Integrity

PARTY SWITCHERS: Who buys deputies in Moldova

Author: Cornelia Cozonac, Mariana Colun
30/10/2020 14924

They migrate easily from one parliamentary faction to another, they establish and dissolve alliances, against nature, when the private and group interest prevails over the public interest. Promises from election campaigns do not matter anymore. The party switchers increase their properties, drive expensive cars, go on exotic vacations and send their children to study abroad. As usual, the phenomenon of party switching in the Chisinau Parliament is not shocking anymore. The Prosecutor’s Office should tell us who buys Moldovan deputies and what are the stakes behind the schemes with deputies. Yet, only one case, rather nebulous, was subjected to courts for a few years and ended in acquittal. This, in the situation where for years the political leaders have accused each other of buying deputies to vote laws with interests, and the amounts mentioned in disputes are dizzying and hard to be perceived by voters. Who are the party switchers in recent years, their interests and stakes of migrating from one party, you will find out in an investigation carried out by CIJM reporters.

Five deputies, former Democrats when the party was led by Vlad Plahotniuc, who after the split of the Democratic Party took refuge in the new parliamentary faction Pro Moldova, left the party one after another, a few days before the presidential election. The leader of Pro Moldova, former speaker Adrian Candu, explained the haste with which his former colleagues left him, by the fact that President Igor Dodon, candidate for a new term as head of state, would embed a new parliamentary majority, to ensure power control even if he loses the election. Everything happens in the situation when Adrian Candu was not allowed to run in the presidential election.

"All kinds of deals and majorities are made in the Parliament. While we have focused on the presidential election, Dodon is trying to get a majority to support him, also in case he loses the election. Much of it will be settled soon but it is good to be careful not to lose the country. I call on deputies, these are dirty games. Moreover, we must show honor and dignity till the final hour. I am ready to give up my mandate, only not to see a majority set by Dodon, who acts against his own citizens ", said Candu in a video posted on his Facebook page, two days before the presidential election, when the fifth deputy announced his departure from the faction. Its leader remained only with Vladimir Cebotari, former Minister of Justice.

The departure of the five deputies from Pro Moldova is not an exception. Migrations in recent years have most often taken place en bloc when someone wanted a parliamentary majority or when political parties were in decline and risked not getting a ticket to the next parliament. The most frequent changes of political parties happened before electoral elections or immediately after the deputies get seat in the Legislative.

Usually, after each departure, the party switchers increase their property and incomes.

Top party switchers

Among the top party switchers in the Moldovan legislative are deputies Violeta Ivanov, Sergiu Sârbu, Vladimir Vitiuc, Anghel Agachi and Eugen Nichiforciuc, who have changed at least three parliamentary factions in recent years.

Late in 2015, Violeta Ivanov together with 13 other party colleagues left the PCRM faction. Between 2015 and 2017 she was an unaffiliated deputy, after which she joined PDM. In May this year, Ivanov also left the PDM faction, and later "was adopted" by the Shor Party and currently she is the Shor Party’s candidate in the presidential elections.

Collage: CIJM
The house that Violeta Ivanov finished during her term as deputy. Photo: CIJM

Over the years, and once with the migration from one party to another, Violeta Ivanov's property also expanded. In 2015 the deputy reported a plot of land with an area of five acres, an old demolished house and a new one, under construction, but also an apartment with an area of 73 square meters purchased in 1995 while in four years she almost finished the 2-storey house.

One of the MP's daughters, a minor at the time, was included in documents as the owner of the land on which couple Ivanov built their luxury house, but also the owner of the old building on that land, demolished in the meantime. Violeta Ivanov's real estate transactions do not stop here.

The apartment building in which Violeta Ivanov bought an apartment in 2017. Photo: CIJM

After she quitted the PCRM, Ivanov expanded her living space and, if we analyze her statements on property, in the following years her income also increased. She bought a more spacious apartment, with an area of 98 square meters, in a new block of flats on Tudor Strisca Str. in the Botanica sector of Chisinau. An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism revealed that Ivanov paid 445,000 lei for the new apartment. However, all the acquisitions made by the MP in four years did not drain her budget. On the contrary, in 2015 she reported only 100 lei on her bank account while in the 2019 statement on property and personal interests, the amount of 430 thousand lei is included in the category of financial assets.

Sergiu Sîrbu joined the Parliament in 2019 on the list of the Communist Party. For 12 years, he was an active member of the faction. He started working in the Presidential Apparatus of Vladimir Voronin, then head of the legal department within the Central Apparatus of the CC of the Communist Party, representing the party in the Central Electoral Commission, in the courts and in the Constitutional Court. In July 2013, Sergiu Sîrbu joined the PD, and in December 2014 he was elected deputy in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, secretary of the Democratic Party of Moldova faction. In February 2020, together with five other colleagues from the PD, Sergiu Sîrbu left the Democratic Party and together they set a new faction in the Legislative - Pro Moldova. On October 23, the deputy announced that he was leaving the Pro Moldova parliamentary group and remained politically unaffiliated. The MP mentioned that he made the decision for both personal and professional reasons, he did not give any details.

