Integrity

Anabolics mafia. The clandestine road of steroids from Moldova to foreign sportspeople

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Author: Mariana Rață
26/10/2016 27483

The Republic of Moldova is among the top global manufacturers of anabolic steroids, illegal substances in the majority of EU states, the USA, as well as Russia. Corruption, lax legislation and the political protectionism easily obtained have created conditions for the development of a huge industry of anabolics in our country, which are in great demand on the black market around the world. Nowadays, at least seven factories producing anabolics are operating in Moldova, four of which are clandestine laboratories. Legal manufacturers of anabolics allegedly get protection from a former Romanian senator, a prominent Moldovan businessman and a former president of the Federation of bodybuilding in Chisinau. Many of these anabolics get smuggled abroad in postal envelopes accepted and dispatched by the State Enterprise „Posta Moldovei”.

May 4, 2016, Chisinau International Airport. A plane loaded with mailing bags of „Posta Moldovei” takes off to Frankfurt. Among the packages sealed with adhesive tape on which the name „Posta Moldovei” and the customs stamp are printed , there are three bags with the logo of „Posta Moldovei” containing small packets with anabolics. At Frankfurt Airport, the bags of drugs prohibited for export are moved to another plane, which also heads to the US.

In the same way, from 5.400 to 7.800 packages containing anabolics worth about $ 200 each of them go to the US, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, but also to Australia and former Soviet countries. The monthly value of parcels of anabolics sent via „Posta Moldovei” varies between a million and a million and a half dollars. According to several sources, the scheme has been working for over ten years.

Illicit packages

Anabolic steroids and androgens are synthetic hormones which increase the body's ability to produce muscle tissue. Lately, these substances are in high demand among athletes and people who want to increase their muscle mass or to achieve a sports performance in a short term. In all EU member states, most CIS countries and the USA, these substances are prohibited for manufacturing and selling. In Moldova, the production of most anabolics, however, is legal, and the sale - free in pharmacies.

Packages with anabolics typically arrive through the back door of Moldovan Post. Bags loaded with steroids are often brought by the EMS (Expres Mail Service) drivers who receive them from „customers” according to addresses mentioned by them. „The places are different and I do not really remember any of them to be similar. It happens them to be on the outskirts, or near buildings under construction”, say sources from the state enterprise. Because of the risk posed to these people, we decided to keep their anonymity. Their words are confirmed by a video recording that has come into our possession. It is seen that an employee of „Posta Moldovei” is loading into an EMS car two big boxes, without complying to the rules of receiving an order: packages are not weighed, no  barcodes are assigned, the sender is not receiving a receipt. Former head of the Center for Post Office Processing and Transportation (CPTP), Sorin Stati, says that the boxes appearing in the video contain anabolics.

The same scheme of transporting banned substances to „Posta Moldovei” is mentioned in the Act on the complex control of economic and financial activity of the subsidiary of „Posta Moldovei”, CPTP, developed in 2012 by the Financial Control and Internal Audit Service. At that moment it was led by Sergiu Cebotari, who previously made several disclosures about anabolics smuggling from „Posta Moldovei”. (See here an excerpt from the Act).

Betrayed by receipts

Arriving at the Post Office no. 2000 on 3, Piata Garii street in Chisinau, bags with anabolics are transported directly to the third floor -  the Service of post letters, without passing the control of postal operators and the one of the custom officer on the first floor, who should check whether any prohibited items are in the parcels. Our sources say that packets avoiding the official procedure would arrive at the post office already sealed with adhesive tape of „Posta Moldovei”, having barcodes (a code consisting of two letters and nine digits used to track the location of the package throughout its transportation - Ed.) and even a customs stamp. The only thing offered to the post office operators is a list with barcodes that are entered into the Post’s database, while cashiers issue receipts for transporting parcels which they have not even seen.

The allegations are confirmed by documents that have come into our possession. According to the receipts issued by the POS machine of the Post Office no. 2000, on March 7, 2015, the cashier issued 22 receipts for  22 small packages weighing 250-550 grams in just four minutes (from 11.25 to 11.29). Therefore, to serve each of the 22 different customers the cashier spent only ten seconds (if they had been one person, only one receipt would have been issued - Ed.). Moreover, although the packages were processed one after another,  the numerical order of barcodes that were applied is not respected. The first package has the barcode "RB022040576MD", while three barcodes issued next - "RB022040580MD", "RB022040562MD", "RB022040973MD".

