Integrity

Eight criminal cases started in 2021 are based on journalistic investigations, conducted by the CIJM team

Author: Cornelia Cozonac
31/12/2021 11451

In 2021, the prosecutors started at least 8 criminal cases, which are based on journalistic investigations, carried out by the team of the Center for Investigative Journalism and were published on the anticoruptie.md portal. The criminal cases concern the General Prosecutor, one of his deputy-prosecutors, several other chief prosecutors, targeted in some investigations conducted in recent years and a former deputy minister. One of the criminal cases concerns the former president Igor Dodon and the former Parliament Speaker Zinaida Grecianii, who were targeted in a CIJM journalistic investigation from 2008. After the investigations were published, the authors and the Center of Investigative Journalism were summoned to court, to the police, were harassed and threatened by some subjects of the journalistic investigations.

1. General Prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo

The criminal case against the General Prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo, started in October 2021, is based on one of the five charges, the journalistic investigations carried out by CIJM reporters about the business of his wife, Ţvetana Kurdova, that was not initially declared, then the journalists found, in another journalistic investigation, that the beauty salon run by Stoianoglo's wife would operate according to a scheme at the limit of the law, which allows him not to declare the real income from business.

"Stoianoglo family business - between law and illegality. How the General Prosecutor's wife manages not to pay state income taxes” (2021) and “Stoianoglo family business: The General Prosecutor did not declare his wife's income” (2020) The wife of the General Prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo owns and manages a luxury beauty salon without paying state income taxes. It has taken advantage of a loophole in tax law, namely the right of entrepreneurs' patent holders to associate, so that all Opium employees work on a patent basis. The officially declared income is only 12 thousand lei per year and consists of the payment for the rent of the place, which would be paid by the patent holders who work there. The author of the investigation sent her 16-year-old son to get a haircut at the beauty salon of the general prosecutor's wife and filmed with a hidden camera. After this action, we could prove that the revenues of this salon would be quite high, as there are daily customers and the prices for beauty services are quite high.

Anti-corruption experts which were contacted by CIJM reporters believe that this is a tax evasion scheme, which is on the verge of legality.

Earlier, the CIJM said in another investigation that the General Prosecutor in the year when he took office, did not declare any income from his wife's salon or from the rent.

Some details from these investigations served as basis for the criminal case started this October against the General Prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo, one of the five charges is fake in public documents related to illicit enrichment.

Single severance pay for the former head of the PCCOCS

Alexandr Stoianoglo is also charged for the fact that, upon the dismissal of the prosecutor Nicolae Chitoroaga, the former head of the PCCOC, contrary to the legal provisions, he ordered the single severance pay in the amount of 163,990.13 lei, which harmed the state budget. Chitoroaga is also being investigated in a case of illicit enrichment, following another investigation carried out by the team of the Center for Investigative Journalism. The prosecutors claim that Nicolae Chitoroaga did not have the right to the single severance pay, because during that period he was being prosecuted. Chitoroaga was detained on November 21, 2019, for 72 hours, being suspected in a criminal case for illicit enrichment. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office started the investigation after it filed a complaint following an investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova. Chitoroaga was detained for 15 days, and after the arrest warrant expired, he was allowed to go home.

The order regarding Chitoroaga's resignation was signed by Stoianoglo on January 23, 2020, the same day when the resignation request was submitted. In addition to accepting Chitoroaga's resignation request, Stoianoglo ordered the single severance pay, provided by the Law on the Prosecutor's Office, for the prosecutors leaving the system.

We remind you that, on June 26, 2018, Nicolae Chitoroaga resigned from the position of head of the PCCOCS, a position he held for three years, during the government of Vladimir Plahotniuc.

2. Deputy Prosecutor General Ruslan Popov  

Deputy Prosecutor General Ruslan Popov was detained by anti-corruption prosecutors and Intelligence and Security Service officials in October 2021 on suspicion of illicit enrichment. Prosecutors raided the luxury home of the prosecutor in the village of Milestii Mici, Ialoveni district, about which Anticoruptie.md wrote several times. Ruslan Popov is being prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office for illicit enrichment.

The criminal case against the prosecutor is based on several journalistic investigations, carried out by the team of the Center for Investigative Journalism in 2020 about the property and business of the prosecutor from Milestii Mici, registered on his father’s name, a 70-year-old pensioner. Reporters described the prosecutor's business in agriculture, a business registered on his father's name, a refrigerator for storing fruit, house and luxury cars. The journalists also went to Ukraine, in the village of Utkonosovka, where they found the house of Ruslan Popov's wife, after he publicly said that he was helped by his in-laws. The journalists found out that Popov's mother-in-law lived a modest life, sold her household for 18,000 euros and did not have the money to help the prosecutor's son-in-law financially in addition to the house he bought in Milestii Mici. Details in the investigation "VIDEO // What the former house from Ukraine  of the" millionaire " in-laws of prosecutor Ruslan Popov looks like".

