Moldova Weekly #23: who prosecutes the prosecutors, a bank of problems, despicable he
Who prosecutes the prosecutors?
Viorel Morari, suspended chief of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (PA), has been placed in temporary arrest. He is suspected of having forged documents to protect former PDM leader Vlad Plahotniuc and jail his rival - banker Veaceslav Platon, as part of the investigation into the ”theft of the century”. The arrest comes after an internal investigation ordered by new Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo, who explicitly said he didn’t trust Morari and accused him of harassing businesses. In turn, Morari suggested this was a punishment for reopening the investigation into the Russian funding of the Party of Socialists.
The prosecutors in charge of this internal control operation might not be without sin themselves though. Some of them have been the subject of journalistic investigations and others were actually being prosecuted by the PA, which indicates an obvious conflict of interests. It is all the more curious as Stoianoglo promised precisely this: to stop the infighting among the various groups of prosecutors.
Meanwhile, Ruslan Statnîi, the anticorruption prosecutor investigating former Supreme Justice Court judge Oleg Sternioală, informed PG Stoianoglo of a possible case of bribery and influence peddling. Statnîi claims a witness refused to testify on grounds that Sternioală had allegedly already ”solved his problems”. The witness even suggested Statnîi would be punished for troubling Sternioală. The former judge is under investigation for money laundering and illicit gains, but repeatedly refused to let in the prosecutors who came to assess the value of his home. He finally gave up on Sunday, letting the prosecutors and real estate experts into his house.
Red stars aligned
While EU Ambassador Peter Michalko wrote that the EU is „watching closely” these developments, Prime Minister Chicu announced the government would launch a dedicated webpage to keep the public posted about the ongoing major investigations.
Chișinău’s new Socialist mayor Ion Ceban has similar preoccupations. He said some studies put the City Hall among the most corrupt institutions, which he vowed to change. Ceban asked the National Integrity Agency to keep an eye on municipal officials, promised to sign a collaboration agreement with the National Anticorruption Center and to develop an elaborate plan to root out corruption. One important pillar of this strategy is the digitalization of municipal services.
The Purloined Letter
PG Stoianoglo had a meeting with PDA MP Alexandru Slusari, who had led the parliamentary investigation into the ”theft of the century”. Stoianoglo had previously declared the Kroll report was pretty much useless as it contained no list of final beneficiaries. Slusari replied that Stoianoglo either hadn’t read the report or was simply lying. After this week’s meeting, the Prosecutor General’s Office formally asked Slusari to present his copy of the report, with the attached list of beneficiaries.
The MP labeled the whole situation ridiculous and promised he would send the documents to the PG on Monday morning. Slusari insists the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office had received a copy of the report, so it is surprising the PG’s internal investigation has not found it yet.
A Record of Discord
PDA MP Iurie Reniță even published a couple of pages from Kroll annexes, whose authenticity was confirmed by Slusari, to prove that the list of beneficiaries really exists. Curiously enough, Reniță also warned that he has an audio recording from the negotiations between PDA and PAS regarding the coalition with PSRM. He claims that some ”well-known names” were keen to accept all of the Socialists’ conditions and requests.
Some PAS MPs responded with thinly veiled suggestions that Reniță might actually be an agent placed by Vlad Plahotniuc in the now defunct bloc ACUM to undermine it from within. This is not the first time Reniță is causing a stir and is one of those who threatened to leave the bloc while Maia Sandu was still Prime Minister.
A Bank of Problems
Alexandr Rjavitin, a young man who escaped from the Transnistrian army four years ago and frequently spoke to Moldovan media about the abuses he had suffered there, was kidnapped by the separatist regime’s forces during a visit to his parents in Transnistria. He is accused of desertion, treasonand divulging ”military secrets”. Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Alexandru Flenchea promised to talk to Tiraspol’s chief diplomat Vitali Ignatiev, even though relations between them are not exactly friendly.
The ECHR has condemned Russia for Tiraspol’s 2010 illegal arrest of a tax inspector from Tighina, accused of treason and spying for Moldova’s constitutional authorities. After international pressure, he was freed in 2011.
Meanwhile, former MP Veaceslav Ioniță writes about Transnistria’s economic woes. Today, a Moldovan’s average income is 50% higher on the right bank of the Nistru than on the left one. Back in 2015, Ioniță says it was the other way around. However, Tiraspol’s insistence on maintaining an artificial exchange rate has depleted its currency reserves.
Ticket to rise
After negotiations with interurban transporters, the Chicu government agreed to increase ticket prices by almost 25%, to the outrage of passengers and the opposition. PAS MPs were quick to point out that President Dodon had criticized Maia Sandu’s Cabinet for an alleged disregard for social issues and now his handpicked government took a decision that adversely affects precisely the economically vulnerable categories of people. The MPs say authorities should have prepared a protection mechanism for people in need before agreeing to increase prices. Fellow opposition MPs from PDA asked the Chicu Cabined to reverse its decision, but Minister of Economy and Infrastructure Andrei Usatîi said there was no way back.
President Dodon argues this was a necessary measure and warns passenger transportation would have been paralyzed if the ticket prices had not been updated. He admits that the decision wasn’t explained well enough to the people, but promised vulnerable categories would be compensated indirectly via some other social initiatives.
The drivers themselves, although they protested and blocked roads to have the government increase transportation fees, now complain they have fewer passengers because many cannot afford the more expensive tickets.
Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban thinks the Chicu Cabinet cannot be considered a „serious partner” and told European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi that the EU should follow developments in Moldova with „maximum exigency and maximum circumspection”. Orban’s National Liberal Party is a strong supporter and ally of Moldovan opposition parties PDA and PAS.
Moldovan PM Ion Chicu replied that he cares more about what his own citizens think and that he has more important tasks at hand than ”commenting on declarations”. Chicu’s justice advisor Nicolae Eșanu had harsh words for those who rejoiced at the criticism of the Romanian PM: he labeled their reaction ”despicable”, complained about foreign interference in Moldova’s domestic affairs and earned a like on Facebook from his boss.