The experiment

To check how real might be such a performance, our reporter went to the same post office and tried to send a similar parcel containing a book and a box of anabolics. The whole procedure lasted more than eight minutes and the customs officer, after checking the contents of the package, removed the box of pills and asked us what kind of drugs they are. After saying that they are used to increase the muscle mass, the customs officer and one of the postal operators exchanged complicit glances, and then she returned the package with anabolics, explaining that their transportation abroad is prohibited. The receipt for the  transportation of the package is issued only after its contents is checked by the customs, while the postal envelope is sealed and weighed by another operator. If senders of parcels recorded in receipts had respected all the legal procedure mentioned above, customs officer and the two postal operators would have had to move with an incredible speed to succeed performing all the operations in just ten seconds.

Packages from the future

There is other evidence indicating that the bags containing packages with anabolics are not checked at the post office. In some manifest documents, which are generally processed by postal operators only after receiving letters/parcels from the sender, so to be further directed to the Service of post letters of CPTP, it is indicated an earlier time than the one at which the operator would have received the parcel from the customer, issuing a receipt, which is impossible.

For instance, on June 7, 2016, for a small package with the barcode "RB023246041MD", the manifest is drawn up at 11:53. According to the receipt, the customer brought the package with this barcode three hours later, at 14.42.

See below several cases of this kind

Three cases confirming that the information about the package to be transported reached operators before the individual brought it to the post officeНазвание

Although not knowing the content of the controversial packages, workers of the Service of post letters of CPTP recognize them from barcodes with a „special” serial number, used only for packages getting there mysteriously and which have to leave the building without passing through the customs scanner installed on the third floor. These special barcodes are very useful later as well: in case a parcel turns back, it is taken over by the same employees of post service, before reaching the hands of customs officials, so to be handed over to a responsible person from the CPTP management. Normally, in case of a return, the parcel should be given to the sender.

Fake senders to doubtful destinations

Sample of a package with anabolics that was to be sent through „Posta Moldovei”

It is very difficult to figure out who are the senders of parcels with anabolics. Names and addresses indicated on several parcels with steroids whose pictures came into our possession are fake. Thus, on one of the postal items which should have been sent on February 3, 2015, under the heading sender it is indicated the name of Leonid Panzari who lives in Chisinau, on 17, Ialoveni street. The owners of this house argue that they don’t know any person with this name. We could not find Petru Cusnir either, who would live on 4, Hotin street in Chisinau, and who allegedly tried to send a parcel with anabolics on February 7, 2016, the day when the consignment of smuggled good was captured by the Security and Intelligence Service. Data on the sender of a parcel with anabolics in 2010 - Leonid Frolov, who allegedly lives on 17, Pavel Botu street - have also proved to be false. Please note that the last building on this street has no. 15.

In the case of recipients the situation is similar. For example, 633 Cochrane rd. Park Hills, Missouri 63601, indicated as the address of a person named Michael Hater who allegedly received a parcel with anabolics in February 2011, is actually a wooded area of a park in that American town. Similarly, 715 SE 20 Th AVE 3, Derfield BCH, Florida 33441, where Eric Bakter was awaiting the shipment with anabolics sent by Leonid Panzari, is actually a hotel.

A scheme involving two ministers   

MP Grigore Cobzac, the chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for investigating the involvement of „Posta Moldovei” in illegal transportation of anabolics, came to the same conclusions. On October 13, 2016 he made public an alternative report about his findings. According to the MP, smuggling of anabolics has continued during the activity of the commission, and some documents that could have served as evidence were destroyed during its activity. Cobzac explained that during the commission's work several high-ranking officials tried to prevent the investigation by delaying responses, giving false or scarce information, or refusing to provide any facts. Given that, as well as other evidence uncovered during the investigation, the chairman of the commission suggests that in the scheme of anabolic substances are allegedly involved the minister of Finance Octavian Armasu, the minister of Information Technology and Communications Vasile Botnari, general director of the Customs Service Vitalie Vrabie, general director of the State Enterprise „Posta Moldovei” Serghei Nastas, and deputy director general of „Posta Moldovei” Sergiu Batiusca. All of them would be involved by failing to take all the necessary measures in order to stop illegal transportation of prohibited substances via „Posta Moldovei”.  Cobzac recommends the resignation of mentioned officials. He also calls on law enforcement bodies to establish the level of involvement and responsibility of the current Prime Minister Pavel Filip, who used to be the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, the institution responsible for the activity of „Posta Moldovei”.

