Public money

Illegal businesses with Chisinau City Hall endanger the activity of the seismic station  

Foto: CIJM
Author: Julieta Saviţchi
24/02/2016 8608

The construction of a 16-storey block of flats on a plot of only five acres near the central seismic station in Chisinau jeopardizes the work of this institution. Scientists warn that the construction work will disrupt the activity of seismologists. On the other hand, Chisinau City Hall, which authorized the construction, says that it cannot violate the right to private property.  The controversial estate project is owned by company Lucet-Comert SRL, a company close to the Chisinau City Hall, beneficiary of the largest contracts from public money.

How Lucet-Comert owned a part of the park of the Academy of Science

The land where SRL Lucet – Comert wants to build constructions is located on the so-called "red lines" (underground communication networks, water supply and high voltage power lines). In 2000, this plot was distributed as private ownership by former mayor Serafim Urechean to a person called Emilian Masliucov who requested land for building a house. He committed himself to build a 2-storey house within 3 years.  If he did not comply with this commitment, the newly owner would have to return the plot to the local public administration. The City Hall did not consider the fact that this plot was managed by the Science Academy.

Author of the video: Anatol Matasaru

Scheme to seize the plot

Just three months after Masliucov got property rights, he paid for the plot about 300 lei (normative price of the land), sold it at market price, which in 2000 enabled to buy a two-bedroom apartment. The scheme is known: the land is obtained by a person or family who has the right to ask for plot for building a house, then, the plot is sold, the new owner sells it again and thus, the third purchaser is considered to act in good faith. The process of sale-purchase is often fictitious. The scheme is planned so that it reaches “the right person”, so that a real estate company builds a block of flats and gets a pretty good income. The stakes are high for such plots taken for free from municipal property. Experts from Expert-Grup say that the revenue from a 7-storey building, built in Chisinau is worth one million euros (!). Exactly following this scheme, this plot, was sold three times within 8 years and in 2008, it was bought by Ludmila Cecetova, owner of the construction company Lucet - Comert.

"Company close to City Hall" with agreements of millions from public funds

SRL Lucet - Comert is the company that in the last five years, won contracts worth 175 million lei from Chisinau City Hall and municipal subdivisions. The press wrote several times that Lucian Chirtoaca, brother of mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca owns this company. The mayor denied that his brother had anything to do with that company. SRL Lucet - Comert is one of the companies very close to the municipality, if we consider the list of public contracts won in recent years. SRL Lucet - Comert was established in 2002. Initially, the company activated in the field of retail commerce of food products.  Gradually, it started works in construction. The construction projects  of the economic unit cover: general school in the village Dancu, district Hincesti,  aqueduct in town Hancesti and in Ceadir-Lunga, str. Studentilor and pedestrian street Alexandru Diordita in Chisinau, as well as residential block  on str. Ghioceilor under the social Program "First House", implemented by  Chisinau City Hall. Also, Lucet - Comert performed works to install the monument of the Victims of the deportations in the Railway Square in Chisinau. The company built houses for the flood victims in village Nemteni and village Cotul Morii in 2010.

The information published on the website of the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction proves that in August 2010, Lucet – Comert had the lowest business figure (4,5 million lei) of economic units entitled to build houses for victims in district Hancesti. This discontented other economic units, who said that Lucet-Comert won illegally this tender.

Another scandal of this company relates to the poor quality of works performed on the pedestrian street. Though, initially the project on str. Diordita was estimated at 6 million lei, the works cost over 12 million lei, twice higher. According to the current legislation, the initial sum of the agreement can increase by up to 30% for public procurement. "I do not understand, why Lucet – Comert was not sanctioned for poor quality of works ", wrote the municipal councilor Ilian Casu on a socialization net.

Licitațiile câștigat de Lucet - Comerț SRL

The largest project won by Lucet – Comert from Chisinau City Hall relates to the construction of parking places in the courtyards in Chisinau, worth over 53 million lei.

Construction authorization without coordination

In the coming years, the land is pledged for contracting loans. For a period of seven years, this plot is pledged six times. It was pledged on 27 November 2015 last, to Moldinconbank for a loan worth 3.483 million lei. This was possible despite the restrictions imposed by the bailiffs over this plot.

In late 2014, Cecetova filed a complaint to Chisinau City Hall and requested authorization to build a block of flats. The company received the certificate of urbanism to build a 16-storey construction on February 18, 2015 and two years later- the authorization for construction.

No one took into account the opinion of the Institute of Geodesy and Seismology, located in close proximity. This in spite of the fact that the Law authorizing work in construction, in force since 2010, stipulates that for issuing the urbanism certificate it is necessary to have the notary agreement signed by  the co-owners of property / land whose interests may be affected directly in the process of execution of construction and during  the commissioning of the construction. Moreover, according to general Urban Plan of Chisinau, the area where Lucet-Comert builds constructions, is placed in a special urban area, a fact that excludes the construction of multi-storey blocks.  The reply addressed to the leadership of the Moldova Science Academy  by Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Construction Anatolie Zolotcov says that the "land is located in the urban area with the code" S ", that does not allow classification in areas for housing, commercial or industrial purposes." As a result, a month later, the State Construction Inspectorate issued a prescription which "prohibits the commencement of construction of a building that does not fall under the provisions of the General Urban Plan".

