The Centre for Investigative Journalism in Moldova (CIJM) monitored in 2019 illegal schemes by which officials and people at power continued to fill their pockets from public money. The CIJM reporters managed to get to the places forbidden for common citizens, to disclose documents and facts hidden by corrupt officials.
Three of our colleagues were awarded for the best investigations. Ilie Gulca and Mădălin Necşuţu were nominated journalists of the year 2019 in the category "Investigations", while Julieta Saviţchi was awarded in the contest for the 2019 best investigations, organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Germany) and the Independent Press Association.
The team of CIJM carried out 70 journalistic investigations in 2019. We recommend 10 best investigations of 2019. Follow them and invite all your friends to do so.
1. Journalists of CIJM reveal in Crypto republic that the transnistrian region hosts cryptocurrency mining farms. According to the Transnistrian authorities, 10 such farms operated on the left bank of Transnistria in March 2019. Their capacity equates to the consumption of a town of about 30,000 – 40,000 apartments, the size of Balti municipality.
All this works on Russian gas that SA Moldovagaz provides on credit to the left of the Nistru. Tiraspol does not pay for the gas consumed, the entire debt of over $6 billion, is accumulated on the account of Moldovagaz. Government of Moldova owns 35.33% of the shares of SA Moldovagaz.
The Transnistrian cryptocurrency business has as its primary beneficiary the Sheriff holding and a former employee of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation. The equipment was purchased through a bank involved in the theft of a billion dollars from the banking system of Moldova. The actors and companies involved have business in energy, telecommunications, internet in Crimea and the West.
One of the main architects of this business is Igor Ceaika, the youngest son of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. On 27 December 2019, he obtained a 51% share in Media Invest Service company, founder of Telesistem SRL, owner of broadcasting licenses for TV channels Primul in Moldova and Accent TV.
2. Main state institutions, guarded by security companies with criminal past close to Vlad Plahotniuc and of “the thief in law“ Makena reveals the scheme whereby 2 private enterprises out of over 100 that ensure security and detective services gained advantageous tenders for the security of state institutions for many years. One of the companies is owned by an off-shore company, affiliated to the leader of PDM Vladimir Plahotniuc, and the other is of a former policeman, who would have ties with the criminal authority Vladimir Moscalciuc alias Makena.
Though, these companies are targeted in dubious schemes, torture cases, use of force, illegal interceptions and other serious actions, they are free to guard public institutions, including those in justice field, despite the prohibitions of the law.
Private detective and guard companies did not have right to provide services for the state institutions by 2016. After the fall of the communist government, the former Minister of Economy Valeriu Lazar promoted the idea that the private security companies should be granted the right to guard the state institutions, but it was not backed by the former PM Vlad Filat, and the Interior Minister of that period Dorin Recean.
After the arrest of Vlad Filat, in the autumn of 2015, the then president of the National Security Commission, Veaceslav Untila, re-tabled in the Parliament's agenda the issue of amendments to the legislation regarding the activity of private detective and security companies. On December 10, 2015, the Parliament amended the law so that private companies were entitled to guard any state object, except for the National Bank of Moldova, as well as the storehouses for weapons and ammunition or radioactive, toxic and dangerous substances.
On June 17, 2016, the Government headed by Pavel Filip repealed the list of objects whose security cannot be performed by private security companies.
After the publication of the investigation, Prime Minister Maia Sandu took action and demanded that the state institutions no longer be guarded by the private companies, and the Interior Ministry should conduct an analysis of the situation, after which, in September 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers endorsed a draft law whereby private firms will be deprived of the right to guard the state institutions.
3. Disguised business of the prosecutor Chitoroaga near Napadeni Forest features the case of prosecutor Nicolae Chitoroagă, former president of the College of Discipline and Ethics of Prosecutors. The CIJM reporter revealed that the former head of the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organised Crime and Special Cases owns a business in fish farming in Napadeni village, Ungheni district. The business is registered on his brother and his wedding godfather’s names and it was not declared by the prosecutor. He would have seized the deal in 2005 by an illegal scheme from the Mardari brothers in the same settlement.
