Integrity

Six years at the Customs Service: businesses and properties of Balitchi family

Author: Victor Moșneag
29/10/2015 13037

Tudor Balitchi, head of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova lives in an apartment of 200 square meters, registered on his sister’s name. In recent years, his sister, established in the US and his mother, a doctor by profession, now retired, have become owners of more plots for construction worth millions of lei and placed at the outskirts of Chisinau. Also, Balitchi’ s mother together with the director of the Factory Rogob founded in 2015 a company that has declared activities in construction. Tudor Balitchi and his wife are also the founders of companies, although the Law on customs service forbids «exercising a business activity personally or through a third part " and obliges him to "convey trust management on his quota (shares) in the statutory fund of the commercial organization to another person during his mandate at the customs service".

Tudor Balitchi has the longest mandate of head at the Customs Service in its history.  He was appointed head of the Customs Service in December 2009 and in less than two months he will turn six years since he has been leading this institution. Balitchi, 38, was born in 1977 in Tiraspol. He studied at the Faculty of Law at the Free International University of Moldova, specialty of constitutional and administrative law (1994-1999). Three years later, he passed his master’s paper at the same specialty. He started his professional career as a lawyer at the Intellectual Property Agency (1999-2000). A year later, he is legal consultant at USAID, under the privatization project against financial means and development of real estate values IBICI. From 2000 to 2009, before he was appointed head of the Customs Service, he has been chairman of the Supervisory Board and head of the Administrative and Financial-Economic Directorate of SA "IPTEH". On July 25, 2012, the day when he turned 35, Nicolae Timofti awarded him the rank of major-general following a request of the PM of that period Vlad Filat. Vlad Filat worked with Balitchi before he was appointed head of the Customs Service.

The property from the income statement of the Head of the Customs Service

Since he has been leading this institution, Balitchi drew the attention of public opinion  on his “modest” declarations on incomes and properties. For example, in the 2012 statement, Balitchi showed an annual income from salaries amounted at 148 thousands lei, 2 plots, one plot of land with fruit trees and a garden with a cadastral value of just 40 thousands lei, a flat bought in 1995 with a total surface of 61,7 square meters, a non-residential facility of 1.7 square meters worth 1,500 lei, accounts estimated at 10 thousand Euros and assets in four companies, which, under the same statement, did not bring any revenues.

His latest statement on property, for 2014 contains more consistent data but seems to be "modest".  The Head of the Customs Service got married for the second time in November 2013 and included in the 2014 statement, in addition to that from 2012, an apartment of 64 square meters purchased in 2014, four plots of land, of which 2 gardens and 2 unproductive plots of land purchased  during 2014-2015, all of them with a cadastral value of about 160 thousand lei,  and a car Toyota RAV 4, made in 2010, bought in 2013, with a value of 2000 Euros "based on the document certifying the origin". Also, Balitchi said that he sold his shares of a SRL against 2340 lei and his wife sold the shares of a company and got 92500 lei. Also, he gained 703,000 lei from shares of social capital of a SRL. Balitchi family claims that they got a sum of 6750 Euros from rental of a real estate. Regarding companies, the number remained the same like in 2012, but we found out that he renounced on some of them and others new were founded by his wife.

A hairdresser’s and a currency exchange, official businesses

Officially, data from the State Registration Chamber (SRC) report that in October 2015 Tudor Balitchi is the founder of two companies: SRL "Dorusa Lux" and SRL "Euro Schimb". The first company was registered by him in 2001 together with Feodora Cocerva in an apartment on Str. Socoleni, both of them own 50% of shares. The main kind of activity of this SRL is services of hairdresser and beauty, an activity that in 2012 brought an income of 14,600 lei to founders. Feodora Cocerva said that she was a relative of  Tudor Balitchi and the firm was founded by her in 2001, when he was not an official. “It is not a big business here. He has 2,700 lei shares from social capital. This is not his business. I bought this apartment. His name is registered on the documents but soon I will change the documents, because I can have problems about it. It's a hairdresser’s, nothing more", said Feodora Cocerva about the business which she shares with the Head of the Customs Service.

Other company, SRL "Euro Schimb” founded by Balitchi, is a currency exchange located on str. Ion Creanga in Chisinau. Tudor Balitchi contributed with a sum of 150 thousand lei in this business and holds 30% of shares in social capital. The partners of the head of Customs Service are Eduard Banaruc, General Deputy Secretary of the Government (30%), Serghei Dolgopolov (20%), who owns other two exchange houses, Svetlana, Anastasia and Elizaveta Sidorenco, sharing other 20% and they have other companies that own currency exchange offices. According to the latest financial report submitted by the economic unit, in 2012, he had sales revenue estimated at 11.39 million lei.

