Public procurement

Councilor-landowner and scandal with plots in Colonita

Foto: CIJM
Author: Natalia Cozma, Elena Moldoveanu
07/07/2016 10254

The mandate of councilor made himself landowner in Colonita. Igor Luchian has recently got 3 plots sold based on a decision of the council which he voted. In addition, in that period he was part of the commission for public tenders. Councilors from the opposition request return of the land to the village and accuse Luchian of conflict of interest. Also, the municipality is charged of "selling" the land based on deals, to people who take advantage of changes in the law, whereby the use of agricultural land can be changed by a vote of the local council and not of the government, as it was until recently. Immediately after he made a new acquisition, Luchian went with his family in Canada, and his mother says that her son bought the land to open a wholesale store there. In turn, employers of   Mayor’s office claim that he did nothing illegal.

Investigation was carried out based on a notification on the Corruption Map.

He wanted to buy half of auctioned lands

Councilor Igor Luchian wanted to get 6 of the 12 agricultural plots put up for public tender on 17 May, 2016. Land has a picturesque location - at the foot of a forest, near the complex " Poiana Bradului".

Initial price, set by the tender commission was 60.000 lei.  Finally, 8 plots with a surface of 0, 06 ha each were sold at the price of 90.000 lei each, 3 of them are owned by councilor Luchian.  He paid 270.000 lei, by 6 times more than his annual income, writes his statement published on portal colonita.eu.

„Mr. Luchian, you will have to pay more money”, said the cadastral engineer Vasile Braghis who organized the open outcry auction. “Mayoralty can help!”, said someone from the sitting hall and one of the members of the commission added: „Councilors gain much money in Colonita!”

VIDEO// The tender where councilor Igor Luchian bought 3 plots (Source: colonita.md, official webpage of village Colonita)

Luchian has been member of the Commission for public tenders in Colonita in the period July 2015 to July 4 2016.  His replacement was announced on July 4 within a meeting of the commission for tenders held immediately after the tender where other 5 plots from the same region were on sale.  The mayor announced that he was removed from the commission because he left the country. The decision was taken an hour before the journalists from CIJM came in the sitting room where the tender took place; the mayoralty knew that this center is investigating into this case.

He is part of the Commission for urbanism and rural development, servicing and small business development within the Village Council. In these circumstances, councilors from opposition charge him of being in conflict of interests when he bought the plot, because he participated in the meeting that approved the results of the tender.  Igor Luchian abstained from voting but he was present in the sitting hall when colleagues voted. 

VIDEO// Extraordinary meeting of the Village Council Colonita dated June 14, 2016 (Source: colonita.eu)

Councilor Igor Luchian voted with the decision of the Village Council of alienation of the plots which he bought later. His vote was decisive as 7 out of 13 councilors voted with launch of the tender for these plots. Other 2 were against, 3 abstained and a member of the Village Council Colonita was absent.

VIDEO//  Meeting of the Village Council Colonita voted the launch of the public tender for 12 plots, 8 April 2016 (Source: colonita.eu)

He could buy only one plot with the money which he declared

Before 2015 local elections, when he was awarded second mandate of councilor in Colonita, Ion Luchian declared an annual income of 90 thousand lei from the activity of coachman at the sports school Nb. 12 or 3750 lei per month in the period January 1 2013 to December 31 2014, writes portal colonita.eu. According to the statement on income, his wife did not get any money. But they owned 2 cars: Mazda 626 and Peugeot 107. The document did not show the year of make or their values. The councilor also reported 2 plots with a surface of 34 acres, whose land-share is 1, 89 ha and a house with a surface of 153 square meters. Luchian does not have money in the bank and incomes from some property’s alienation, writes the statement on property.

He did not declare all property

Couple Luchian owns a storehouse which they bought in 2012, writes the document from Cadaster that is, a year later when Igor Luchian got the first mandate of councilor. The storehouse was bought from his mother, who became owner in June 2011, some days before the local elections. Also, in that year, the councilor’s mother Luchian Galina had two immovable properties which she alienated the next year. According to the document from Cadaster, councilor’s brother Veaceslav Luchian received as a gift all these, and Igor Luchian and his wife bought 2 immovable properties, used for constructions. All these 3 immovable properties were pledged to Moldova-Agroindbank for the sum of 173 000 each, and currently they are sequestered. Luchian pledged the house that was commissioned in 2011 to the same bank, in the same year and for the same sum.

He bought a plot worth half a million of lei

 Igor Luchian owns a plot which he bought at the price of 525.000 lei at a public tender in 2011, some weeks before he became councilor in Colonita.  The plot with a surface of 0.21410 hectares was for construction. The councilor reported a smaller income - 61.000 lei for the period January 1 2009 and December 31 2010, according to the statement published on portal colonita.eu. The same source wrote that the tender was held one day after Luchian made public his statement on income.  