On January 23, 2020, one day after the publication of the first investigation into Popov's property, the General Prosecutor Alexandr Stoianoglo asked the National Integrity Authority to check the property of his deputy- prosecutor, Ruslan Popov. The General Prosecutor's Office announced that Stoianoglo made this decision at the request of Ruslan Popov, who in turn described the information about him as derogatory and endangering his and his family's honor. ANI investigated the case for more than a year and, a few days before prosecutors announced the start of the criminal case, finalized the report in which no integrity problems were found in the case of Ruslan Popov.

The investigations had a follow-up in 2021, after the criminal case in which Ruslan Popov is being investigated was started. Prosecutor Ruslan Popov's "Unknown Business in Orhei" investigation shows that the family of the deputy general prosecutor would control, in addition to the orchard and the refrigerator in Milestii Mici, a third of an agricultural business in the village of Braviceni, Orhei district. This case, which was identified by the reporters of the Center for Investigative Journalism, is not registered on the prosecutor's name, has not been and is not declared. It is a super intensive apple orchard, arranged according to the most modern standards. The share in the business was initially registered on the name of Alexandru Popov, the prosecutor's eldest son, who was a 19-year-old student at the time.

Shortly before Ruslan Popov was arrested, in the case of illicit enrichment, the share of the business in Braviceni was registered on the name of a resident of Milestii Mici, settled in the USA, a friend of the prosecutor. Prosecutors also filed a complaint after this investigation. The head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, Elena Cazacov reported for the anticoruptie.md portal that a prosecutor was appointed to check the information in the journalistic investigation.

In January 2022, prosecutors told Anticoruptie.md that they had filed a new case for illicit enrichment of the suspended deputy general prosecutor, Ruslan Popov, after they filed a complaint following the investigation of the Center of Investigative Journalism in Moldova titled “Ünknown business of the Prosecutor Ruslan Popov in Orhei ".

Lawsuits and harassment of journalists

Following the publication of the first journalistic investigation into the property and business of prosecutor Ruslan Popov, the defender sued the Center for Investigative Journalism for allegedly violating his honor and dignity. The trial is currently pending at first instance.

After the publication in 2021 of the investigation "Prosecutor Ruslan Popov's unknown business in Orhei", the reactions were immediate. After prosecutors charged Ruslan Popov again, a subject from the investigation threatened to prosecute Julieta Savitschi with a lawsuit and a complaint to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It is about Lilian Racoviţa, who has been living in the USA for several years, and last autumn, a few days before Ruslan Popov was detained, he registered on his name the share of a business owned by the prosecutor's son in Orhei. Lilian Racoviţa accuses the author of the investigation of having written that he was a former police officer, which would damage his own image and " would set unfavorable legal circumstances".

Deputy Prosecutor General Ruslan Popov has sued the Center for Investigative Journalism for violating his honor and dignity, and the trial is currently pending at first instance.

3. Prosecutor of Ciocana Office Igor Popa

CIJM reporters showed in the investigation "VIDEO // Fictitious divorce and the hidden property of prosecutor Igor Popa", published in July 2020, that the chief prosecutor of the Ciocana Office in Chisinau Igor Popa lived in a luxury apartment that he did not declare and that he would have resorted to a fictitious divorce because he could not prove the legality of the resources for this house. The investigation took almost a year, during which time the authors of the investigation sought to prove that the prosecutor lives in that residential area with his family, although he is officially divorced.

The investigation was impactful. Late in 2021, Prosecutor Popa, who in the meantime also took over the position of Deputy Prosecutor of Chisinau, was targeted by his colleagues from the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, who started a criminal case for illicit enrichment.

In the last days of 2021, the deputy head of the Chisinau Prosecutor's Office, Igor Popa, was suspended from office, by the vote of the Superior Council of Prosecutors.