In 2012, Tudor Balitchi showed in his declaration of income and property that he was founder of four companies. Besides the two listed above, he is founder of SRL "Lanteon Lex", 10% and SRL "Vademecum" with 33.3% of shares. Now, Alexandru Rotari is the owner of SRL "Lanteon Lex". Under the terms of SRC, the company specialized in consulting activities, is being liquidated. Vasile Dontu owns the social capital of another company SRL "Vademecum". It has activities of the “bureaus and legal advice services, including of private lawyers".

Companies of Balitchi family

In November, 2013 Tudor Balitchi married for the second time, and the ceremony was lavish, for which, as previously wrote ZdG, were invested wages of three years of head at the Customs Service. His wife Aliona Steflea, meanwhile became Balitchi. A month ago, when I started investigations on this issue, Aliona Balitchi was included in the database of SRC as founder of 2 SRLs: "Profservice Group", registered on February 20, 2015 and "Profconsulting Prim" founded on May 13, 2014. Both companies have the same legal address, an apartment on Calea Iesilor, Chisinau, which belongs to family Steflea, or more precisely, Valentina and Sergiu Steflea, Balitchi’s parents in-law. Recently, the founder and administrator of these companies have been changed on the name of Liudmila Immer. The company’s headquarters remained in the apartment of Steflea’s family, a sign that their relations with the two SRLs are effective. Otherwise, both SRLs declared the same activities in accounting.

In 2014, Aliona Balitchi was founder of the company “Lexicon-Lux" SRL. Meanwhile, she "left" this business and does not have any company registered on her name.  This SRL remained in the family, according to the SRC, Valentina Balitchi,  Tudor Balitchi 's mother is a founder and Valentina Steflea, Tudor Balitchi’s mother-in-law is the manager of this company. "Lexicon Lux" SRL was founded in November 2009 and has declared activities in tourism and education for adults. In 2012, he had sales revenues worth 38,800 lei. Valentina Steflea, mother-in-law of the director of the Customs Service owns the company "Lexicon Classic" SRL, which manages a foreign language center that was opened 10 years ago. Valentina Steflea owns 25% assets of this business which she shares with Vitali Jeleapov and "Larga -Vin" LTD, a company founded by an offshore in Ireland, "Galvana Holdings".

Tudor Balitchi’s mother, business partner with the head from „Rogob”

 On April 30 2015, „Lexicon-Lux” SRL, whose founder is Valentina Balitchi opened the company „New Management” together with another SRL, SC „Automi Trans”. „Automi Trans”, partner company of Tudor Balitchi’s mother was founded by Igor Rosca, as he is managing the business of his parents, Grigore and Fevronia Rosca at the Production and Commerce Company „Rogob” SRL, that owns the sausage factory with the same name. The SRL „New Management”, founded by the companies of Igor Rosca and Valentina Balitchi  is located on  bd. Dacia 14/1, nearby a market known under the name „1000 de maruntisuri” and a shop with the same name. In 2014, Igor Rosca who manages the company “Rogob” SRL took possession of the market and the land from this region. Officially, as of 2014 the upper mentioned market is managed by another company of Iurie Rosca, „Automi Trans”.

As "Rogob" is one of the largest manufacturers of sausages in our country, we tried to find out from the Customs Service if business relationships between families Balitchi and Rosca have an impact on the eventual import of meat performed by "Rogob" SRL. I requested simple information: who were the largest importers of meat or meat products in the Republic of Moldova in 2014 and in the first months of 2015. The press service of this institution said that this information simple and trivial at first glance, is considered "confidential" and shall not be disclosed without the trader’s consent.

Explanations of the head from Rogob

I discussed this subject with relevant people and they said that Balitchi and Rosca are in a friendly relationship. In the context of information I had, a Russian language website, bloknot-moldova.md wrote that Tudor Balitchi was heard by prosecutors who were investigating the criminal case concerning former Prime Minister Vlad Filat and he was asked about his relationship with "Rogob" SRL. The source claims that in 2013, 12 thousand tons of smuggled meat was brought to Moldova. Asked by ZdG, Adriana Betisor refused to discuss, she said she was busy. She urged us to ask the press service of the Prosecution. By this Service, Betisor said that she did not investigate this aspect in the case she manages.