„It is a phenomenon that can seriously affect Moldova's image on the international arena. The presence of Moldovan drugs on the black market of anabolics is impressive”, said Cobzac.

„I do not comment this absurdity!”

„I am not aware of allegations made by Grigore Cobzac and I am not going to comment on such absurdity”, said Sergiu Batiusca to us, the deputy general director of  „Posta Moldovei”.  He hung up before letting us to ask him for a comment on the allegations that Sergiu Cebotari rejected the Audit Act drafted in 2012 and which reveals the anabolics smuggling scheme via „Posta Moldovei”. Neither Serghei Nastas commented on the allegations. We requested him, in an official letter, to communicate whether any internal investigation has  ever been conducted in order to verify the allegations. In response, Nastas told us that the Parliamentary Commission should bring details on that, while „Posta Moldovei” has no other comment.

Both minister of Finance Octavian Armasu and minister of Information Technology and Communications Vasile Botnari did not respond to our phone calls in order to give any comments. Neither Prime Minister Pavel Filip offered a comment regarding the allegations related to him. At the same time, Moldovan Customs Service has not provided any answer after being requested to give information on cases of involvement of customs officials in transporting illicit parcels with anabolics, even though the request was sent on September 13.

Earlier, in a reply offered to the Center for Investigative Journalism after a refferal on anabolics smuggling was published on the Corruption Map, the Customs Service informed us that the circulation of these substances is under their attention, measures being taken to not admit illegal import of raw material for the preparation of anabolics and illicit export of these substances. As for the transportation of anabolics via „Posta Moldovei”, the director of the Customs Service, Vitalie Vrabie, told us that „after a prior analysis of the situation, a significant involvement of public authorities has been highlighted, a fact that puts into maximal difficulty a detailed customs control, and even the impossibility of carrying it out. Given the type of activity of State Enterprise „Posta Moldovei”, there are a number of mechanisms allowing packaging and sealing of goods without the presence of a customs officer”.

The „resounding” seizure

Anabolics seized on February 7, 2016. Source: sis.md

February 7, 2016. A task force of several Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) officers  and border policemen burst into Chisinau International Airport and discover, among packages of „Posta Moldovei” ready to be loaded on a plane, 15 postal bags containing 387 packages of anabolics masked as books and advertisement products. SIS qualifies it as a „record” contraband, and the value of the goods is estimated at hundreds of thousands of euros. The news about the seizure spreaded in the majority of Moldovan media outlets, but the real reverberation occured at thousands of kilometers away from Chisinau, in the US, where many sportspeople - amateurs or professionals - were awaiting the packages ordered from Moldova and were wondering if Moldovan intelligence service officers would reach them. „Does anyone know if the US is involved in this operation? I would not say, but I know about its involvement in similar stuff in Thailand”, says a consumer of anabolics on an American forum.

Although considered as an unprecedented operation, the criminal case reached quickly the hands of the employees of the criminal prosecution body of the Customs Service. That happened despite the fact that the parcels with anabolics which were to be smuggled out of the country had a Customs Service stamp on them. This may be seen on the photos presented by SIS.

Prosecutor: „People involved were identified”

In a formal response received from the Prosecutor General's Office on September 24, we were informed that the criminal case was opened on the attempt of passing goods in large proportions through counterfeit declarations in Moldovan customs documents. Prosecution is led by Prosecutor's Office for the combating of organized crime and special causes. Its head, Corneliu Bratunov, avoids providing more details under the pretext of investigation secrecy.

Vitalie Busuioc, the prosecutor responsible for the case, said that investigations are underway and that the majority of people involved have been identified. Currently, they are heard. At the same time, the law enforcement bodies are investigating the report of the Parliamentary Commission, that they received recently.

The contraband seized in February 2016 is treated by steroids consumers  as a consequence of a war between two global networks selling anabolics: Pharmacom Labs and Napsgear (the second one sells anabolic products of Genesis Pharmaceuticals, whose drugs were found in packages seized by SIS officers - Ed.).

A silenced operation

Secret contraband of anabolics, 2009. Photo: Anthony Roberts

SIS is cheating when stating that the seizure of February 2016 is unprecedented. According to some information, in the spring of 2009, SIS captured another large amount of anabolics which were to get abroad according to the same scheme. That time, similarly, parcels were sent via „Posta Moldovei” to the USA, Spain, Ireland. Moreover, according to a blog post published in June 2009 by the US sportsman Anthony Roberts, a known campaigner  against the use of anabolics, in the case of 2009 seizure SIS worked with the World Anti-Doping Agency. Names and addresses of the recipients of the seized packages  were handed over to authorities in their countries. Roberts attached to his article some photos of the operation carried out in Chisinau, confirming that the action took place indeed. In Moldova, no word was murmured about this contraband.