Harassment of journalists and criminal case

The journalistic investigation into how the prosecutor resorted to divorce in order not to declare the properties that he could not cover with his salary from the prosecutor's office, turned for the Center for Investigative Journalism, the author of the investigation and a civic activist, into a fight of several years with state institutions and the prosecutor's wife. The prosecutor's wife, a lawyer by profession, harassed the CIJM team from the very first documents. The lawyer wrote complaints to several state institutions, to the Center for Personal Data Protection, to the Press Council, to the Police and the Prosecutor's Office, she sued us. Some institutions have started criminal proceedings and even criminal cases. The Center for Personal Data Protection was on the lawyer’s side at first, as it found without reason, that the journalists violated the law when they verified, in the documentation process, the data from the Cadastre regarding the properties of the prosecutor. Journalists have written dozens of explanations, wasted time at police and in the courts.

Caption

VIDEO// Fictitious divorce and the secret property of prosecutor Igor Popa 

In November 2020, Ala Popa also filed a criminal complaint against the Center for Investigative Journalism at the Centru Police Inspectorate, alleging the illegal collection and unauthorized dissemination by the Center for Investigative Journalism of information about personal life (of Ala Popa no.), which is secret, personal". The police started a criminal trial in which they heard Ala Popa as a victim, they also heard some guards from the residential neighborhood where she lives and with whom they contacted in the process of documenting the CIJM reporters. Also, the police officers who dealt with the case requested the decisions of the National Center for Personal Data Protection.

The criminal trial  no. 20200101462 dated November 4, 2020 lasted almost a year, being examined in the light of the provisions of art. 177 of the Criminal Code, according to which the legislator establishes the criminal liability for “violation of the inviolability of personal life”, ie “illegal collection or knowingly dissemination of information, protected by law, about personal life, which constitutes personal or family secret of another person, without one’s consent. We remind that during the criminal trial, the police officers did their job without explanations on our behalf.

On September 20, 2021, the prosecutor Sergiu Harea from the Centru Prosecutor's Office signed the ordinance not to start the criminal investigation against the Center for Investigative Journalism. He accepted the report with the proposal not to start the criminal investigation, presented by the criminal investigation officer of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Police Inspectorate Centru of the Chisinau Police Department, Mihaela Crulicovschi. The reason for not starting the criminal investigation in the criminal process no. 20200101462 was that "the deed does not meet the elements of the crime". Thus, the criminal case against the Center for Investigative Journalism was closed.

More details in the material "How the wife of a prosecutor tried to silence the journalists".

4. Igor Dodon and Zinaida Grecianii, under criminal investigation for energy schemes  

In September 2021, the General Prosecutor's Office started criminal case against former President Igor Dodon and former President of Parliament Zinaida Grecianii for embezzling state funds through criminal schemes to import electricity into Moldova, to the detriment of the state in large proportions. The scheme was put into operation when Igor Dodon served the Ministry of Economy and Zinaida Greceanii, Head of the Government. This scheme was revealed by the journalists of the Center for Investigative Journalism in an investigation published in 2008. Prosecutors also found links in that scheme leading to former PDM leader Vlad Plahoniuc, who fled Moldova in 2019 after the change of government.

"At the beginning of 2008, the decision makers of SA Energocom, the company responsible for power supply for the Republic of Moldova, by prior deal and in agreement with the officials of the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure, the National Energy Regulatory Agency and others, including from outside the country,  would have implemented a criminal scheme through which he would have embezzled state money worth 11,927,173 dollars (123,957,916 lei) ", mentioned the General Prosecutor's Office, which quoted information from the criminal investigation.

The criminal case was started at the notifications submitted by two energy experts Sergiu Tofilat, Victor Parlicov and Tudor Șoitu, who sent information requests to relevant institutions, calculated the damage caused to the state following the schemes revealed by the CIJM team. At a conference, they presented evidence that in 2008 a fraudulent electricity import scheme was operating in the Republic of Moldova through a tick company. In May-December 2008 alone, Moldovan consumers were harmed by more than $ 14.5 million in purchasing electricity from Ukraine through the Hungarian company Energo-Partner at a higher price than that offered by Ukrinterenergo.

The prosecutors said that the implemented scheme would have allowed the persons involved to embezzle the state money through the method of unfounded increase of the purchase price of electricity and the appropriation of the price difference.

Dodon ended up under criminal investigation and admitted some facts from the 2008 scheme, although he does not plead guilty. Former Prime Minister Vlad Filat also said that the document he signed in 2010 with Yulia Tymoshenko was prepared by then-Deputy Prime Minister Igor Dodon.

Reporters from the Center for Investigative Journalism revealed that Igor Dodon eventually obtained a discount from Kiev only that Moldovan citizens did not benefit from it.