Officially, the company "Rogob" SRL has as founders, couple Grigore and Fevronia Rosca and Igor Rosca is the administrator. The sausage factory opened in 1997 but it has become one of the market leaders in recent years, when it opened a new and modern factory in Goianul Nou, Stauceni. Asked by ZdG, Igor Rosca said that the information on the website was not true and that the company which he manages is not involved in any criminal case. "We are a non-political company. There are people who want to harm to us”, says Igor Rosca. I asked him about the founding of the company "New Management" SRL in April together with Tudor Balitchi’s mother. Rosca said that the information was not true. I asked if he was founder of "Automi Trans" SRL. I am the founder of "Automi Trans" but we have not founded anything together. I heard of "New Management ... let me get informed", he said. He returned half an hour later and told us that "I talked to the lawyer, who has power of attorney. The company was sold half a year ago. I refer to the "Automi Trans”. I sold it to an individual. I do not know why my name still appears there. I will solve things today. I know Mr. Balitchi as I know all other people. It's normal in business. We have not founded companies together", he told us.
"Automi Trans" was founded in 2003, report data from SRC. On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, official data showed that it was founded and managed by Igor Rosca. Headquarters of the SRL is a building in Ciorescu, which belongs to his family. SRL "New Management" is founded by "Automi Trans" and "Lexicon-Lux" SRL - in April, six months ago, located on the bd. Dacia 14/1, on the land and facilities belonging to the company "Rogob" SRL.

Apartment with a total surface of 200 square meters and the land estimated at 200 thousand Euros

Tudor Balitchi 's sister, Mariana Balitchi-Koegel has gone to the US. The information is confirmed by close relatives of Balitchi’s family and by data on a social network, where she wrote that she was living in Virginia. In 2014, she founded a company. Data from SRC show that on July 9, 2014, Mariana, together with Andrei Nesterov founded the company SRL "Truffee" that at registration had the name  "Chateau de fleurs" SRL,  with declared activities in the field of  restaurants and bars. Andrei Nesterov is a businessman and appears as a founder of several SRLs. In one of them, SRL "Two Goose", opened in July 2014, Nesterov is partner with Maxim Turcan, son of the Socialist MP, Vladimir Turcan.

Tudor Balitchi’s relations with his sister’s properties do not end here. In 2011, she bought a four-room apartment with a total surface of ​​204.5 square meters (!) on the street. Gr.Alexandrescu in Chisinau, real estate estimated in 2014 to 1.39 million lei, its market value is much higher. The building came into possession of Balitchi’s sister in December 2011 and was purchased from Vitalie Bodea, general manager of the insurance company, Moldasig. The building with this apartment is located near the entrance to the Exhibition Center "Moldexpo" and the apartment is not used by Mariana Balitchi-Koegel, but by the head of the Customs Service, Tudor Balitchi. The information was confirmed to us by employees and residents of this building. Balitchi family (sister) owns a parking area and a closet, purchased in March 2012.

Although she left Moldova, this summer on 13 May 2015 Balitchi Tudor's sister has bought land for building a house on the street. Chicago, which is officially placed in Stauceni. In reality, the land is located on the outskirts of Chisinau, near sector Rascani. The land has an area of ​​30 acres or 3,000 square meters, where it is possible to build at least four houses. Those who sell land in this region say that one acre would cost between 7 and 10 thousand Euros. Therefore, a simple calculation shows that the land of Baltichi’s sister costs at market price about 200 thousand Euros, over 4 million lei.

Land of millions of the retired mother

A few hundred meters away from Mariana Balitchi’s land near the str. Stejarilor, this summer, Tudor Balitchi’s mother, Valentina became owner of some lands for construction of houses. Specifically, on April 10, 2015, she bought from businessman Gheorghe Stepuleac two adjoining plots with a surface of ​​7.44 acres. On April 28, she bought another plot, about 12 acres and a month later, on May 18, 2015, she bought an adjoining plot of almost 9 acres. This time, the seller was Serghei Nastas, head of State Enterprise "Posta Moldova". In all, in just a month, the mother of the head at the Customs Service bought 36 acres of land. Following some advertisements on specialized sites, someone has sold 10 acres at a price of 100 thousand euro recently. So, the plots of land of Balitchi’s mother bought in summer 2015 cost about 360 thousand euros (7 million lei). Gheorghe Stepuleac claims that he has not sold any plot of land to Balitchi family. "I had not anything personal with Mr. Balitchi. There were some debts there. I do not know whom they sold the land. I haven’t seen him for a period. I do not know, he is working or not... ", he says. The head of the state enterprise “Posta Moldovei” did not answer the phone to talk about the transaction with Balitchi family.

