AUDIO, DOC // “Ghost” banker in Vlad Filat’s case
A well-known Russian banker was attracted unknowingly in the controversial case of former PM Vlad Filat. Former executive chairman of the Russian Petrocomerţ bank is accused of having met in February 2013, former general secretary of the Government Victor Bodiu and they planned to take over a part of bad assets from Banca de Economii (BEM). According to the report Kroll, taking bad loans worth about one billion lei by Roseau Alliance LLP was the first step in taking over the BEM scheme. Reporters of the Center for Investigative Journalism found the banker but he does not know anything about the financial transactions at BEM and the criminal case in Moldova pertaining him. Also, the case included details about a car which Ilan Shor claims of having given to Vlad Filat as bribe in 2013, though the car that was sequestered afterwards, has been produced and imported to Moldova in 2014 .
Mysterious banker and general secretary of the Government
Name of the Russian banker Pavel Neumîvakin is invoked in Vlad Filat’s case by former general secretary of the Government Victor Bodiu. He is cited by the Buiucani Court sector to testify on the case of his former head of Government. Bodiu said that in early 2013 he received instructions from Vlad Filat to meet with representatives of a Russian bank who were interested to buy a part of the bad assets from BEM.
"The meeting with the representative of the bank who was accompanied by a lady, was held in the Government building in the office of the general secretary, and the business card represented Petrocomerţ Bank, in the person of Neumîvaikin or Neumîvakin, I do not remember the exact name. He said that he was interested to buy some bad assets from BEM, he wanted to discuss details with the bank and he would be represented in all discussions with the bank by his partners in Moldova and namely Mr. Shor and team from Unibank", said Bodiu before judges in Buiucani. He added that the meeting with Russian banker was held in February, 2013.
Unibank was owned by Petrocomert Bank until August 2012 when it was taken over by Shor group. In 2007, the Russian bank said that it had sold its shares from Unibank to an Austrian investment fund, that turned out to be a company close to Petrocomerţ Bank, so the Moldovan bank was managed by the parent-bank in Russia until the deal from summer 2012.
According to the reasoned decision ruled by Buiucani Court, Victor Bodiu said that Ilan Shor and the team from Unibank participated in further negotiations for transferring bad loans (agreed with Neumîvakin - n.r.). Neumîvakin's representatives had proposed redeeming of bad assets with the help of some offshore companies - Rouse Allince LLP, adding that the Russian bank will be "the vehicle that will take over loans". The transfer contract of bad loans worth 939.9 million lei was signed with the offshore company on March 18, 2013.
„ I do not know Victor Bodiu”
Center for Investigative Journalism came into the possession of an official reply received by the judge of the Court of Appeal Nichifor Corochii, rapporteur in Vlad Filat’s case, by which the magistrate is informed by the Border Police that Pavel Neumîvakin has not crossed the Moldovan border in the period from 2013 to November 1, 2016. However, the reply states that there is the transnistrian segment on the territory of the Republic of Moldova and authorities cannot control crossing of persons there.
Reporters of CIJM found Pavel Neumîvakin. He did not activate at Petrocomerţ Bank since 2014. CIJM conducted a short interview. The banker, appointed a few years ago the best bank manager of the Russian Federation told us that he had visited Moldova in 2012 last, but he was not involved in the case with Banca de Economii. Neither he nor the bank he represented in 2013, had the intention to redeem the bad loans from Banca de Economii. Neumîvakin confirms that he knows Ilan Shor, as Unibank was owned by Petrocomerţ bank in the past. Also, he added that he had never visited the Moldovan government building and did not know Victor Bodiu.
"I have not met anyone from the government. I do not know Victor Bodiu. I do not know Banca de Economii. Petrocomert had a daughter bank in Moldova, Unibank, which was sold to a businessman who seemed successful at the time, Ilan Shor. The story of collaboration relations ended with this sale. I do not remember anything about intention of taking bad loans. I do not know anything about Rouse Alliance LLP ", said Neumîvakin.
Phone conversation between journalist from CIJM and Pavel Neumîvakin, former executive director of Petrocomerț bank
We contacted Victor Bodiu for comments. Former general secretary of the Government did not answer the phone and did not reply to the message that we sent him on the social network Facebook.
„Prosecution version is not confirmed”
Despite the formal reply received from the Border Police that Neumîvakin has not crossed the border of the Republic of Moldova in 2013, both Buiucani court and the Court of Appeal Chisinau rejected requests of Vlad Filat’s lawyers to appoint a rogatory commission to question the banker and retained only statements made by Victor Bodiu, even if they were not confirmed by evidence.
Off-shore Rouse Allince LLP was created on 16 March 2012, a year before the alleged meeting between Neumîvakin and Shor and signing of the transfer of bad loans from Banca de Economii. It has two off-shore companies on Marshall Islands, A & P Henderson LTD and Consult Cyprus Services LTD. In the denouncement made by Ilan Shor on October 13, 2015, just two days before Vlad Filat was deprived of immunity and detained, the current mayor of town Orhei testified that the former premier would have asked him in early 2013 to take bad loans from BEM. Instead, he would have promised to solve the problem with the duty free sale of oil products and warned that he would destroy all his businesses in Moldova. Both the Kroll report and financial reports submitted by Rousseau Alliance LLP to the relevant authorities in the UK, where the company was registered, show that the off-shore did not carry out activities other than fictitious taking of bad assets from BEM. The company seems to have been created specifically for this "deal", a year before so, as stated by Shor, Filat proposed taking over of loans from BEM. The liquidation proceedings of the company Rousseau Allince started in September 2015 and the company has stopped its activity on December 15, 2015.
