Since 2010, the Republic of Moldova became a real system of money laundering in the region through the courts. This "fame" went around the world and half of the 20 judges who dictated shameful verdicts continue to judge and "do justice" to this day.
Many judges who have "legalized" black money from Russia were later on involved in scandals. However, the system does not want to "cleanse" itself and some of the judges who participated in money laundering scheme were even appointed court presidents.
Schemes used by criminals for money laundering were always the same - some offshore companies in the UK, New Zealand, Belize, the Russian Federation were creditors, debtors, guarantors, endorsers etc. and a Moldovan citizen was endorser.
These cases were examined by Moldovan judges who issued ordinances based on some photocopied documents issued by authorities from abroad, without being authenticated under the law and actually each case had an annex of the ID of the citizen of the Republic of Moldova but the part of the document with the residence of the person lacked.
The judges did not know the residence of the citizen of the Republic of Moldova and they accepted the cases for examination and issued ordinances to get the sums claimed by applicants.
“Ghost” cases and false signatures
In all, the Moldovan judges have examined 53 cases that targeted large sums of money, in 29 cases they issued ordinances and in 24 cases they refused applications.
While most judges have mimicked hearings in such cases, issuing rulings on the same day when the application was filed in the court, there were cases when some judges have found themselves involved, though they swore that they did not take such decisions. For example, the Magistrate of the Court Buiucani Ghenadie Plamadeala, for example, whose signature is on an ordinance of cashing a sum of 800 million dollars issued on 3 May 2013, presented a copy of the passport showing that, at the time, he was having a holiday in Italy.
“Ghost” cases based on which there were legalized 2,342 billion dollars are supposed to be examined by the Court Drochia and Ciocana, but they have never been registered in these courts.
Valeriu Gasca – 2,1 billion dollars
Judge Valeriu Gasca from the Court of District Rascani issued the most ordinances to cash sums of money in money laundering scheme- 5, and the sum reached 2.1 billion dollars in all.
Gasca signed the first ordinance on May 27, 2011 (file No. 2po-416/2011). At the court, a company from Great Britain „Seabon Limited” requested from other companies in Great Britain and the Russian Federation, from the Moldovan citizen Dmitri Vartic to return 200 million dollars. Though some documents annexed to the case did not meet the legislation, the residence of Dmitri Vartic was not shown and the request of the ordinance was not written on a sheet with letterhead of the creditor and was signed by an unknown person, the judge Valeriu Gasca accepted the request, the transaction happened and the culprit had not any claim.
I went to Dmitri Vartic’s house to discuss with him about the debt of 200 million dollars which the young man paid based on Gasca’s ordinance 4 years ago to the British off-shore.
„Hundreds of millions of dollars?? Are you kidding? I have known this boy for many years. He was poor, where could he take this sum of money? I do not know what he did, but I have not seen him here for a period. I know that he has an old car, he is married and he lives a modest life”, said Dmitri’s neighbor who lived in an old block of flats on str. Matei Basarab in the capital.
There was nobody in Dmitri Vartic’s house and nobody answered the home phone this week.
Last ordinance, three days before resignation
Other 4 decisions were taken in 2012 following the same example, but comprised higher sums of money: 400 million dollars for the ordinance issued on April 27, 2012 (case No. 2p/o-1104/12); 500 million on July 24, 2012 (case no.2p/o – 1267/2012) and other 500 million dollars on October 10, 2012 (case No.2p/o1431/2012). Also, on December 18, 2012, one month after he tendered his resignation from the judiciary, Gasca signed an ordinance based on which an off-shore company got 500 million dollars.
On December 21, 2012, three days later, the president Nicolae Timofti signed the decree on Gasca’s resignation from the judiciary. This happened in the period when the Disciplinary Board examined the request submitted against the judge who requested the sanctioning of Gasca for tergiversating the examination of an emergency case (the claimer invoked a serious disease he suffered– n.r.).
The judge ordered that the first meeting at the court on this case to take place 4 months later after the request was filed at the court and in conditions when all 5 ordinances on cases of money laundering were issued 4 days after the requests were filed to the court.