Artur Resetnicov, SIS director at that time, says he does not remember anything about such an operation, but he can not exclude that it took place. „We had several operations. I no longer remember all of them”, he answered.

The secret office of SIS, located in the heart of illegalities

Alexandru Popescu, former chief of the SIS Direction working on countering illicit trafficking of prohibited substances and which endanger the state security, says that during his 30 years of work at SIS the smuggling of anabolics had not represented an alarming phenomenon. Popescu left his job in 2012.

„SIS does not make a show of its work. There are several documented cases and state institutions informed. Based on this information several criminal cases were initiated. I documented a scheme through which active ingredients used for anabolics were smuggled to Moldova from China, through the Black Sea region, but back then the production of anabolics did not used to be so developed. Certainly, the scheme could not exist without the involvement of officials from the Customs Service. In the current situation it is obvious that such a scheme had functioned under protectionism, a situation which should be investigated and researched”, says Popescu. At the same time, he adds that SIS is not able to replace the work of other bodies, especially given that several positions within SIS were cut down.

Post Office no. 2000, where bags full of anabolics arrived to be prepared for export. Photo: CIJM

Reliable sources from the State Enterprise „Posta Moldovei” revealed us that a secret office of ISS used to be located within the Post Office on 3, Piata Garii street,  where the processing of all postal parcels in the country takes place. It was closed in 2013, according to a decision taken by Mihai Balan, the current director of Security and Intelligence Service, in order to reduce expenses. Popescu claims he knows nothing about this office. Instead, Grigore Cobzac confirms its existence. „We received a reply from SIS showing that there used to be such a subdivision, located in the Post Office no. 2000. According to SIS director, it was specialized only in providing operative and technical measures, without investigative functions. Mihai Balan says that he decided to stop its activity given the need to optimize the SIS flowchart, after evaluating the output of this particular subunit”, explains Cobzac.

No matter the presence of security officers, the „strategic” office of „Posta Moldovei” is monitored 24/24 by several hundred cameras installed in every room of the building. Until „Posta Moldovei” was passed under control of the the Democratic Party, the guard of the building and the control of video cameras used to be provided by the security guard company „Legion”. Since 2012, the guarding is provided by the security company „Argus-S”, founded by the offshore Otiv Prime Services B.V affiliated to Vlad Plahotniuc.

US police chief accused of smuggling anabolics from Moldova

Michael Classey, US police chief arrested for possession of anabolic substances from Moldova. Photo: news4jax.com

In the United States, where the greatest amount of anabolic substances from Moldova arrives (according to our sources, from there, a large part of the substances are loaded on ships and diverted to the African continent - Ed.), there were several criminal investigations that targeted the smuggling of steroids from Moldova. In September 2014, the law enforcement officers in Jacksonville, Florida - the twelfth most populous city in the US - detained Michael Classey, the Atlantic Beach local police chief. He was suspected of smuggling anabolics and drugs from Moldova and India. The Department of Homeland Security was alerted after being thought that Classey ordered several packages of anabolics from both countries. The packages were delivered to “Michael Cassey” at a UPS store postal box in Jacksonville.  Several other vials with injectable anabolic steroids coming from Moldova were found at Classey's home. However, the smuggling scheme could not be proved because, helped by his son, Classey managed to cover his tracks, throwing the computer with all relevant information.

According to US media, the Atlantic Beach local police former chief was initially risking 100 years in jail. The sentence was reduced considerably after the defendant managed to persuade magistrates that he ordered the substances for personal use and that he was an alcoholic.

US media: „Moldova, a country with a high risk of anabolics smuggling”

Four months later, in January 2015, a football player from Carroll College Saints, state of Montana, was detained by law enforcement officers after being discovered that he bought illegally anabolic steroids online. The parcel intercepted contained 600 pills of „Strombafort” and „Danabol”, produced by a well-known Moldovan pharmaceutical company Balkan Pharmaceuticals. Jordan Jernigan pleaded guilty and admitted that he and his colleague from Montana State University obtained those substances by post. The operation was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration, in collaboration with the Customs Service in New Jersey, Helena Police Department, the Postal Inspection Service and the Missouri River Drug Task Force (MRDTF). Because he cooperated with the investigation, the American football player was sentenced to a six month suspended prison sentence.