In the opinion of the lawyer Igor Popa, Neumîvakin’s statements contradict Bodiu’s evidence in the prosecution. "Vlad Filat was convicted including based on these testimonies. By excluding Bodiu’s statements, version of prosecution upheld by the Court of Appeal over the fact that BEM’s assignment was set following a meeting with bank representatives in the Russian Federation, ordered by Filat, is not confirmed. That means Vlad Filat is accused of a crime which he did not commit", commented defender.
Prosecutors’ ambiguous accusations
CIJM wrote in a journalistic investigation about three young girls from the Russian Federation targeted in the case as intermediaries through which Ilan Shor claimed that he has sent 320 million lei to former PM. In this case, the lawyers insisted on a rogatory commission to question the three witnesses, but both Buiucani Court and the Court of Appeal Chisinau rejected the claims. CIJM journalists have found the young girls and discussed with two of them. Women said that they did not know Filat and Shor and have never been to Moldova. None of them knew anything about the criminal case pertaining to them. After disclosures made by them, the Court of Appeal Chisinau excluded this episode from judgment and reduced the value of the bribe by 320 million lei. The current mayor of Orhei said in court that he bribed the former prime minister.
„Analyzing the overall evidence related to episodes of transmitting different sums of money to Vlad Filat, money raised from Unibank by A. Papykian, L. Noscova and I. Alexandrova, the criminal college concludes that the sum incriminated to the defendant as illegal reward received directly from I. Shor or through an intermediary, the equivalent of 320 941 414 lei, has not been confirmed or lacked enough evidence. The sentence is quashed on this segment and this sum calculated from the total sum of illegal reward worth 798 003 178 lei will be excluded, as it is not confirmed ", reads the reasoned judgment of the Court of Appeal Chisinau. Evidence is reported in the document below.
Prosecutor Adriana Betisor did not make comments for press about this evidence from indictment which is denied by testimonies.
Car from the „future”
The evidence presented in court is a Porsche Macan, which, under the indictment, Vlad Filat would have received it as a bribe in April 2013. The car would have been sent by Ilan Shor to former PM to persuade more members of the Government, especially the Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and former deputy-minister of Finance Minister Victor Barbaneagra to issue additional assets at BEM, ceding majority shares to Ilan Shor’s companies. The evidence presented by prosecutors in court shows that the car was registered on the name of an intermediary, Gheorghe Ciumac, a person close to Vlad Filat.
The car's technical passport, customs statements and other documents showed that the car was produced in 2014 and was imported on April 13, 2014.
Despite the documents showing that the car was produced a year later than committing the alleged corruption act, both Buiucani Court and the Court of Appeal Chisinau accepted the prosecution evidence.
"The fact that prosecutors presented as evidence a car that was produced and imported a year later than the alleged corruption act happened, means that this is a political and fabricated case that comprises excessive celerity, which generated serious errors and affected the legality of the decision. Vlad Filat is accused of impossible actions: receiving a car that was not produced when it was sent to the PM, sums of money which were not received by Vlad Filat, bank card payments performed by other people. I have said several times that this case contains artificial incriminating evidence", said the lawyer.
Prosecutor Adriana Betisor refused to talk to us about the evidence from the case that is not confirmed. "You can understand what you want of what Mr Neumîvakin says, but I will not react to what media writes. I do not know if you are aware of the fact that under the new law on prosecution, I cannot make statements on criminal cases. This is the responsibility of the press service. Simply, it is not my competence and I would not like to be questioned for the fact that I speak to the media. The media service must give you an answer ", said Adriana Betisor. The press service of the General Prosecutor’s office informed us that the Anti-corruption prosecutor Viorel Morari was on a trip abroad and will give us an answer when he returns. Previously, Morari told us that he could not comment on the evidence of this case because it was sent to the court before he was elected head of the Anticorruption Prosecution.
We contacted judge Nichifor Corochii and asked him why the court did not insist on questioning witness Pavel Neumîvakin after Border Police informed him that he was not in Moldova in 2013, he replied that the Court of Appeal Chisinau "has not cleared up this episode". "How can we question Neumîvakin if he was not in Moldova? These episodes were excluded from the accusations against Vlad Filat ", said the magistrate. However, the reasoned judgment of the Court of Appeal covers the case with Russian banker.
Ion Guzun, expert of the Center for Legal Resources in Moldova says that since Vlad Filat’s case is the first case since a Moldovan PM is investigated for corruption acts, it was the moral obligation of judges to ensure a public trial, with valid evidence of prosecutors, evidence-based accusations, and the former prime minister and other people are really guilty. "All these elements were missed. Moreover, the allegations of former general prosecutor showed that Vlad Filat took bribes worth 250 million dollars. This amount decreased more than tenfold until the trial. Thus, we have enough clues that the evidence in this case is not viable, especially since judges rejected interviewing witnesses who did not come to Moldova and did not sent bribes to the PM, as prosecutors said”, said the expert.
This investigation has been produced as part of the “Journalists for Integrity in Public Service” campaign, carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism with the support of the Good Governance Program of Soros Foundation Moldova. The donor does not influence the topic or content of the published investigations.
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