both the report and the  leasing contract had to be made public. He believes that all rules of the privatization document and the locations of the design were violated. Experts say that they hide some facts, as the leasing agreement of Chisinau International Airport, signed based on a decision of the Government, provides no additional terms to achieve commitments.

The expert says that the initial contract was signed with a ghost company: "Surveys made by civil society experts have shown us that Khabarovsk airport did not know anything about this competition. The conditions of contest development violate any legal norm, including the Public Procurement Act. The contest was organized from the very beginning for a particular candidate".

According to the Minister of Justice, "the tender conditions established that this company must act through a company registered in our country, so that the Republic of Moldova can control risks."

In September 2013, Chisinau International Airport was leased to the company "Avia Invest" for 49 years. The company pledged to modernize the airport and make investments of 244.2 million Euros.

Ex-Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet announced that on 10 November 2015 the parliamentary faction of the PLDM registered the initiative on forming a parliamentary inquiry committee which examined both parts of the report, inviting relevant persons to draw some conclusions and take a decision in the Parliament on this situation. "

The investigation is carried out under the "Shining a Light on Corruption in Moldova" conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism and Freedom House, with the support of the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom Norway.

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