Judges with apartments for free
During the last five years (2012-2017), more than MDL 127 million were allocated from the Chisinau municipality budget to provide with apartments some persons who sued the City Hall asking for housing or for concluding reconciliation transactions with it. Among the beneficiaries of such apartments, but also of funds, there are also magistrates. Some of them, although they received apartments free of charge from the housing stock of Chisinau municipality, have enriched themselves in the meantime with other dwellings: some of these being purchased at preferential prices, others - bought at market price. There are also judges who have left the judiciary system shortly after they have got free apartments in the capital.
Five years ago, in December 2012, Nina Arabadji, current judge at the Chisinau District Court (Riscani) received a two-room apartment of more than 70 square meters in a block of flats on Alba Iulia Street in Chisinau. At the time of the request, Nina Arabadji's family consisted of two people: the judge and her daughter. The dwelling was granted to her based on a 2004 decision of the Center District Court, which the Municipal Council had to enforce. The court ordered the municipality to offer Nina Arabadji improved living conditions.
After two years, i.e. in 2014, after the judge came into possession of the apartment in the Buiucani sector, in her declaration of assets and personal interests for 2016, another apartment, with an area of over 56 square meters, with a cadastral value of over MDL 357 thousand appeared.
After one year, however, in 2015, the name of the judge, Nina Arabadji, was on the list of magistrates at the Chisinau District Court, Riscani headquarters, which have benefited from apartments purchased at preferential prices from EXFACTOR-GRUP. The new real estate was 82 square meters and is located in the Botanica sector of the capital. The real estate was bought for an amount of over EUR 29,520 thousand, i.e. EUR 360 per square meter, twice lower than the price on the primary real estate market.
The whole amount was contracted two years ago, and she was supposed to pay off the debt this year. In the assets declaration for 2016, the magistrate also indicates a debt of over MDL 400 thousand, to be repaid by 2023.
Three apartments in five years: one free of charge, another at preferential price
Hence, in just five years, the magistrate Nina Arabadji has benefited of three apartments: one offered by the municipality free of charge, another one at a preferential price, and the third one at market price. We have requested the magistrate's opinion through the press service of the Chisinau District Court. She was asked if the apartment on the Alba Iulia Street in Chisinau was in her own possession or in use. The Judge Arabadji was also asked from what sources is she going to pay off her debts indicated in the assets declaration if the maturity date is in just two years. No exact, but rather elusive, answers were given to these questions, referring to the Law on the declaration of assets and personal interests, but also to the Superior Council of Magistracy.
Judge Iovu - with a free of charge apartment in a new block
The magistrate at the Chisinau Court of Appeal, Gheorghe Iovu, also got a free of charge apartment located in the Buiucani district of Chisinau from the Chisinau Municipal Council (CMC). The apartment is located on Balkan Highway in the capital and has an area of 72 square meters. In this way, the CMC enforced the decision of the Chisinau Court of Appeal, whereby it ordered the municipality to provide an apartment free of charge in the capital to this magistrate. The peer judges decided to give the flat free of charge to the magistrate Iovu, even though at that time Iovu family already had an apartment, which owner was his wife.
Hence, currently, the family of the magistrate Gheorghe Iovu owns two apartments: one received from the CMC and another one received by donation by his wife.
Asked if the apartment offered free of charge by the municipality is in property or use, the magistrate replied that this is stated in his assets declaration, so he abstained from any comments.
In the declaration of assets and personal interests for 2016, the magistrate indicates an unfinished real estate, as well as a Volvo XC 90 model purchased in 2011 valued at over MDL 208 thousand. The magistrate bought his car in the year when he got the apartment from CMC.
Valentin Ilasco, neighbor of Gheorghe Iovu
In the same new block, the apartment of the former magistrate Valentin Ilasco is located, who also got an apartment distributed by the City Hall. An iron fence surrounds the new block, so as no strangers can enter the yard. A Christmas tree was arranged in front of the entrance, and at the staircase of the block, the flag of the Republic of Moldova is fluttering. The apartment of over 80 square meters was distributed by a decision in December 2011, but the judge came into its possession in 2012.
The former magistrate requested free of charge housing from the municipality, even though at that time, he had another apartment of over 80 square meters. After obtaining his home, Valentin Ilasco left the judiciary system. By a Decree dated February 2013, he was dismissed from the position of judge of the Riscani District Court in the capital. In another year, in April 2014, Valentin Ilasco obtained a lawyer's license.
Being asked why he had requested a free of charge apartment, if at that time, he already had a home; the magistrate did not want to answer, noting only that he still has the property in his possession but not in use. “There are already too many questions”, the former magistrate said briefly.
Judge Igor Manascurta refused to talk about the apartment
Another magistrate from CA Chisinau is waiting for a free of charge apartment. It is about Igor Manascurta. By the 2003 decision of the Chisinau Court of Appeal, the municipality was obliged to offer him housing. Until the municipality decided whether to offer the magistrate an apartment free of charge or not, the Judge Manascurta benefited from a dwelling at preferential price, signing in 2014 an investment contract in the amount of over EUR 31,500 thousand, a debt that he committed himself to pay off in just two years.
We asked in writing for the magistrate's opinion and asked him whether he would insist on getting a free of charge apartment from the municipality, since he already got another apartment at preferential price. The judge did not answer, but through his court clerk he said he is not going to comment.
Reconciliation Transaction - not enforced
The former magistrate Mihail Buruian was also expecting an apartment. Even if there is a court decision, whereby the municipality is obliged to offer him a free of charge apartment, he has not benefited from the real estate, because he left the system. Currently, Mihail Buruian is a lawyer. He told us that he had concluded a reconciliation transaction, but the money was not transferred to his account, and soon he left the judiciary.
