Economic

Companies of Iurcu’s friends continue to win contracts with Moldtelecom

Foto: Ziarul de Gardă
Author: Victor Moșneag
22/10/2015 6821

Companies affiliated to Vitalie Iurcu, currently Deputy Minister of Economy and ex-director of Moldtelecom, continue to be key procurement partners of the joint venture owned by the state, even after he left the company. Recently, just through one invoice, to the firm’s accounts established by Iurcu’s friends, were transferred 700,000 lei.

Previously, we demonstrated how several companies belonging to friends or business partnersof VitalieIurcu, then director of Moldelecom, obtained multi-million contracts with this joint stock company owned by the state. The information is now confirmed by recent acts, which came into our possession, demonstrating that Moldtelecom continues to buy from the same companies, even if, at least officially, Iurcu is no longer running the institution.

Joint premises with his ex-boss’s company in Bucharest

Weeks earlier, only through one invoice, Moldtelecom representatives purchased several products from "Lobi Steel Trade" company, in the amount of 700 thousand lei. The company was registered in April 2009 but officially obtained the certificate of registration in January 2010, the firm being founded by "Lobi Trade" LLC from Romania, with 84%, and Russian citizen residing in Moldova MukhmadGalaev, with the other 16%. "Lobi Steel Trade" is managed, at least according to the documents, by AlinaTalavira. The company from Romania, which owns the LLC that was winning and keeps winning contracts with Moldtelecom has its legal address in Bucharest, sector 6, Preciziei St. 34 B. Moreover, at this address are registered a few companies with Moldovan founders. One of these companies is "Hellis& Partners Real Estate". According to the National Trade Registry Office of the Ministry of Justice of Romania, the company was registered in 2013 on Preciziei St., 34, in an apartment bought in the same year.

The founders of this company are VitalieIurcu, ex-director of Moldtelecom, the current Deputy Minister of Economy who holds 92.5% of assets, with a capital contribution of 9,250 Romanian lei, equivalent to about 40 thousand lei (MDL) and Vitaly Frunze, which contributed with 750 Romanian lei, with 7.5% of assets. In other words, the company that wins contracts from Moldtelecomis founded by the same firm thatshares the same premiseswith VitalieIurcu’s company in Bucharest.

Lobi’s history at Moldtelecom

In fact, "Lobi Steel Trade", as announced on its website, www.lobi.md is part of Lobi Group that encompasses several entities with similar names: "Lobi - GP", "Lobi M" or “Lobi Logistic ". Some of them have also dipped in the gravy from contracts with Moldtelecom. In fact, the relations between "Lobi-GP" and Moldtelecom are disclosed in a report of the Court of Accounts that in 2011 verified the activity of the joint stock company for 2009-2010. From the report we learn that in 2010 the company was awarded a contract of 4.88 million lei by Moldtelecom “for the procurement of box switches (electric devices that convert alternative current (AC) into direct current (DC) and vice versa, and modules".

"Lobi Steel Trade", like other companies from theLobi group, has its premises on2/4 Studentilor St., where there are located several warehouses and buildings privatized in 2005 and now,according to cadastral data, belonging to "Tehnovin" joint venture,managed by Alexander Valcu. He is the business partner of Vitaly Frunze, Iurcu's partner from Romania but also a family friend of Iurcuspouses. Alexander Valcu,VitalyFrunze and AlinaTalavira (manager of  "Lobi Steel Trade") are company founders.

"Lobi-GP"has partners in other businesses.  In some of them, they are partners with Dmitri Mironov, nephew of the current Deputy Minister of Economy. Moreover, in 2007, the land and buildings at2/4 Studentilor St. were pledged at Victoribank  to obtain loans of tens of millions MDL, most of which unrepaid even in 2015. In 2011, "Lobi Steel Trade ", which now sells products to Moldelecom, had other activities. It won a tender for the production of "20th anniversary celebration badges for the Secret Service of Moldova” in the amount of 40 thousand lei.

Friends with connections at Moldtelecom

Mukhmad Galaev, Alexandru Vâlcu, Vitalie Iurcu, Photo: facebook.com/Dmitro Izvekov

However, not just Lobi group companies are winning tenders at Moldtelecom. Another regular customer is "Sticlamont" a joint venture previously managed by Mukhmad Galaev, listed as founder of "Lobi Steel Trade". Until recently, Galaev was President of Zikkurat group companies that includes"Sticlamont". According to the documents we got,Zikkuratis a partner of Moldtelecom. On a social network, Galaev appears in a photo with Alexander Valcu, Vitale Iurcu and other friends, sitting at a table. To note that in 2014, the National Integrity Commission (NIC) initiated an inspection in respect of VitalieIurcu, then director of Moldtelecom, following a claim that he had purchased Zikkurat shares. This, however, had not been confirmed within the official review by the representatives of NIC, although, as our sources have also confirmed, Iurcu has a more than close relationship with this company, participating in some working meetings there.

We contacted Victor Gherasim, the secretary of the Tender Commission within Moldtelecom and asked how he could explain the success of these

Mukhmad Galaev, Alexandru Vâlcu, Photo: facebook.com/Codru Hotel

companies, particularly those from Lobi group, in tendersatMoldelecom. He told us that he would not be the person responsible to give us such information and also urged us to formulate our questions in writing. We mention in this the context that we had already submitted these questions in writing, only that Moldtelecomrepresentatives refused to tell us which companies were winning tenders in recent years, arguing that the law on access to information would not obligethem to provide us such information . We talked with representatives of the press service of the institution, to whom I had sent a written request, insisting to explain to us what would be the Lobi group companies’ key to success in winning tenders at Moldtelecom. No response followed, so far. As a reminder,Moldtelecom remained without a general director afterAugust 2015, when VitalieIurcu was appointed Deputy Minister of Economy. No new manager has been appointed in his place, even an acting one.

Prosecutors have finally reached Moldtelecom

After the publication of Moldtelecom tender related articles, at our request, the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC) announced us in May that the institution would verify the information submitted, and then would inform us of the outcome. Although we are already in October 2015, we have not received yet any feedback from NAC. The other day, however, in the midst of political war, and after VladFilat,awaiting arrest for corruption, was declaring from the parliamentary tribune about the irregularities atMoldtelecom, Metalferos and Moldovagaz, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that it ”seized the documents referring to the economic and financial activity of the three companies. The acts and shares of the administrations of the respective companies are to be analyzed and documented under the proceedings of committing abuses and excess of powers provided for by law and regulations in this field, which would have inflicteddamage to public interests and consumers", reads the press release of the institution.

General Prosecutor’s Officeinforms that these cases, including the Moldtelecom investigation, are managed by the Criminal Prosecution Division. NicholaeChitoroagă, Head of the Division, refused to give us too much information, saying that we should talk to the press service of the institution. At our questions, Chitoroaga said that the investigation is not a mere verification and, by law, can take place only under criminal proceedings or criminal prosecution, but refused to tell us under which of the two capacitiesMoldtelecom searches were conducted

The investigation was carried out within the "Journalists for integrity in public service" campaign organized by the Center for Investigative Journalism, with the support of the Good Governance Program of Soros Foundation Moldova. The financing Institution does not affect in any way the subject and content of published investigations.

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