We found similar cases in other US states. According to articles published in American press, Moldova is a country with a high risk of anabolics smuggling, so the envelopes and packages received from our country are much more often checked by American postal inspectors than those from other states.

To learn how frequent are cases of seizure of anabolics from Moldova, we sent official requests of information to the US Anti-Doping Agency, to the Postal Inspection Service, and to the Drug Enforcement Administration. After more than a month and a half, we have not received any answer. Press officers of these three institutions confirmed by phone only the fact that our requests had been received and the documents would be sent as soon as they are ready.

Underground wars

Anthony Roberts is a former American sportsman who managed to obtain performances in martial arts and rugby, becoming a player in first division rugby union in the north Harbour province of New Zeeland and second grade rugby league in the same country. According to specialized websites, he is described as a fierce campaigner against consumption and trafficking of anabolics, being the author of several books on the subject. We contacted him to ask about the black market of anabolics from Moldova, as well as about the misterious contraband seized by SIS in 2009, mentioned earlier. Anthony Roberts says that the target of the 2009 operation was a company producing  anabolics illegally - Geneza Pharmaceuticals (we would like to point out that the packages seized by SIS in February 2016 were containing products of the same company - Ed.).

„Vlad Nistor was the owner back then. I don't know if he still is. He's not the sportsman. He's been a steroid dealer for at least the past ten years, with different names for his lab. There are some steroid dealers in Moldova who are relatives of politicians. He isn't. But Maybe he works with them now?”, Anthony added.

Outlaw internationally wanted, dealer of Moldovan anabolics

Anthony, appreciated by some specialized websites as a „guru” in anabolics, explains that  Geneza Pharmaceuticals (a company not officially registered in Moldova - Ed.) is owned by „Naps/Napsgear”, a website that sells steroids, and previously worked with „Axio Labs & GenXXL”, a major producer of steroids at a global level. Axio owner, Brian Wainstein, was arrested a few years ago in South Africa.

Brian Wainstein, called "the king of anabolics". Photo source: iol.co.za

Wainstein's arrest is directly related to anabolics coming from Moldova. According to the information from a criminal case of his accomplices, from New Jersey federal court, Wainstein led a steroid manufacturing operation called Axio Labs. At the same time, the dealer, known as one of the most important at a global level, sent Moldovan anabolics to different addresses in the United States in 2007. Intermediaries who were receiving packages of drugs (law enforcement officers associate, in this case, steroids with drugs - Ed.) were repackaging them and forwarding to final customers in the US, according to the City Paper from Tennessee. In this case, two bodybuilders from New Jersey were indicted - Darin Dudash and Anne Dudash. In the operation of capturing Brian Wainstein, who had been internationally wanted during many years, there were involved intelligence services and law enforcement institutions from  Canada, the US, Britain and other countries.

Moldova, among the leaders in the production of anabolics at a global level

Anthony Roberts could not tell us who are the dealers of anabolics with ties to Moldovan politicians, but said that nowadays Moldova is one of the largest manufacturers of anabolic steroids worldwide. Often these substances leave Moldova to countries as Israel, Cyprus etc., being loaded afterwards on ships heading to their final destination.

Dmitri Kolomoitzev, Russian bodybuilder, previously arrested for illegal trading on steroids. Photo source: youtube.com

The fact that Moldova is nowadays a major player on the black market of anabolics was confirmed by the Russian bodybuilder  Dmitri Kolomoitzev, in an article published by Forbes Russia. According to him, the beginning of production of anabolic steroids in Moldova is linked to British Dragon, an anabolic factory in Thailand, founded in the 90s by the American Richard Crowley. Crowley's business partner in Eastern Europe was Alin, a Romanian businessman who was arranging the delivery of raw materials and anabolics to Russia in unsanitary conditions, says Dmitri Kolomoitzev, called „the king of anabolics” in Russia. „In 2006, Alin founded in Moldova the company Balkan Pharmaceuticals, which gradually emerged from obscurity and began to deliver drugs to Moldovan hospitals. Balkan owns today a factory of about 15,000 square meters in Sangera, which produces a wide range of steroids”, according to Forbes. Several sources say that Alin is nowadays one of the biggest dealers of anabolics worldwide. „The king of anabolics” specifies that Moldovan producers allegedly control half of the Russian market of anabolics.