In 2012, according to cadastral data, Valentina Balitchi became the owner of two plots with fruits trees outside the village Truseni. In 2014, she also bought a plot of land of ​​20 acres in Malaiesti, village Balabanesti. The plot of land is located near the River Nistru. Representatives of the local council were unable (or unwilling) to tell us when and how Tudor Balitchi’s mother bought that plot of land. According to public information, Valentina Balitchi was a family doctor by 2013. Valentina Balitchi was born in 1952 and she is 63. Officially, she retired 6 years ago. Tudor Balitchi, father of the head at the Customs Service is a teacher at the College of Medicine and Pharmacy in Chisinau.

Apartment on Str. Pushkin and the building next to Moldova Academy of Economic Studies

In turn, Tudor Balitchi has officially an apartment with a surface of 64 square meters on str. Pushkin in Chisinau and a parking lot. The property came into the possession of Balitchi in February 2014, a few months after the wedding. Tudor Balitchi invested in this apartment in 2010, under an investment contract, most likely when the block was being built. Besides this apartment, Head of the Customs Service has a share of parents' apartment, located on str. Zelinski, and another apartment with a surface of  42.3 square meters, which he bought together with his wife in September 2015. This building is located in Chisinau, on str. Ierusalim 7, where "Times Cafe" is placed. It belongs to the company "Aftan Grup." It is not clear which building from str. Ierusalim 7 was bought by couple Balitchi, so I phoned "Times Cafe" for details.

I was told that nobody from Balitchi family owns something here and probably they bought the building from the side of the café, where the bakery "La Mamuca" is placed,  a network opened by SRL "Stropsa Alexandra" which, at first glance, does not have anything to do with family Balitchi.

At the beginning of 2015, Tudor Balitchi bought some plots of land  in Stauceni. They are used, most likely as a garden, like the ones which the Head of the Customs Service possessed in 2012. Balitchi owns a plot of land with fruit trees in Vadul lui Voda, with an area of ​​5.8 acres, which he estimated at about 100 USD in his statement. Earlier in an interview for ZdG, Tudor Balitchi said that "this is a plot of land where fruit trees grow and nothing can be built there. Therefore, it has a lower price compared to other plots of land where you can build something. This is the price of the land registered at the cadastre and certainly it was included in my income and property declaration".

Balitchi's statements, by e-mail

We tried to continue our discussion with Tudor Balitchi a week ago. No result. On Wednesday, October 28, he replied to a message and he asked us to send questions by e-mail. Head of the Customs Center gave partial answers to questions. He admits that the law does not allow him to manage companies, but he says that "currently I am not employed, remunerated and I do not have other activity that that of general director of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova. Regarding your reference, if I have companies, I can answer. I founded some companies in 2009 before I was appointed to this office. By the way, this subject has been examined by CNI (National Integrity Commission).  I proved that I did not manage any companies but these are companies which were founded many years ago. CNI found no violations in this regard", said  Balitchi. He admits that he is living in the flat registered on his sister’s name. "Yes, currently I am living in my sister's apartment. She is abroad now. But you should know that I own my house, I have lived there until 2014 and I will move back after I solve some personal problems", he says. Balitchi did not answer to the question whether it was his or his sister’s apartment.

"Yes, my sister and mother are owners of some plots of land. As I said earlier, my sister who lives abroad, together with my mother own these plots so that when she returns home, she will build a house near her parents’ house.  “Again, Balitchi did not say whether his sister and mother had money to buy this land. As for relations with Rogob, the head of the Custorms Service said that "I have no relationship with this company. I understand that it is easy to speculate on my name.  I know Igor Rosca since he was a student. “As about the company owned by her mother and another company of Rosca, Balitchi said: " Lexicon-Lux is a company that provides translation services and has been established in 2000 by my wife and her mother. Based on family reasons, the company was registered on my mother’s name in 2014 but it is still managed by my mother-in-law since it was founded in 2000. I know that this company of my relatives is currently working on a joint business plan with other companies, where Igor as far as I know, was part of, but at the moment he retired from this business intention", concluded Tudor Balitchi.

This investigation was carried out within the Campaign "Journalists for Transparency in Public Funds Management" organized by the Center for Investigative Journalism, with the support of the Good Governance Program of Soros Moldova Foundation. The financing institution does not influence in any way the subject and content of published investigations.

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