After the publication of the investigation, the anti-corruption prosecution initiated a criminal case into illicit enrichment. It is the first case in which a person with such position in the prosecutor's office is prosecuted for illicit enrichment and for the first time the prosecution is started based on a journalistic investigation. Nicolae Chitoroagă resigned after the change of government. The former head of the prosecutor's Office for Organised Crime and Special Cases was detained on 21 November 2019, being suspected in a criminal case for illicit enrichment. In early December, Chitoroaga was released from custody.
4. Vlad of Arabia: properties, interests and connections in the Middle East reveals the business of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, a tax haven. In this investigation, the CIJM reporters obtained first statements of businessman Vaja Jhashi about the relationship with Vladimir Plahotniuc and advisory services for the authorities of the Republic of Moldova.
After Moldova`s Embassy inauguration in Abu Dhabi on July 11 2018, the Economy and Infrastructure Ministry led by Chiril Gaburici announced the signing of a public service contract for the development, implementation and international promotion of the Citizenship Acquisition Program with the consortium MIC Holding LLC and Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd.
Just the same day, on July 11, 2018, the journalists of the Maltese portal St. Lucia News wrote that MIC Holding LLC is the acronym for the Moldovan Investment Company (MIC), a company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Moldovan Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) were not allowed to check the people beforehand. Thus, anyone, regardless of a criminal record, but with money in his pocket, can buy his Moldovan citizenship and then "whiten" the "dirty money" that he holds against a 3 per cent tax to the state.
The United Arab Emirates was a destination for money from the "Russian Laundromat" business, as well as the "theft of the billion" in the Moldovan banking system.
On 14 June 2019, Plahotniuc fled Moldova and left for an unknown destination. Four months later, in October, Moldovan magistrate issued an arrest warrant for the oligarch.
The people of the law blame the former PDM president, among other things, that in 2013 – 2015, he organized a scheme to launder 18 million dollars and 3 million euros from the Banca Sociala, Banca de Economii and Unibank.
5. The "giftboxes" of the Government for newborns: clothing of dubious quality at exaggerated prices reveals the information in which a project of the Edelweiss foundation of Vlad Plahotniuc was taken over at the end of 2018 by Filip Government and was financed from public money. One of the tenders was troublesome. The contest was cancelled, and then a winning company with problems at the previous tender is designated. The CIJM reporters showed that the company shared giftboxes with low quality clothing. The CIJM has conducted two surveys on this matter. In the second investigation How Silvia Radu "arranged" a million-dollar tender for the "New Life" project, the journalists revealed the bottom of the tendering procedure and the interests of the Ministry of Health. The director of the company favored by the relevant Ministry threatened, by letter, the author of the investigation with the reckoning.
In June, the new leadership of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection cancelled the tender and took the decision to give money to families instead of giftboxes.
6. Story of a bribe for prosecutors reports the case of 235,000 euros paid by a controversial businessman, suspected of money laundering in particularly large proportions, to prosecutors to escape prosecution and arrest. This case involves the businessman Gheorghe Vârtosu from Mălăieşti, Orhei, an intermediary who become mayor later, Andrei Cociorva, prosecutors Adriana Beţişor and Andrei Băeşu.
The intermediary who filmed with the hidden camera when he sent the money to a prosecutor reported the case to the anti-corruption prosecution. However, the file was covered, and the complaint was removed from the record.
Andrei Baesu, prosecutor who handled this case, confirmed that he had to investigate the complaint of the one who sent the sum 235,000 euros, but he accuses the intermediary that he did not go all the way in order to complete the case. The prosecutor who received the bribe, Victoria Pascalov, submitted a request for resignation shortly after the video footage featuring her was made public. In April 2016, Victoria Pascalov got the green light from the Superior Council of Magistracy to apply for the position of judge.