In this block on Traian Str., the deputy Sergiu Sîrbu owns an apartment of 194 square meters
with separate entrance. Photo: CIJM

Over the years, the financial situation of the deputy Sîrbu has also improved considerably. In the first statement on available property for 2010, posted on the Parliament's website, the official does not report any housing or land. Things remain unchanged a year later. Only in 2012 the deputy reported that he owns a villa and an apartment of 68 square meters in Chisinau. The same properties were included in the statement on property for the next two years. At the same time, if by the year he joined the Democratic Party, the deputy seems to have had a modest life, in 2013 things changed. In addition to the decision to separate from the PCRM and join the PD, in the same year the MP decided to get married. In the 2013 statement on property, he reports donations and gifts received at the wedding in the amount of 130,000 lei, 15,000 dollars and 34,000 Euros. In the 2014 statement on property, he reports another 394 thousand lei as donations from birthdays and christening. In Sergiu Sîrbu's statement on property for 2015, there is an apartment of 194.7 square meters valued at over 800,000 lei, which the deputy claims to have received as a donation. According to the cadastral data, Sergiu Sîrbu received the apartment as a gift from his brother, Vitalie Sîrbu. Vitalie Sîrbu bought the building from a magistrate, on February 20, 2015, to donate it to his brother in less than two months. The media wrote that Sergiu Sîrbu's brother is a photographer. The deputy reported generous donations, amounting to almost 200 thousand lei in 2018, and last year the total amount of donations amounts to 20 thousand euros.

Vladimir Vitiuc has been the first member of the Communist Party. He has been a deputy since 2005, each time being elected on the PCRM list. In the 2009 and 2010 parliamentary elections, his name appeared on the list of candidates with integrity issues, made public by the Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament. According to the bulletin "Know your candidate" from November 2010, launched by the Civic Initiative, in the period 2004-2007, the Balti territorial organization of the PCRM, led by Vladimir Vitiuc, used the publicly owned offices without paying for the rent. Moreover, according to the same source, Vladimir Vitiuc was the author and initiator of several corruption-sensitive bills, which, according to the Center for Corruption Analysis and Prevention, contravened other existing laws, were against the public interest and promoted dubious privatizations.

Vladimir Vitiuc left the PCRM late in 2015, together with 13 other communist deputies, who declared in a conference, that they do not longer want to "play the games" of the party that brought them to the Parliament. The 14 deputies from the PCRM formed the Social-Democratic Platform "Pentru Moldova". He later joined the PD. Like his colleague, Violeta Ivanov, in May 2020, Ivanov left the PDM faction and joined the Shor Party.

Angel Agache has also migrated to different parties. Agache started his political activity in 2008, as a member of the Central Permanent Bureau and of the National Political Council of PLDM. Starting with 2004, he was leader of the Youth Forum "New Moldova". Following the parliamentary elections of April 2009, he was Nb. 13 in the list of Liberal Democrats, Angel Agache became a deputy at the age of 33. In 2014, he won a new term, he was Nb. 18 on the PLDM list. Agache announced that he was leaving PLDM on March 29, 2017, along with four other colleagues due to disagreements with party leaders. The next day, PLDM said that Agache was expelled from the party. Four months later, in July 2017, the Parliament announced in a press release that the deputy Angel Agache joined the PDM faction of the Legislative. According to the information in the statement on property and interests for 2017, Angel Agache received a PDM membership card earlier on April 21, 2017, but also the office of deputy general secretary within the party. In June, the deputy announced that he was leaving PDM and joined the Pro Moldova Group.

The current unaffiliated deputy Eugeniu Nichiforciuc also migrated to several political parties. He is in his second term as deputy. He joined the Parliament in February 2015 as he was elected on the Democratic Party list. He was previously member of the Communist Party, then joined the United Moldova Party, thus followed the former communist deputy Vladimir Turcan. In the early parliamentary elections of November 28, 2010, he was Nb. 62 on the list of the United Moldova Party. However, after this party did not pass the electoral threshold, in March 2011 Nichiforciuc joined PDM. After several disagreements with the party leadership, he was expelled from the party in August 2020.