The City Hall does not know the names of the judges, policemen and prosecutors who have benefited of free of charge apartments
Over many years, judges, as well as dozens of prosecutors and policemen have benefited of free of charge apartments. We have asked the General Directorate of Housing and Urban Planning (DGLCA) within the Chisinau City Hall to tell us how many judges, prosecutors and policemen obtained free of charge apartments. The department has replied that it does not keep such records. “We would like to inform you that DGLCA does not have a record of information for 2000-2016 regarding the provision of housing based on the decisions of the Mayor/Deputy Mayor of Chisinau, CMC decisions, according to the categories and classification specified in your interpellation, namely the list of people who have received housing, under the Law on Police, the Law on Judges and the Law on Prosecution”, is mentioned in the DGLCA's reply.
MDL 60 million for reconciliation transactions
Over several years, Chisinau City Hall has offered hundreds of thousands of MDL in exchange for apartments to more beneficiaries, money most often provided as a result of reconciliation transactions.
The magistrate Sergiu Osoianu, the president of the Straseni District Court also benefited of such a transaction. In 2015, through a reconciliation transaction, over MDL one million was transferred to his account, money offered in exchange for a two-room apartment, which would amount to about EUR 50,000 on the real estate market.
DGLCA Response: “The name of the beneficiaries of public money in exchange for reconciliation transactions would contain personal data”
In a response signed by Igor Munteanu, Deputy Head of the DGLCA, it is said that the institution will not give us the names of the people who received money under reconciliation transactions, because this information would contain personal data. “We hereby inform you that offering you the data on the beneficiaries of the reconciliation transactions concluded based on which the irrevocable judgments on the provision with housing have been settled through the transfer of the amounts of money from the municipal budget to the bailiff contains personal data ... The access to the personal information is made in accordance with the provisions of the legislation on the protection of personal data, according to which the protection of the private life of the person includes the right to the consent of the person whose interests are concerned in the process of disclosing personal information”, it is mentioned in the DGLCA response.
MDL 127 million in five years
In the same answer, the Directorate also stated that over the last five years, more than MDL 67 million were allocated from the municipal budget for allowances for the enforcement of judiciary documents granted to DGLCA during 2012-2017, and more than MDL 60 million were offered based on the reconciliation transactions in exchange for dwellings.
For this reason, the suspended mayor Dorin Chirtoaca is accused of damaging the municipal budget with millions of MDL. However, he is accused that without the CMC's decision he would have given money instead of apartments to those who had a final decision in this regard.
Earlier, however, the suspended mayor said that this file was fabricated and that he had only executed the court decisions. “There is only one city account. There is no council and city hall account. Given that one cannot give apartments because these do not exist. The City Hall does not have them, they have all been privatized; we proceeded to providing some monetary compensations”, said the mayor general of the capital.
The apartments were given into the beneficiaries’ possession, but not in use
Indeed, before 2010, the Law on Judges, the Law on Prosecution and the Law on Police provided for the local authorities to offer free of charge apartments to judges, prosecutors and policemen. However, these provisions were abolished and the apartments were provided into the possession of the beneficiaries but not in their use.
According to Lilia Ionita, the anti-corruption expert at the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, the law had shortcomings and the beneficiaries became owners of the apartments: “The problem is that our law provided for this guarantee for them until 2010: that was to be given free of charge. The law did not stipulate that these dwellings would have the status of a service dwelling and that they would only benefit of them during the term of office. That was the law. However, housing is divided into several categories, such as private or “business” property. It seems that judges, policemen and prosecutors have benefited of these dwellings, obtained them in private property and did what they wanted with these. That is how the law was”, the expert said.
Asked if once they have other apartments, the beneficiaries could return the real estate property to the municipality, the expert believes that no one would resort to this gesture. “Again, the old dilemma: what prevails: morality or legality? They can say that they have worked hard to get these homes, they have them in private ownership. That they left the system, so it was to be. However, I do not think anyone will return them”, says Lilia Ionita.
In Slovakia, a politician refused to get the apartment obtained free of charge under the pressure of the mass-media
If, in the Republic of Moldova, no judge would return the apartments obtained free of charge, once they have bought other real estate, the situation is different in Slovakia.
The investigative journalist Monika Todova from Slovakia reported in 2000 that the Slovak politician Ján Figeľ, the former European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, benefited of a free of charge apartment offered in a non-transparent way by the Bratislava municipality. “It has been a practice rooted for many years when actors, municipal officials, and politicians have benefited of free of charge apartments. After telling us that Ján Figeľ benefited of a luxurious apartment of more than 150 square meters, the politician gave back the housing, just in order to avoid tarnishing his reputation, and the four-room apartment was donated to a family with disabled people”, said the journalist.
We asked the Slovak politician whether it is right for the judges to benefit of free of charge apartments from the state. He replied that these benefits may affect the integrity of the magistrates, but also the act of justice. “In this case, it is not okay. The public authorities should act in the public interest, but not in the private interest. This method creates opportunities for speculative and corruption decisions. The effective justice and the protection of legality are essential to the application of fairness. It is important for the allocation of housing or other benefits to civil servants to be transparent and justified by the public interest. This will enhance the performance of the service for the public, but also the trust of the people”, the politician also said. Ján Figeľ said that he donated the apartment obtained free of charge as a result of the intense media pressure on the subject.
The investigation was carried out under the project “Mobilizing civil society to support judicial integrity in the Republic of Moldova ", conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism and Freedom House, with the financial support of the US State Department.
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