VIDEO// Decision of the Council in Colonita to sell the plot at the price of 525.000 lei to Igor Luchian

„Self do, self have”

Liberal councilors from the opposition accuse Luchian of conflict of interest when he bought the last plots, as he participated in the meetings where they decided on the plots for tender and he knew all conditions. 

Mayor Angela Zaporojan  is on Luchian’s side. „Councilor did not do any tricks, he bought because he has the right- he is citizen. He is part of the tender commission, but he did not vote. Indeed, we are from the same party (Liberal Democratic People’s Party), but we did less politics”, says the mayor from Colonita. Employers from the Mayoralty said that Luchian borrowed money for plots’ purchase.

He bought plots and went to Canada with his family

He bought the land and a month later the counselor went with his family to Canada, probably forever, confirmed his mother, Galina Luchian. "But what? Councilors are not allowed to buy land ?! ", was the woman's reaction when she learned why we wanted to talk to his son. The CIJM reporters could not talk to him earlier as he did not reply to phone calls. "He wanted a legal process. He had nothing to hide in corrupt purposes.  This is a very big mess: if foreigners come, they may participate, but the villagers do not have the right! Gang which is against people comes to tenders to mess up, make noise", said Galina Luchian.

As for the large sums paid by the councilor for plots, the woman claims that his son’s wife, Tatiana Luchian has a company - "PETRAN-COM" SRL, which only last year had a profit of 700,000 lei. In addition, her daughter in law activated simultaneously in another company in Ciocana. She says that she does not know why her son hid his wife's business in the statement on property, adding that it is enough that her son declared his incomes at the State Fiscal Inspectorate.  "My son has nothing to hide, he did everything legally, but the Liberals impede him. They bought everything when they were at power and now they are faultfinding ", added councilor’ mother.

Galina Luchian says thather son is not going to build a house, but he will open a wholesale store on the land which he purchased. "They want to open there a wholesale store. Isn’t  possible?! Time will tell what he will sell there", she said.

Mayoralty, accused of tender-rigging

Opposition councilors say they will ask the court to annul the decision of the tender when counselor Luchian bought three plots. They say that after amendments to Regulation  were approved in March, by which the destination of agricultural land can be changed by the decision of local councils and not of the government, the Mayoralty from Colonita had started to "sell" public goods on party interests. "Even if I did not give the land, I could be accused of giving flowers with interest. After I published in the Official Gazette, I was accused that I had to say to people in the village. I said, “You should not teach me what to do ", said mayor Angela Zaporojan, on a second term at Mayor’s Office.

The scandal relates to 12 hectares of land, parceled in almost 40 plots  locate in the area of luxury villas nearby the complex „Poiana Bradului”  and of the restaurant „Hanul lui Vasile”,  where the councilor Luchian bought last plots.

„Are there other councilors who want to buy plots there”

Claudia Olaru, secretary of the Village Council said that actually it was about „pasture of village Colonita that is crossed by a spring and residents of the village brought cows there”.

According to her, the lands were sold before as well, but so far "no one messed up". She believes that the revolt comes from an annoyance of the Liberals, who are in opposition after they, being in majority, approved the alienation of these lands. "The land began to be auctioned by the previous council because the Mayor’s office needed money. There are other councilors, who wanted to buy land there, but some of them went there and said that the land was not worth this money, as there is a swamp", says secretary of the Village Council.

No assessment to set the price

The first tender for selling 40 plots was organized in December 2014 and first plots came into the possession of villas’ owners from "fruit tree companionship” shared to the employees of a state enterprise back in 1986. According to the administration from Colonita, they would claim afferent lands so as not to have neighbors in front of their properties.  They have already sold 28 plots and 10 left. Claudia Olaru says that the price of 60 000 lei,   plus 50%, for a six acre plot was established by the council after previously  they hardly have sold some land at an initial price 90 000 + 50%, for  135 000 lei. "The normative price is 2422 lei for it, but the council has established at the beginning 90 000, then 60 000 because they decided that it was too expensive the price of 90 000 plus 50%", says the secretary of Village Council Colonita.

In turn, the mayor believes that the price is very good. „ We sell them at a high price and the money is sent to the mayoralty. An agricultural plot with a surface of 6 acres at the price of 90 000 is less or much?  It is very much!”, says Angela Zaporojan.

The price was set by the council because the Mayor’s office did not have money to pay an expert, says the cadastral engineer Vasile Braghis. „Market sets the price; the same like you set the price of 15 lei per 1 kg of tomatoes on the market. We did not perform any official expertise, because you need to pay for it. It is useless to pay 7 thousands lei for an evident conclusion”, says the cadastral engineer.