Dodon and the money from the "culioc" (plastic bag)

Igor Dodon, the current president of the Republic of Moldova and candidate in the presidential race, also fled the Communist Party, on whose lists he joined the Parliament in 2009, after he had held important positions in communist-led governments. He was second, after Marian Lupu, who shook the faction. The PCRM was in decline after two terms in power and severely damaged its image, especially after the sad events of April 7, 2009, when thousands of young people were beaten at police stations and tried unjustly, because they had taken part in protests condemning the rigging of parliamentary elections.

Dodon dragged several other communist deputies after him, which, has not been forgiven to this day by Vladimir Voronin. The PCRM leader has repeatedly stated publicly that the deputies who left the communist faction would have been paid with heavy money by Vladimir Plahotniuc, the former PDM leader, who thus strengthened his positions and controlled all power and areas of influence in the following years.

Igor Dodon replied recently to the former president that he would have negotiated for his own advantage the migration of 14 deputies from PCRM to PDM.

Image of dirty money

Igor Dodon started working in 1997 and he served several jobs in public structures within 8 years till he joined the Government.  In 2005, Dodon he took up politics and was first appointed Deputy Minister of Economy, and a year later he moved to the post of Minister of Economy and Trade. In 2009, he is elected deputy of the Communist faction, a party that promoted him all these years. Two years later, after the failure in the local elections for the position of mayor of Chisinau, the politician begins to distance himself from the communists.

In November 2011, Igor Dodon left the faction of the communists in the Parliament, together with Veronica Abramciuc and Zinaida Greceanii and set up the "Fraction of unaffiliated deputies". Later, Igor Dodon joined the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, and Zinaida Greceanii remained close to him, although she was not a member of PSRM. In the November 2014 parliamentary elections, Greceanii was the first in the list of the Socialist Party, even though she was not yet a member of the party, and later she was the leader of the parliamentary faction of the Socialists. After in November 2016, the PSRM leader Igor Dodon was elected president of the Republic of Moldova, Zinaida Greceanii joined the PSRM, and the Party Congress elected her on December 18, 2016, as party president.

After he quitted the PCRM and took over the leadership of the Socialist Party, Igor Dodon enjoys traveling and resting in exotic countries, the costs of which far exceed his monthly income. His family moves into a new house. The deputy said publicly that his family is helped by his parents.

Collage: CIJM

Lupu – from communists to democrats

The former deputy and the current head of the Court of Accounts Marian Lupu flirted with several parties throughout his career. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he managed to become a member of the PCUS. In 2007, he joined the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova "through the back door", as the communist leader Vladimir Voronin said. In the March 2008 congress, he was promoted to the Central Committee of the PCRM, which, according to Voronin, "for a person who has less than a year in the party, these things represent a substantial advancement in the party hierarchy." In 2008, the president of the Legislative Marian Lupu was expelled from the commission for European integration and from the Supreme Security Council. This is despite the fact that he was the Europeans' favorite partner for dialogue and he could replace the president Voronin, who was serving his last year as president. The rupture of the PCRM and the transition to PD happened in June 2009.

He hesitated when he left the PCRM. On June 2, Lupu hinted in an interview with Radio Free Europe that he intended to leave the Communist Party, but soon denied it and then he announced his departure from the PCRM a week later. Later, he was elected president of the Democratic Party, and a month later, Marian Lupu was the head of the PDM list in the early parliamentary election campaign. Then the PD joined the Parliament with 13 seats, after the Democrats did not pass the electoral threshold in the April elections of the same year. Marian Lupu was the first in the list of democrats and in the parliamentary elections of 2010 and 2014, in which PD had 15 and 17 seats of deputy, respectively.

From PLDM to PPEM

The top party switcher in the previous legislative is Iurie Leanca. He joined the Parliament on the PLDM lists but decided to leave the faction after he failed to get a term as prime minister. Shortly, he launched a new political project - the European People's Party of Moldova (PPEM), which also attracted the deputy Eugen Carpov. Subsequently, several Liberal Democrats announced their "divorce" from the party that promoted them in Parliament. In April 2017, a new parliamentary platform appears in the Legislative, with the name “Popular-European”,  that included  defecting deputies from PLDM, headed by Valeriu Ghilețchi. These are Eugen Carpov, Mihaela Spătaru, Iurie Leancă, Aliona Goța, Gheorghe Mocanu, Octavian Grama, Simion Grișciuc, Eugen Bodarev and Ștefan Creangă.