Favors from municipal services

All obstacles were removed. On December 9, 2015 the chief architect of capital, Ion Carpov convened the Urban Council. It adopted a decision on amending the general urban plan; the status of the region was changed, so that Lucet-Comert can build multilevel blocks in the park from the special area.

The block Lucet-Comert  began to be built without coordination with the fire department. Ion Postolati, director of the Center of expertise in construction argues that this construction could not start without authorization from the fire service. "It is possible to build such a house on a small territory. But it's complicated. Access of at least 5 meters from the building is necessary at such height, so that firefighters can handle the fire. Otherwise, in case of a fire, consequences can be tragic", said the expert.

The source also claims that a question mark hangs over the way Chisinau City Hall has handled this situation. "I know cases when entrepreneurs or even ordinary people went to the City Hall several times to get construction authorization. People are said to coordinate it with firefighters, epidemiologists, archaeologists etc. Even if they fulfill all these conditions, they expect the document for years. There is a serious dispute with Cecetova and yet the acts were issued in a record time", said Postolati.

Seismologists warn

Scientists from the Experimental Seismology Center of Institute of Geodesy and Seismology say that the activity of the Center will be compromised. Ion Ilies, head of the center said that in 2010 the seismic station in Chisinau was endowed with modern equipment from donations in Romania. "Our activity can be extended by implementing seismic warning system that detects in real time and warns by 35-40 second before strong earthquakes that happen at a depth of 60-200 kilometers and which strongly affect the territory of the Republic of Moldova.  If a construction is built nearby, the system functionality will be disrupted", said the scientist.

Ilies said that the building of the seismic station is a special construction, designed and built in 1988 with a high degree of resistance to high intensity earthquakes. The observatory is located on a plot of 60 acres, which represents the Protection zone for noise reduction, enabling registration of weak earthquakes.

Solutions proposed by Gheorghe Duca 

President of the Academy of Science  Gheorghe Duca said that he was thinking how to solve the problem when (in 2013) has prepared a draft government decision that provided for a plot on str. Sprincenoaia offered to Ludmila Cecetova  to replace the plot placed near the  seismic station. According to the draft, Cecetova was supposed to get a larger plot by 350 square meters.

On his turn, Gheorghe Duca said that he considered the interests of the state when he proposed this draft. "We are worried with the actions of Cecetova. I had to propose a larger plot to convince them accept the relocation. Also, the experts said that the plot of land owned by Ludmila Cecetova has a higher value than the one proposed by us. I just want to save an institution of national importance. This is an indignity, the way they act. They do not care about the fact that the Chisinau City Hall issued illegal construction authorization, without our consent ", said Duca.

National Anti-corruption Center says that it is an understanding and the state will be compromised

Duca's initiative was criticized by the National Anti-Corruption Centre (NAC) that analyzed a draft Government decision on the relocation and exchange of some lands and found that it is affected of corruptibility.  

A, investigation carried out by NAC shows that Duca has stakes in this draft and it would compromise the state of over nine million lei.  Furthermore, NAC experts are of the opinion that it is an illegal scheme to seize public land and the president of the Academy of Science might be involved in this scheme.  "Proofs of NAC are based on several analyses conducted on this case, including the alleged links of citizen Cecetova with the Chisinau City Hall and SRL Lucet - Comert, founded by her. The company operates in the construction and in 2015,  it contracted works amounting to 3,800,000 lei with the National Institute of Economic Research of Academy of Science in Moldova (ASM). In conclusion, this draft aims to promote both the interests of ASM on one hand and the interests of individuals and businesses on the other hand, which can cause damage on the state", say the experts from NAC.

Chisinau City Hall: Project has all necessary details

City Hall has a clear answer to this problem: the right to private property must be respected. Ion Carpov, acting head of the General Directorate of Architecture, Urban Planning and Land Relations wrote in a letter sent on 20 October 2015 to the management of the Institute of Geodesy and Seismology, that all projections were made in compliance with the law: "Project of execution was checked and coordinated with all relevant institutions. "

The same opinion is shared by Nistor Grozavu, deputy-mayor of municipality Chisinau, who signed the authorization for construction. "It is about the private property and the owner is entitled to build whatever he wants. Do you know what private property means? It is something saint. We cannot stop him.  The consent of the Academy of Science is not necessary. The agreement of neighbors is stipulated when the property or land is common", says Grozavu.

Manager of Lucet - Comert:  We will make use of the right to private property

Ivan Negara, manager of Lucet - Comert SRL and brother of Ludmila Cecetova say that they do not accept relocation of the plot. "I do not trust. In such a way, the Academy of Science tries to delay the works.  It is the final decision of the court, which obliges the Academy of Science not to hamper access to the property. We will use the right to private property; I am entitled to build what I want on my land. It will be a beautiful and modern block. Everything is lawful", says the entrepreneur. Asked about the special status of the Zone, Ivan Negara claims that he has solved this problem: "I found a good specialist who has solved this problem. The area has been changed."

This investigation is carried out within the Project „Shining a Light on Corruption in Moldova” carried by the Center for investigative Journalism and Freedom House with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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