We got in touch with Dmitri Kolomoitzev to talk more on the subject. Initially, the Russian bodybuilder was ready to discuss, but as soon as we invoked Alin’s name, his attitude changed . „It rather seems to be an interrogation”,  he reacted.

Looking for Alin                                           

All our sources who know more about smuggling of anabolics have been reluctant to discuss on the mysterious character Alin, recommending us Balkan Pharmaceuticals as a starting point of research. The company was founded in 2006 and is associated with  SRL Global Alliance (50%) and British Dispensary Corporation (50%), a company founded in Panama in 2007. The administrator of Balkan Pharmaceuticals is the Romanian citizen Silviu Florin Chiru. Please note that it is the only pharmaceutical company in Moldova that produces legally  anabolic drugs for human use.

British Dispensary Corporation appears as a founder of Moldovan company Genetic Engineering  and Pharmacy Institute, run by Teodor Hauca, former Romanian senator during 1996-2000, elected in Suceava county on PD lists. Hauca runs Global Alliance SRL as well (second associate of Balkan Pharmaceuticals - Ed.), founded by Think Concept Corporation from Belize. We did not manage to find out who are the real owners of Balkan, as they hide  their owners in offshore zones. Instead, we found in the Cadastre interesting details  on the building and the plot with address Gradescu 4 street, where the Balkan factory is located. The building was purchased on June 21, 2005 by Medstar Company, a firm founded in 2004 by Richard Edwin Crowley (known dealer of anabolics worldwide, owner of British Dragon which we mentioned earlier - Ed.) and Andy Nemed, an individual with a criminal record in Romania. On October 9, 2006, Crowley’s company sells the construction  to Alin Hauca, Romanian senator's son. One month after, on November 15, 2006 Alin Daniel Hauca founded Balkan Pharmaceuticals as the sole shareholder. Administrator of the company is the Romanian citizen Irina Maria Andreescu. According to Romanian press, Alin was allegedly involved in the Rosia Montana scandal related to gold mining. We failed to find further information on the businessman. Two months later, on January 29, 2007 Alin gave his shares to Gheorghe Andreescu. Our sources argue that Romanian senator's son is not the character we're looking for. Less than two months after this transaction, the building was sold to Dorin Tanase, the son of the well-known physician Adrian Tanase. In 2008, Dorin Tanase managed to buy from the Chisinau City Hall seven acres of land on which the building is situated. Between April 2, 2007 and July 13, 2007, Dorin Tanase was associated and the sole director of the pharmaceutical company. Later, he gave the control of the  company to Global Alliance, which  took as co-partners British Dispensary Corporation in Panama in 2013. In April 2009, Dorin Tanase sold the building and the land on which the factory Balkan is located to the couple Teodor and  Mariana Hauca, who transferred it by a bailment to Balkan Pharmaceuticals in 2012.

„I do not want to talk on this subject”

Balkan Pharmaceuticals headquarters. The name of the factory is not indicated anywhere on the building though. Photo: CIJM

We failed to obtain a reaction from the pharmaceutical company regarding the selling abroad of drugs containing anabolics. The company’s secretary asked us to send our questions via e-mail to her manager, Silviu Florin Chiru, which has not answered.

Contacted by phone, Dorin Tanase confirmed that he knew Teodor and Alin Hauca, but denied that it had any connections with Balkan Pharmaceuticals. Asked about the transaction with the building on 4, Gradescu street, Tanase told us he was not willing to discuss the topic.

We have not managed to find Alin and Teodor Hauca either. On June 10, 2016, the former senator was indicted by DNA’s (National Anticorruption Directorate) Department of combating corruption, in the case of Dan Anton, former judge of Iasi Court of Appeal, who was boasting that he might provide protection to some Italian businessmen at the level of Moldovan Prime Minister.

Stati’s company producing anabolics?

Victor Minciuc, founder of Vermodje (center), next to Gabriel Stati (right). Photo: facebook.com/Victor Minciuc

Another major manufacturer of synthetic hormones in Moldova is Vermodje, founded in 2001, but registered in 2005. Officially, the company is owned by Victor Minciuc and Olga  Moldovanu. Minciuc is a businessman having close ties to Gabriel Stati, and the manager of several businesses in Stati’s holding, including the former supermarket chain „Piatiorocika”. The pharmaceutical company Vermodje was previously  included by media in Stati’s properties list, stating that it is one of the leaders in the production of ascorbic acid, aspirin and citramon.