„Logics is political and the policy is very simple”

Vasile Braghis believes that the obstacles of lands' alienation by liberals aim to compromise the activity of the Mayor’s office. „There were grants before, but at present the contribution of the community is needed. You need to have your own money. You can’t have own money if you do not have strong economic units in the village. We collect a sum of 800 000 lei annually from taxes. As you do not have other income sources, you have to live somehow. So they decided (sale of plots– n.r.), though the previous council came with the decision to organize tenders, where the liberals were in majority– 8 from 13.  And again they are against that prevent us from performing certain actions. So, the logic is political and the policy is very simple”, says the cadastral engineer.

In turn, the liberal councilor Dumitru Ghimp claims that the party he is part will not contest the decision to sell the plots, but the fact they are sold at no price to some persons close to the liberal-democratic mayor and the procedure is not transparent. He is sure that over the time constructions will be built on these plots, after the councilor in majority accepts the change of use of agricultural land based on deals. The cadastral engineer shares another opinion: “ it would cost too much if the owners request change of the use of the agricultural land, as the agricultural losses should be compensated, it depends on the bonitation of the soil, I think there would be up to 45 bonitation points, which would mean plus about 900 000 lei per hectare. Any change of destination costs money, as Moldovans say, and a lot of money come into the local budget, but the owners will not give this money. "

Why the Mayor’s office sells plots

In turn, the mayor says that during his mandate, fewer plots were proposed for tender. „ We sell the plots, first because it is our property. Then, we have a range of projects, where our contribution should be of 15%. The incomes from plots are used to pay the debt for previous works which we did not get enough money, we planned it for contributions and for roads’ reparation”,   said Angela Zaporojan.

Asked by the reporters of CIJM, why only one or 2 persons participate in the tenders organized by the Mayor’s office, the mayor blames the high price: „Few people participate in the tender, because the plots are expensive, try to inform yourselves. Try to find out the price of 6 acres of land and you will see!”

Purchased from the state and sold by 3 times more expensive

We went to the region where the agricultural plots are located. Some of them are on sale. We called a number from the announcement of land sale and we found that one hectare is sold at the price of 2 000 euros.  The man at phone said that he sold 2 plots; one with a surface of 6 acres and another one of 8 acres, both of them were next to each other. „ These plots were sold last year in a tender, as arable land, and then elections were held and there were many requests to allow constructions on these plots. I went to the Mayor’s office and I was said: « When you want to build something, come to Mayor’s office, write a request. The council convenes once a month and a decision will be taken. It is not a problem”, said the seller. Then he invited us to go together to Mayor’s office.

„If you are interested to buy, we can go together to the Mayor’s office, and see the opinion of the mayor. The procedure does not last much. If you are ready we can go together to the Mayor’s office”, the seller tried to entice us.  

Boycott in the Village Council:  We will not allow «illegalities»

The Council held on 14 June 2016 an extraordinary meeting of Village Council Colonita, that included a new list of plots, proposed for tender on July 4, 2016, and approved the tender results from which Igor Luchian bought the 3 plots. "Perhaps, we stop the sale of land, we can find another solution. We requested revision of the tender committee, Mrs. Mayor, you said that you will not revise it on purpose, while others participate in the formation of real estate, in tender commission and also they buy them? We will boycott. We will not allow “illegalities". Everything is done by tricks and deals", have accused liberal councilors, who organized the protest in the sitting hall. To prevent boycott, the meeting was held in the mayor's office, where they voted with the decision on approving tender results that ended in scandal. Luchian was also present.

They started to collect signatures

As their opinions were ignored, indignant councilors began to collect signatures from villagers to block tenders. At the same time, they proposed to initiate public discussions with the residents by summer 2017 on the use of public lands. Moreover, they ask the mayor to come up with a report on reserve land in Colonita.

VIDEO// Announcement about collecting signatures to stop the sale of land

Mayor Angela Zaporojan says that the Reserve Fund has nothing left since 2003. "People are misled, people are told that the mayor sells plots under construction to foreigners in Chisinau, but the General Meeting of the village of 19 June 2016 showed how the plots were sold and how the money was used. I do not think they will gather enough signatures. About 300, maybe 500 at the most, but I can collect the rest of them", said the mayor.

According to the information from the Mayoralty, currently, village Colonita owns over 400 hectares of public ownership land.

VIDEO// General meeting in village Colonita, 19.06.2016

Report: Mayor’s office Colonita lacks transparency

Mayoralty of village Colonita was rated as non-transparent authority in a top published in Report no. 2 of Public Procurement Monitoring of the Project "Public Money is My Money, too." According to the report, the website of the Mayor’s office does not contain a special section on procurement. Also, the authority has not developed a procurement plan, reads the report.

The investigation has been accomplished in the framework of the Campaign „Public Money Is My Money Too”, conducted by the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJM) and the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER), within a project funded by the European Union and the National Endowment for Democracy.

 

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