Valeriu Gasca sanctioned 4 times
As of 2010 to 2012, when he resigned from the judiciary, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Council of Magistrate (CSM) ordered 4 times the sanctioning of Valeriu Gasca for vicious activity. In a case, on October 21, 2011 they proposed his dismissal for violations (judging a trial based on photocopies– n.r.), but each time, Gasca was saved by members of CSM.
As of June 2013, Valeriu Gisca is lawyer with license obtained under a court decision after the Commission for licensing of attorneys declined to issue license to the former magistrate, relying on the characteristics coming from CSM.
Ex-judge said that he did not violate any legal norm when he issued those orders, because he judged based on documents completed “at the highest level" and the interests of the Republic of Moldova were not affected by this transaction.
Victor Orandas - 1,48 billion dollars
Former judge at the Commercial District Court Victor Orandas is the second in the list of issuing ordinances signed on cased of money laundering. He has been recently dismissed and he signed three ordinances amounted at 1,48 billion dollars.
Orandas signed the first ordinance to cash 400 million dollars on March 12, 2012 (case no. 2po-58/12), on the day when the request to summoning was filed by „Seabon Limited” from Great Britain against „BN-Proalim” SRL from Chisinau, company with accounts in „Moldindconbank”, and against 4 companies from Russia, two of them-the companies „Дмитровская энергетическая компания” and „Энергоремсервис”, exactly in the same period, in March 2012 took possession of 4,64% shares at Banca de Economii.
The transfer of shares to these Russian companies was regarded as raider attack over the bank. The deputy-governor of the National Bank issued the permission of ownership quota of participation of the 2 Russian societies, together with other two based on ordinances issued by Orandas and Natalia Plugaru.
On November 6 2012, Orandas got a request of half of millions of dollars and two days later, on November 8, the request was completed (case No. 2po-574/12). The intermediary from the Republic of Moldova was Vladimir Cazacinschi from Codru, a suburb of the capital.
A sum of other 580 million lei was laundered based on the ordinance of Orandas on April 5, 2013 (case no. 2po-188/13). „Mirabax Investments” from Edinburgh addressed in court 3 days before, against Tatiana Radu from the small town Codru, suburb of Chisinau and against 4 Russian and one American company.
Company „Mirabax Investments” is associated with the name of the controversial businessman Veaceslav Platon, shadow owner of „Moldindconbank”, responsible of money laundering in Russian company.
Company „Mirabax Investments” was registered in similar money laundering schemes through the judiciary since 2007. At that time, Ukrainian citizens were used instead of Moldovan citizens.
In 2008, during some searches at the offices of the company „Moldprotectplant”, known as belonging to Veaceslav Platon, there were discovered seals of many off-shore companies, including „Mirabax Investments”. In August current year, the company, placed on str. Bucuresti 67 in Chisinau was on fire.
On 13 November, the Director (fictive - no) "Mirabax Investments", the Cypriot Marios Papantoniou filed a request for delisting the company from the Register of Companies in the UK.
„SIS and CNA were well informed about these transfers”
Victor Orandas is the only judge involved in „Russian money laundering”. He was dismissed from the judiciary for these actions on November 3 current year at the request of the Service of Information and Security (SIS).
„I am the only one sanctioned, because I am supposed to be involved in transfers of millions. I can assure you that based on these ordinances; the state budget has not suffered at all. SIS and CNA knew very well about these transfers, because these institutions are immediately informed about any transfer higher than 500 thousands lei through Moldovan banks”, said Orandas.
The judge said that the transactions of hundreds of million did not seem dubious as he got used to judging cases with millions of money.
„I realized that these Russian companies reached an understanding, they had means and they selected the Republic of Moldova because the state fee is smaller. So do many economic units. The debtor acknowledged the debt, there were the documents, what could I do?”, explained Orandas and he pointed out that he judged all cases based on original documents that were withdrawn before issuing the ordinance and replaced by copies, because this is in line with the law.
