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Video // Illegal business with weddings and christening parties at the museum complex Old Orhei

Sala de expoziţii, perete în perete cu sala de festivităţi Foto: CIJM
Author: Julieta Saviţchi
22/06/2016 13966

The territory of the Museum Complex Old Orhei, that is under the special protection of the state, and the room where the relics which were found by archeologists are exhibited, have been hosting weddings and christening parties for about 3 years. The beneficiary of this business is the deputy-director of the Complex Lilia Colta, who served as director by March 2016. On the other hand, officials from the Ministry of Culture wash their hands of this situation and say that they did not have leverage to intervene.

The room that hosts the parties is in the same building and has a common door with exhibition hall, built from money donated by the US Embassy in Chisinau. Moreover, the ballroom is not officially put into operation and the beneficiary of the business does not have a sanitary permit, authorization from firefighters and does not pay taxes. Lilia Colta says for herself and tells that the ballroom is on land that was bequeathed from her mother and that, accidentally or not, it abuts the wall of the exhibition hall. Representatives of a company, SRL Pasana claim that the ball room is theirs and Lilia Colta stole their business.

How was it possible to build a ballroom near a museum

The beneficiary of this business is the deputy-director of the Complex Lilia Colta

Cultural-natural reservation Old Orhei has a special status; it is the most important cultural site in Moldova and is nominalized to be written in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 2002, the US Embassy in Chisinau has provided to the Ministry of Culture a grant of $ 15,000 for the construction of an exhibition hall on the territory of Museum Complex Old Orhei. According to Lilia Colta, archaeologist Gheorghe Postica, current Deputy Minister of Culture suggested to build a guest house for tourists near the exhibiting hall and to seek an entrepreneur. Boris Suvac was identified, he served as Head of Penitentiary in village Branesti and his son just had founded SRL Pasana.  On  April 1 2002, the Council of Trebujeni Mayor’s Office decided to lease a plot of 0.30 hectares in the village Butuceni for the construction of an exhibition hall, a guest house and a car park.

Exhibition hall and the guest room were built simultaneously. "Division of the Museum Complex concluded an agreement with the penitentiary institution and we have provided cheap labor force, prisoners who wanted to work and cheaper building materials, which could be purchased without mark-ups directly from the quarry in Branesti",  says Boris Suvac. A few years later, in 2005, constructions were finished and the company Pasana was reorganized. Pavel Suvac ceded 50% of shares in the company to his father Boris Suvac, and other 50% he sold to Lilia Colta and his daughter. In 2009, Boris Suvac and Lilia Colta decided to demolish the garage and the warehouse behind the guest room and of the exhibition hall, and build a ballroom.

"The idea of the ballroom was mine and Lilia Colta accepted it. She told me to build it myself because she did not have financial means. Otherwise, she was supposed to legalize the construction", says former head of the prison in Branesti.

Lilia Colta

 

The construction of the ballroom started in January 2010 and lasted five months. Meanwhile, the director Lilia Colta, Master of History, was employed as chief accountant at SRL Pasana. On August 13, 2010, local Council Trebujeni, district Orhei, issued at the request of SRL Pasana, an authorization to legalize the demolition of auxiliary buildings and construction of a ballroom.

Criminal cases and accusations of forgery

After the construction was completed, the two partners had arguments. Suvac claims that he was the victim of a swindle and Lilia Colta, accused in a criminal case under a complaint that was filed by her business partner, says that she is the owner of the ballroom. Meanwhile, director of the museum began to organize weddings and christening parties in the newly built room. "I was lured by Lilia Colta in some dubious schemes, she prompted me to build it, and thereafter, she stole my business. She tried to dispossess me of the shares which I own in SRL Pasana but the court rejected the request. I do not claim her share of income but it should be divided proportionately. As director of the company, I issued an order to stop the activity of the ballroom and the pub, but Lilia Colta ignores it", says Boris Suvac.

Boris Suvac

On the other hand, deputy director from Old Orhei claims that the ballroom was built by her family. "This does not concern Suvac. He did not do anything.  My husband and I worked hard at this building. Everything is mine. Suvac filed a criminal case for extortion against me. The court acquitted me. Suvac was head of jail and he built houses for prosecutors, and now he uses them against me. He jailed me for 10 days ", said Colta.