5. Prosecutor Pavel Vinițchi

Prosecutor Pavel Vinitchi, known in the past for investigating drug trafficking cases, has been targeted in recent years in several journalistic investigations by CIJM reporters. In the investigation "VIDEO // Prosecutor Vinițchi builds a house on the shores of Lake Ghidighici", reporters showed that the prosecutor is building his house in a park on the shores of Lake Ghidighici. The building on the forested land with birches and conifers seems to have at least 200 square meters, although he reported a surface of 79 sq.m.  in the statement on property and personal interests. He builds his house on a wooded area and is located on the shores of Lake Ghidighici.

The National Integrity Authority filed a complaint after the Anticoruptie.md portal wrote about the construction of the prosecutor’s house, and at the end of 2021, the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office started a criminal case for illicit enrichment.

During the year, prosecutor Vinițchi was the subject of two other CIJM investigations. In the VIDEO investigation // Prosecutor suspected of drunk driving. How the prosecutor justifies it,  CIJM reporters showed how Pavel Vinitchi was caught drunk driving. CIJM reporters were notified by the police who detained him. The blood alcohol test showed that Vinitchi had a concentration of 0.17 mg / l in expired air. This result is enough for a contravention case and for Pavel Vinitchi to remain without a driving license for at least 6 months.

Record in court: Prosecutor Vinitchi, acquitted a few days after his report was drawn up for allegedly drunk driving

The report drawn up by the police against the prosecutor Pavel Vinitchi for allegedly drunk driving was canceled nine days later by the Chisinau District Court. Several lawyers told us that they have never experienced so far that a contravention case be settled so quickly and that such proceedings take several months.

VIDEO / Prosecutor, disciplinary sanctioned following violations found in a journalistic investigation.

The Superior Council of Prosecutors severely reprimanded prosecutor Pavel Vinitchi for disciplinary offenses while investigating an alleged drug trafficker who made revelations for anticoruptie.md. Moreover, the CSP annulled the decision of December 30, 2020 of the College of Discipline and Ethics of Prosecutors by which Viniţchi was acquitted of the accusations. Pavel Vinitchi, a prosecutor in the Chisinau Prosecutor's Office, has been the subject of several journalistic investigations carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism.

Late in 2021, Pavel Viniţchi appeared as a suspect in two criminal cases, for passive corruption and illicit enrichment. At the heart of both cases are the CIJM investigations. The prosecutor challenged in court both orders to start criminal proceedings.

6. Former Deputy Minister of Economy Vitalie Iurco

Former Deputy Minister of Economy and former director of the national mobile operator Moldtelecom, Vitalie Iurcu, ended up under criminal investigation in a case for illicit enrichment, started by prosecutors in November 2021. This case is also based on several journalistic investigations conducted by the CIJM team, a few years ago.

During the PD government led by Pavel Filip, Iurco one of the richest state officials and he was suspected of corruption and illegal business with the state.

"Following the seven raids carried out on November 26, 2021 by the anti-corruption prosecutors together with the SPIA employees of the Interior Ministry at the former director of JSC" Moldtelecom "and his relatives, 10 mobile phones, over 50 optical media, a laptop, a computer, draft documents and several documents, including several valuables were seized. These were investigated on the spot in advance by the expert and were found to be of probative importance for the criminal case and which established the role of several persons who act as intermediaries of the family of the former official, as a result of a real estate deal", reads a press release of the PA.

A CIJM investigation, conducted in June 2018, revealed that Vitalie Iurcu built a housing complex on the land of a sports club, privatized by a dubious decision of the Chisinau Municipal Council. The real estate project was carried out on the basis of a civil society contract with a construction company and was put into operation in 2017. The official said that the only investment made by him is the amount of 400,000 lei to buy the land. However, every third apartment in the apartment building was registered on the name of Vitalie Iurcu and his wife, and the homes were put up for sale.

"In a reply sent to the Center for Investigative Journalism, Vitalie Iurcu said that he bought the 16-acre land for 400,000 lei. According to the real estate announcements, the market price of a land with this surface located in the Botanica sector of Chisinau amounts to over two million lei. Moreover, the official said that he did not make any other investments in the block of flats.

Vitalie Iurcu came to the Ministry of Economy in 2015, after he had served as director of SA Moldtelcom, a state-owned company. Iurcu was promoted despite the fact that several reports of the Court of Accounts found violations in the management of the company.

Other investigations carried out by reporters from the Center for Investigative Journalism revealed schemes by which most of the public procurements carried out by SA Moldtelecom were won by his friends and business partners, through a group of companies. During Iurcu's leadership, no public procurement was passed through the public procurement system, and the information about the results of the competitions is not made public.