„If someone speaks about money laundering at present, they should prove it. If CNA and SIS did not know what happened, do you think that the judges know it? We are not entitled to make investigations. I had not the right to ask whose money is this and where it was taken”, said the magistrate.
Liliana Andrias - 1,24 billion dollars
One of the magistrates involved in ordinances of billions is Liliana Andrias from the Court of Centru sector in municipality Chisinau. She issued 2 such decisions.
On November 26, 2012, she signed an ordinance for a sum of 500 million dollars in the Republic of Moldova ( case no. 2po-612/12), the application to court was filed 5 days earlier. The Moldovan involved in the business was registered as citizen with the residence in the small town Codru – Ivan Belekci, born in 1955.
Another ordinance of hundreds of millions was issued by the same judge on July 1 2013 and included a sum of 740 million dollars (file 2po-338/13). The same Moldovan from the little town Codru- Ivan Belekci is in the scheme. The sources within the Court from District Center said that this ordinance has not the signature of the judge. The ordinance of cashing a sum of 740 million dollars is shown in the documents with the signature of the registrar, but it is not signed by the judge.
Andrias quitted „honorably” the judiciary at the beginning of the 2014 and benefited from one-time compensation for resignation, amounted at almost 60 thousands lei. In 2009, the judge was investigated in a criminal case for bribing but in the end the case was filed.
Serghei Popovici – 1,2 billion dollars
The first 500 million dollars „laundered” through the signature of the judge from Comrat, Serghei Popovici, current head of this court at second mandate, were „legalized” on November 21 2011 (case no. 2po-308/2011), 4 months later after he was appointed judge. He used to be training judge at the same court.
The request on this case was filed on November 16 the same year, though the acts presented were dubious, the mandate did not enable the right to file and sign requests by Viktor Koruts, lack of bank details etc., Popovici decided that the debt is real and must be returned.
A sum of 770 million was cashed on August 30, 2013, one week after the request was filed (case no.2po-61/2013). All documents presented at the court were in Russian and English and did not contain the bank details of the sides. The judge Popovici ordered the cashing, to the advantage of the creditor, the sum of 700 million dollars and the sum of 70 thousand dollars from the Moldovan Radu Vasile, who is registered in the case with the address in district Comrat, village Ferapontievca, str. Popedi 12.
We localized this citizen in Chisinau with the residence in Buiucani district of the capital.
Iurie Harbu – 1,03 billion dollars
Court Telenesti is „proud” of 3 cases related to the money laundering operation and all of them were signed by Iurie Harbu, president of the court.
The court from Telenesti started „modestly” with a sum of 30 million dollars on June 13, 2011 (case no. 2po-3015/2011), 3 days after the request was filed. The Moldovan citizen wherefrom money was asked is Filip Robu, shown in the stories of the case as being from village Ratus, district Telenesti. Stela Cernica, secretary of the Mayoralty Ratus said that „ there is no such a person in the village” and she does not remember of such a person with this surname in the village. A person with the same name and IDNP lives in Rascani sector of the capital.
Except Robu, money was requested from „Energoalians” SRL in Ukraine.
The company associated with the name of Veaceslav Platon is part of many dubious schemes. In April current year, international trade arbitration from Brussels ordered compensation amounted at 28 million dollars for Ukrainian company that delivered electricity estimated at 22 million dollars in the period 1998-2000 to the enterprise „Moldtranselectro”. Following this decision, many foreign accounts of the Republic of Moldova were blocked.
Veaceslav Platon has previously denied of having a connection with „Energoalians”, though there is much proof to this effect.
The Superior Council of the Magistrate notified the General Prosecutor’s office on this case. No criminal case or disciplinary procedure was started against Harbu.
Five months later, Harbu issued an ordinance of cashing 500 million dollars (case no. 2po-185/2011), and of other 500 million dollars on September 4, 2012 (case no. 2po-97/2012). Ruslan Pogor, the Moldovan intermediary in the last “business” is registered in the case with the residence in village Banesti, district Telnesti. „We do not have and we did not have such names in the village”, said the secretary of the Mayoralty Banesti, Ina Zalcean.