Vladislav Bobrov, prosecutor at the General Prosecutor's Office who investigated into the case of Lilia Colta, is puzzled with the fact that the woman was acquitted. "There is conclusive evidence of extortion.  The Court of Appeal will issue judgment and we will challenge it at the higher court,” said Vladislav Bobrov.  The prosecutor denied Lilia Colta’s allegations. "I  do not own a house and I did not work when Suvac served as head of the prison", he added.

Local public authorities help Lilia Colta

On May 27, 2013 Trebujeni Mayor's Office has issued a document showing that Lilia Colta is the owner of a construction land with a surface of 0.1106 hectares. Coincidentally or not, the boundaries of that land border on the wall of the exhibition hall built on money of the US Embassy in Chisinau and with the guest house "Old Orhei", where the ballroom is placed. According to the document, the land was inherited from her mother, Liuba Colta and the Council of the Mayor’s Office Trebujeni allocated this land on April 12, 1993. Cadastral documents show that the land where the constructions were built  were meant for pastures, it  lies  in the unincorporated area of the village and no other person owns any  land nearby. The document was signed by Mayor of village Trebujeni Tudor Morari and by then cadastral engineer Serghei Popescu. According to the report of the meeting of Trebujeni Council held on 13 April, 1993 discovered in the archive of Orhei district, Liuda Colta has not been assigned any plot. The document is signed by Tudor Morari, who was in his first term as mayor of village Trebujeni.

Drone video

In January, 2014 the police in Orhei started a criminal case for forgery of public documents, that is currently pending at the District Court Orhei. Serghei Popescu is admitted as suspect. In local elections held in summer 2015,  Serghei Popescu was elected local councilor in Trebujeni on the list of the Liberal Democratic Party in Moldova (LDPM) . After Vlad Filat was arrested, Popescu quitted the LDPM and joined the Democratic Party in Moldova. In March 2016, Serghei Popescu is appointed director of the museum complex Old Orhei by the Ministry of Culture and Lilia Colta is his subordinate. "The court will decide whether I am guilty or not. I was legitimately appointed director. I do not understand these questions, why do you care how I was elected director",  said Popescu.

Though he signed together with Serghei Popescu the property document of the land for Lilia Colta, the mayor Tudor Morari appears in the case as a witness. Coincidentally or not, the mayor's son, Sergiu Morari, is a prosecutor at the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office. "It's about an economic dispute of the two partners. One of them had money and building materials, other- levers of influence, and in the end they had an argument. It is obvious that Mrs. Colta has documents confirming that she is the owner of the plot where the ballroom is located. The judgment will decide who is right.  The same applies for Popescu’s guilt. Yes, prosecutor Sergiu Morari is my son, but he is not involved in this case", said Tudor Morari.

Vladimir Ciobanu, lawyer at the National Agency for Land Relations and Cadastre, argues that the Mayor’s Office Trebujeni committed an illegality when it assigned the plot to Lilia Colta, where the ballroom is located. "The sector of land which family Colta claims as  the right to private property  was taken with other  plots in 1996 as the public property of the administrative-territorial unity Trebujeni , for " pasture "and not as private property-owned land for housing construction. This plot could not be used for housing construction because it is located outside the village limits and its destination was supposed to be changed  in line with current legal framework", said the lawyer from the Cadaster.

View of the Ministry of Culture

Gheorghe Postica, Deputy Minister of Culture said that he could not intervene because it is private property. "I did not have leverage until recently. Following the Government Resolution of May 31, 2016 we will be entitled to restrict some economic activities that could harm the historical area," he said.  As for  Serghei Popescu,  the Deputy Minister  of culture said that he did not know that he was investigated and was in a conflict of interest. "I know that he graduated from the Faculty of History, but I did not know that he was investigated under a pending criminal case,” explained the official.

People in the village say that Gheorghe Postica supervises everything that happens in the village.  Victor, a young entrepreneur from the village Butuceni, commune Trebujeni said that he purchased 70 acres of arable land and he wanted to install a greenhouse for tomatoes, but the deputy-minister banned this activity. "Gheorghe Postica has a house in Butuceni.  He saw that I wanted to install a greenhouse and forbade me. He said that it was not possible as this was a specially protected area of the state. Now, I do not know what to do with this land," said the young man.

Gheorghe Postica confirmed to us that certain economic activities are banned in this region. "The area is under special protection of the state. A special commission will come in August and will decide on   including the museum Complex Old Orhei in UNESCO patrimony. I will do my best to preserve this historical heritage intact. The house which people say that I own, I actually bought it for the national Center of Archaeology, NGO which I set previously", said the official.

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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