The anti-corruption prosecution took a stand following the publication of the investigation "Story of a bribe for prosecutors" and in November 2019 started a criminal case based on the investigation.
7. Who "cleans" the state institutions or how a close one to Plahotniuc ensures cleanliness in budgetary structures reveals how the company Proterra Grup SRL, managed by Iurie Luncaşu, a comrade of the former PDM leader, won in 2019, 26 million lei for the provision of cleaning services in some state institutions.
On 17 August 2019, Luncaşu was found shot by his Astra model pistol, which he legally owned. He was president of the Business People Club "Interdependenta" and held shares in several construction companies, furniture import, production and export of wine and tobacco products.
Luncaşu's name also features in the transaction of over 154 million lei, whereby a Cypriot firm purchased the buildings within the perimeter of Timiş str. and Bujorilor str. in Chişinău, immovable property attributed to Plahotniuc.
8. Camouflaged wealth of the prosecutor of the Chisinau municipality reveals financial engineering of the magistrate, in particular, the way in which the man of law built in less than a year a luxury house in the village of Tohatin, suburb of Chisinau. The building, evaluated by experts to several million lei, is registered on his daughter’s name Maria, who, like her husband, is a public servant and does not appear to have sources for such property.
The head of the municipal prosecutor's office, with a public servant's salary, is the only family keeper. He admitted that he had helped his daughter and that he had enough money to maintain his children financially. Moreover, the house in Tohatin, in which the prosecutor previously lived with his family, no longer appears in the 2018 statement on income.
9. Greek magistrates did what justice in Moldova didn’t: former international expert, sentenced to 2 years in prison for pedophilia is the fourth investigation revealing details of a network of pedophiles involving citizens outside the country, including some officials with top positions in international structures. They came to Moldova to abuse minors. The first investigation, which revealed the criminal network, was carried out in 2011. Some of the abusers were subsequently convicted, but as for those with top functions in other states, Moldova's justice has "helped" them to escape criminal records. The reporters tracked the subject and brought to the attention of the public the details of how the justice of Greece and Denmark acted, which, eight years after the network was revealed, condemned two of the pedophiles who abused minors in Moldova. In Greece, justice acted on a complaint made by a magazine that took over the investigation by Moldovan journalists, and in Denmark the justice took act after a respectable citizen in that country abused two more children.
The Greek politician has been adviser in a state institution. In the first investigation carried out under cover, the "Killers of Angels”, CIJM revealed the network of pedophiles, which offered minors to foreign citizens for sexual relations. In Moldova, Georgiadis was "escaped" from criminal punishment. On 26 February 2019, Georgiadis was sentenced in Greece to 2 years in prison. Until conviction, Georgiadis was actively involved in the election campaign of autumn 2016 and he came up with the electoral strategy of the party of Nea Demokratia (New Democracy – N.R.), the main opposition party in the Greek legislative, with 76 of the 300 mandates. Known as the right hand of opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Georgiadis had, until the revelations of his past in Moldova, an impeccable image: fan of piano, jazz music and social activities.
10. From Filip for in-laws: countless from AIPA! reveals the value of the money he received from the Agency of Intervention and Payments for Agriculture (AIPA) SRL Monicol, one of the most important exporters of walnut kernel in Moldova. The owner of the Monicol company, Dumitru Vicol, is the father in law of the former PM Pavel Filip. SRL Monicol started a fruitful relationship with the state after 2016, when the two became relatives. The huge amount of money delivered by AIPA to the relative of the Prime Minister's company coincides with the year of the marriage of the two children. The amount of the subsidies that Monicol received from AIPA is uncertain.
The name of the Monicol company came to public attention in 2018, in the context of a considerable reduction in the purchase prices of walnut kernel. On 7 August 2019, at a government meeting, Prime Minister Maia Sandu announced that representatives of several companies would have paid 50 cents ' bribe ' to the Democratic Party during its governance for each kilogram of walnut kernel Intended for export.