In the period when Harbu issued ordinances, he started the construction of a house with a surface of 205 square meters in town Telenesti.
Gheorghe Barnaz – 400 million dollars
Magistrate from the Court of district Rascani, Gheorghe Barnaz is still working at the same court, though on September 21 2011 he issued an ordinance to cash a sum of 400 million dollars (case no. 2 p/o-554/11) based on a loan agreement signed a year before.
The request of summoning was filed 2 days before by the representative based on procuration of Taras Mykhaylyk, PR-VERT SISTEM LIMITED from Great Britain, against Veaceslav Bass from Chisinau to a company from New Zeeland and the second one from the Russian Federation.
I found Veaceslav Bass at home in his modest 2 room-apartment which he shares with his mother, wife of his brother (his brother is dead) and a niece.
The man aged 32 was scared when he heard what we want to talk about.
„I do not know anything about it. In 2011, I was with my friends in the yard. An old friend, whom we used to play football when we were children, approached us and proposed 600 dollars to sign some documents. He told us that it was not dangerous. Only some acts which he should present at the court as guarantee. The documents did not stipulate any sum of money. I accepted, because I needed money then. Moreover, I heard that some of my friends signed a year later similar documents and nothing bad happened”, said Veaceslav.
The young man referred to Dmitri Vartic, above mentioned and Andrei Abramov, another Moldovan citizen involved in „laundering”.
Veaceslav said that he did not participate at the trial led by judge Barnaz and did not know about its existence. Also, he did not know about another trial when he was obliged to pay to an off-shore company 700 million dollars on May 3, 2013. The ordinance was issued by the judge Iurie Turcan, from the Court of Rascani District.
„I signed just 2 documents. When I was arrested by CNA for explanations, the officers showed me 8 documents signed by me. They were false. Then, I realized this bad situation”, said the young man.
Bass does not know who is behind this „business”, and after the case with CNA, I could not find the colleague who convinced me to sign documents against money.
Adrian Popenco, head of the Anticorruption Prosecution: „The case is under examination. I sent one year ago many questions and we are waiting for answers from the rogatory commissions from the Russian Federation. We investigated all cases in courts related to these huge sums of money, but I do not remember their exact number, but there are dozens of them. The penal case was started based on the reports from the National Anti-corruption Center. When we were notified, we started the investigations. The adoption of a solution to this effect depends on the answers from the rogatory commissions in the Russian Federation. I do not know why it is still lasting. The problem of judges involved was discussed at the CSM”.
Victor Micu, president of the Superior Council of Magistrate: „We found out about this scheme last year, when we were presented a notification of the Supreme Court of Justice that made a generalization of all these cases. The case was discussed in the meeting of CSM and they decided to notify the General Prosecutor for criminal control of judges. I know that a criminal case was started but we do not know anything about the process of investigation.
There is a problem because the court decisions you refer, were not contested and are not valid, that is why, there is no reason to sanction the judges. Nobody proved their guilt. Moreover, the cases were detected too late and in many situations, the term of starting disciplinary procedures expired”.
The Republic of Moldova lost 540 million dollars
Four months before the Court of District Rascani had the first case in the scheme of “Russian laundering” at the request of the Minister of Justice of that period, Alexandru Tanase, the legislation was amended aimed to establish a limit at paying the state fee in the court. Until May 2010, the claimants were forced to pay 3% from the value of the case to the court. After this amendment, the state fee was established at maximum 25 thousands lei for individuals and 50 thousands lei for legal entities.
The change was operated to facilitate access to justice for citizens, eliminating the barrier of excessive amounts of state fees.
Former president of CSM, Dumitru Visternicean said that he did not realize then and still does not realize the need of this amendment, as the legislation allowed postponement, rescheduling or depriving of payment of state fee when the claimant shows evidence that he does not have possibilities to pay for the fee.
If the old stipulation was valid, the Republic of Moldova would gain 540 million dollars from the cases by which the Moldovan judiciary system laundered 18 billion dollars from the Russian Federation.
(to be continued)
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.