What has not been said so far is that Vermodje holds registration certificates to produce a range of anabolic preparations for veterinary use, which are sold abroad on specialized websites as steroids for human use. Until a year ago, the company had its factory in Ghidighici village, a suburb of the Capital, on 39 A, Stefan cel Mare street. The guard of the building we found when we went to talk with company representatives informed us that Vermodje left the location almost a year ago, even though the owners made significant investments in modernizing the factory in 2013.

According to an announcement in Monitorul Oficial (The Official Journal of Moldova), edition of June 10, 2016, Vermodje changed its legal address on 44/5 Dacia boulevard, apt. no. 93. According to data from the Cadastre, the apartment belongs to Maria Sergeyeva, a 70-year-old woman.

A specialized website for anabolics consumers states that although Vermodje promotes its products as steroids for veterinary use, this „trick” would be used to reduce state taxes and simplify the certification procedures. „Otherwise, their products do not differ in any way from those of other companies that make steroids for human use”, says the source.

Criminal case with „happy end”

A year ago, a video published on YouTube was showing Vermodje company and the unsanitary conditions in which the firm would keep its active substances and preparations. The video appears to be filmed by law enforcement officers within a criminal case opened in March 2014 on illegal entrepreneurial activity resulting in large undeclared profit. The video shows that at the Vermodje factory’s premises were discovered  labels of various brands of drugs - renowned brands of anabolics „Radeja”, „Radjay” și „Pharma Tech”.

On January 12 ,2016, the Central District Court of Chisinau issued a decision on this matter, recognizing Vermodje guilty. The sanction imposed is a fine worth 45.000 lei and cancellation of factory’s activity.

In the judgment it is stated that Vermodje, upon an agreement with Boris Slobozian, employee of the company, organized the production of several pharmaceutical products  (in the judgment of the trial are given the names of several anabolic preparations - Ed.). That happened during 2013-2014, in the absence of an Activity License and certificates of drugs registration at the Medicines Agency. Then, through Boris Slobozian, drugs were sold to various individuals from Moldova, including Stanislav Struzberg (products worth 1,3 million lei, not reflected in the accounts of the company) and Igor Gubarev (products worth 134.280 million). Another batch of medicines sold by Vermodje and worth over three million lei was discovered by law enforcement officers on 5/1 Bariera Sculeni street. According to the Financial Inspection, in January-August 2014  Vermodje did not reflect the production and sale of pharmaceutical products worth 4.157.407 lei. Its manager, Zinaida Bat, admitted the guilt.

Still selling drugs without a factory

Stanislav Struzberg, world champion in bodybuilding. Photo: vk.com

Dissatisfied with the court's decision, Vermodje addressed to the Court of Appeal, which issued a separate ruling on April 22, reducing the period of deprivation of the right to exercise the activity of manufacturing medicines up to one year. The court expressly stated, with reference to several test reports, that the drugs found in Stanislav Struzberg’s house and that were purchased from Vermodje are „medicinal products with strong effect, containing anabolic steroids”. Judged in a separate criminal case for illegal purchase and subsequent selling of anabolic substances abroad, Sturzberg - who pleaded guilty in court - was acquitted on the grounds that „he is a good family man and has no criminal record”.

Although officially Vermodje stopped its work about a year ago, following the criminal investigation and the court decision, the company's products continue to be found on sale on websites for anabolic consumers.

Our attempts to contact the management of Vermodje failed. Minciuc’s phone number, obtained from his business partners, is no longer available. On the other hand, the old landline number of the company is inactive.

Anabolics from the former president of the Bodybuilding Federation

 

Chisinau headquarters of Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals. Photo: CIJM

Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals is the latest and the newest Moldovan company manufacturing products containing synthetic hormones. The company was opened on July 29, 2014, during the time when Vermodje came to the attention of law enforcement officers. The company was founded by Lilia Cojan and Dumitru Sergeyevich, bodybuilder and former president of Moldova Bodybuilding Federation. Like Vermodje, Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals produces drugs with  anabolic effects for veterinary use. On a Russian website, a person claiming to be one of the company's employee, praises its production, especially the brandly new series „Golden Dragon”. They used to be produced by an Ukrainian anabolics factory, well-known to steroids consumers. In 2016, the factory won „Notorium” contest as the best pharmaceutical company in Moldova (!).

Today, products of Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals may be found in online anabolics stores from Ukraine and Russia.