In 2014, the statement of property of the head of Moldtelecom was verified by CNI, following an anonymous letter, which reported that Iurcu would have bought the majority stake of the company that sells Zikkurat construction materials. The case was closed.

Another investigation reveals that, with his nephew’s help, Iurcu was involved in the activity of several companies with activities in agriculture. Also, through his nephew, he leases half a hectare of forest near Ialoveni, a forest where, in 2014, during working hours, Moldtelecom employees worked and were paid for with state money.

7. Former prosecutor of the municipality Chisinau Ștefan Șaptefrați

An investigation by the CIJM "VIDEO // CAMUFLAGED PROPERTY of the prosecutor from Chisinau", published in April 2019, showed how the former Chisinau prosecutor Ștefan Șaptefrați built a huge house in less than a year in Cheltuitori, Tohatin commune, suburb of Chisinau. The building, valued by experts, at several million lei, was registered on his daughter’s name Maria, who, like her husband, did not seem to have money for such a property.

Caption

The head of the municipal prosecutor's office, with a salary of civil servant, was then the only one who worked in the family. He admits that he helped his daughter and claims that he has enough money to support his children financially.

Late in 2021, the National Integrity Authority filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor's Office, announcing that during a control of the wealth, income and expenses of Ştefan Şaptefraţi and his family members for the period 2013-2020, they found several unjustified acquisitions.

"During the control, the integrity inspector found three inconsistencies, which do not fall within the period subject to control, but fall under the scope of criminal law. In 2008, he bought real estate in Chisinau for 11.6 million lei. And, a year later, he bought with 5 million lei two plots for construction in Ialoveni district. Also, in the declaration of property and personal interests for 2014, he showed that he was repaid two cash loans in the total amount of over 6.7 million lei, which he would have granted to a SRL. From the information obtained in the file, the inspector notices that the activity of this SRL was unprofitable. Even if the SRL sold its assets of over 3 million lei, it did not have the necessary amount to cover the debt to the subject ", reads a press release of ANI.

In the complaint to the Prosecutor's Office, the integrity inspector also mentioned a loan of 100,000 euros, granted to an individual by the former concubine of Saptefrati. The report also states that the woman did not have paid activities at the time.

Ștefan Șaptefrați was appointed Chief Prosecutor of Chisinau in August 2017. During his tenure, Șaptefrați was the subject of several journalistic investigations into his property.

Prosecutor of Chisinau Ștefan Șaptefrați, resigned in March 2020.

8. Former head of PCCOC ​Nicolae Chitoroaga 

The criminal case started two years ago, for illicit enrichment against the former head of the Prosecutor's Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases (PCCOCS), Nicolae Chitoroaga, was resumed in November by Judge Angela Catana of the Chisinau Court, Buiucani.  Nicolae Chitoroaga case started following an investigation carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova.

Chitoroaga was detained on November 21, 2019, for 72 hours, being suspected in a criminal case for illicit enrichment. Chitoroaga was detained for 15 days, and after the arrest warrant expired, he was allowed to go home.

On July 27, 2019, the investigation "The camouflaged business of prosecutor Chitoroaga near the forest in Napadeni" was published on the Anticoruptie.md portal. Reporters from the Center for Investigative Journalism revealed that Chitoroaga has a fish farming business in Napadeni village, Ungheni district.

The case was registered on his brother and his godfather’s name and was not declared by the prosecutor. The law enforcement officer allegedly took over the business in 2005, through a fraudulent scheme from some inhabitants of Napadeni village. The case was reported on the Corruption Map by Nicolae Mardari. The man claimed that he was cheated by the prosecutor and his relatives.

Alexandr Stoianoiglo, appointed as General Prosecutor when Chitoroaga was detained, accused former head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, Viorel Morari, that the case started against the former PCCOCS chief was revenge.

Caption

Subsequently, Stoianoglo ordered the granting of the single reverence pay of 270,000 lei to Nicolae Chitoroaga, upon leaving the system. Chitoroaga did not have the right to a single reverence pay because he was being prosecuted during that period.

In November 2019, the former head of the Prosecutor's Office for Combating Organized Crime and Exceptional Cases (PCCOCS), Nicolae Chitoroaga, under criminal investigation for illicit enrichment, was detained for 72 hours. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office started the investigation after it filed a complaint following an investigation carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova.

Nicolae Chitoroaga resigned in June 2018 from the position of head of the PCCOCS, a position he held for three years. He said the reason for his resignation was "enormous pressure on the institution" and on him. The day after he left the PCCOCS leadership, Chitoroaga was transferred to the position of ordinary prosecutor in the Chisinau Prosecutor's Office.

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