Some other links seem to exist between Vermodje and Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals. According to data from the State Registration Chamber, the elder brother of Dumitru Sergeyevich, Alexander, is a business partner of Boris Slobozian, employee of Vermodje, targeted in the criminal case on illegal commercialization of anabolics to the pharmaceutical company. Magic Step company was founded in September 2014, two months after Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals was officially registered.

We tried to get in touch with Dumitru Sergeyevich through Moldova Bodybuilding Federation (FB). Aurelian Gorea, current president of FB, said that Sergeyevich is no longer president of the federation. According to Gorea, he was excluded after some members of the federation received signals about the fact that he wanted to promote the sale of anabolics within FB and abroad.

„No one needs Moldovan anabolics”

Dumitru Sergeyevich, bodybuilder, owner of Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals. Photo: facebook.com

Dumitru Sergeyevich avoided talking about the pharmaceutical factory he manages, stating that it has nothing to do with anabolics for human use. „My company produces hormonal preparations, for veterinary use which means animals”, he pointed out, ignoring the question on how his company's products reach the Russian market.

Asked if there is any connection between Vermodje and Euro Prime Pharmaceuticals, Sergeyevich denied. „None. My brother used to work as a technologist there and then he left. Now he works for me. He and Boris are friends. They have a business with shoes”, he told us.

In response to allegations of Aurelian Gorea, Sergeyevich claims that Gorea did not fire him. „I left myself. I supported this federation. I’m an international judge in this sport. It's very unpleasant to hear such allegations from a person who did nothing for sport. I really contributed to the development of this sport in Moldova. I have never sold anabolics to members of the federation”, said Sergeyevich.

Regarding the Moldovan market of anabolics, Sergeyevich denies the phenomenon. „Do we have a market of anabolics? There are few sportspeople in Moldova. As on factories, no one needs Moldovan anabolics anymore. You know why? Because Russia and Ukraine produce their own anabolics, over 100 product names. Underground factories are numerous in the USA as well. There is no room for Moldovan anabolics out there. A clandestine anabolics factory using the name of Moldova on its products was recently dismantled in Ukraine and Poland. They use names of Moldovan companies and brands to produce fake anabolics. 90 percent of the world anabolics are produced in China and Ukraine, Poland earlier.  Everything Kolomoitzev says is a lie, just fantasy. I know him. He used to sell anabolics.  I heard about Alin, but have never met him”, Sergeyevich told us, adding he does not believe that  there are clandestine factories of anabolics in Moldova and that there is any smuggling of these preparations.

Underground factories

Название

While Sergeyevich rejects the existence of clandestine factories, SIS suggests that they exist, in the press release disseminated after the operation of February 7, 2016. „Intelligence and Security Service notifies the public opinion, especially bodybuilding sportsmen, on the avoidance of using medically uncertified products that could be manufactured in artificial conditions and that would endanger health”,  says the release. We have identified four such laboratories: Genesis Pharmaceuticals, Evolution Pharma, Pharmacom Labs and SP Laboratories.

Geneza Pharmaceuticals is the „star” of the 2009 and 2016 seizures of SIS officers, as well as of an operation conducted by law enforcement officers in Poland in March 2011. Then the police and Polish customs officers found in the apartment of a criminal group trading anabolics, several boxes with Genesis Pharmaceuticals preparations, along with other anabolics from Moldova. Anthony Roberts claims that Genesis’ owner is anyone named Vlad Nistor. We failed to identify the person, but in the CIS database there is a person named Vladimir Nistor, founder of an inactive pharmaceutical company, Justas Farm, founded in 2003. The company has its legal address on 36 Tolstoi street, apt. no. 12, a non-existent address.

Pharmacom Labs and SP Laboratories are two underground laboratories that appear to be related. Both their websites have a shared server: CloudFlare Inc., and are registered in San Francisco, USA, having the same ZIP code - 94107.

According to specialized websites that sell steroids, Pharmacom Labs was opened in Moldova in 2006. In 2014,  the ghost-company would have significantly modernized its production line, manufacturing preparations in modern packaging. About SP Laboratories, consumers of steroids on specialized forums say that its production is very similar to that of Balkan Pharmaceuticals. It is not known who is the owner of the clandestine factory. About Evolution Pharma it is believed to have appeared on the market last year and that it would have laboratories in the transnistrian region.

Investigaţia este realizată în cadrul Proiectului „Shining a Light on Corruption in Moldova” desfăşurat de Centrul de Investigaţii Jurnalistice şi Freedom House, cu sprijinul financiar al Ministerului de Externe al Regatului Norvegiei.

 

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