Escape from PCRM to PD and the vote for the Filip Government

The 14 deputies made the announcement in a press conference. Photo: Moldpres

Late in 2015, a group of 14 deputies left the PCRM, and announced that they do not longer want to play the games of the party that brought them to the Parliament. In addition to Violeta Ivanov and Vladimir Vitiuc, other MPs Artur Resetnicov, Anatolie Zagorodnii, Igor Vremea, Galina Balmoş, Anatolie Gorilă, Sergiu Stati, Boris Golovin, Corneliu Mihalache, Victor Mîndru, Alexandr Bannicov, Petru Porcescu and Elena Gudumac left the communists. The defectors established the Social-Democratic Platform "For Moldova", and had their first official meeting with Vlad Plahotniuc, who returned to politics at the time to become the PD’s candidate for prime minister. All 14 deputies voted for the inauguration of the Filip Government, at the beginning of 2016, and in March 2017, they officially joined the PDM. Of all the 14, only Igor Vremea continued his political career "in the heart" of the Democratic Party, which is part of the current legislative.

Igor Vremea participated in the elections of April 5, 2009; he was Nb. 27 on the list. In the election of July 2009, he was already Nb. 21, and in the elections of 2010 – Nb. 45. In the electoral campaign from November 2014, he was on list with Nb. 14. He was adviser to the President of the Republic of Moldova on legal issues during the communist government. In the Legislative, he served as deputy-chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Appointments and Immunities, and then chairman of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Public Order. For several months he was a member of the Central Electoral Commission.

Boris Golovin joined the Parliament after the 2014 elections, he was Deputy Minister of Health in the Greceanii Government and municipal councilor. In the Chisinau Municipal Council, Boris Golovin was president of the PCRM faction. Golovin was targeted by the law enforcement several times. In May 2010, the National Anticorruption Center opened a criminal case against him. The official was suspected that, while he served as Deputy Minister of Health, he authorized the fraudulent purchase of eight digital radio diagnostic facilities for healthcare institutions in Moldova. Anticorruption officers found that the devices did not meet the parameters included in the documents by which the transaction was completed. Thus, the damage brought to the budget, announced then by the law enforcement officers, would have been 35 million lei. The case opened against the decision makers from the Health Ministry did not bring results. Initially, Boris Golovin escaped charges. Subsequently, according to an informative note of the National Anticorruption Center, on November 30, 2011, the prosecutor ruled "suspension of the criminal investigation period on the case, due to failure to identify the person who can be charged." Legal experts claim that such reasons for suspending the criminal investigation can be invoked if the person suspected of committing the crime died.

While he served as municipal councilor, Boris Golovin was harshly criticized and accused of orchestrating the hospital reform in Chisinau and would pursue personal interests in merging hospitals in Chisinau. His faction voted several times for decisions in conflict of interest. Late in 2015, Boris Golovin was selected following a competition with a single competitor organized by the Ministry of Health for the position of director at the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine National Center. The set up in July 2015 of the new institution as part of the reform of the Moldovan Emergency Service was criticized by independent experts in healthcare policy.

Boris Golovin said in 2015 that he owns three plots of land, an apartment in Chisinau, a garage and a villa in Rezina, a car and two other cars on loan. In the bank accounts, Golovin kept 178 thousand lei. His property increased in the following years. In the statement for 2017 (the statement on property for 2016 is missing from the ANI portal), the former deputy indicates that in 2016 he leased a new Hyundai Santa Fe car worth 38,300 euros. In the bank accounts he kept 93,000 euros and 697,000 lei, amounts that were not previously reported in the official’s statements on property.

The block in which the deputy Sergiu Stati owns an apartment.
Photo: Ziarul Național

The PhD and former ambassador Sergiu Stati has been a deputy on the lists of the Communist Party since 2010, as well as deputy-chairman of the Foreign Policy and European Integration Commission. Previously, he was a deputy in the 2005-2009 Legislative, as well as an exponent of the PCRM, and in 2008, Vladimir Voronin, then president of Moldova, hired him as political adviser. In 2006-2008, he served as ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to Ukraine, and from May to November 2009 he was ambassador to Turkey. From 2005 to 2007, he was a member of the Delegation of the Republic of Moldova to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

On May 30, 2013, during the parliamentary session for the election of the President of the Legislature, Stati was the PCRM faction’s candidate, while the Democratic Party faction had proposed Igor Corman. In 2010, Sergiu Stati was a candidate for deputy and was confident that he will remain in the PCRM team. "I have a very clear position. I was and will remain in the team of the Communist Party, which is an extraordinary team ", said the deputy.

Over the years, Stati has included in his statements on property only a 50-square-meter apartment in Chisinau, bought in 1997. In fact, Stati has repeatedly been described by the media as the poorest MP. In 2015, the deputy leased a brand-new Skoda car, which he bought in 2018. A year later, under the statement on property, Stati owned an apartment of 105.8 square meters.

Anatolie Gorila first participated in the parliamentary elections on the PCRM list in the April 5, 2009 election. He was Nb. 42 on the list. At that time, he was a district councilor in Cahul, after he had served as deputy director of the Border Guard Service. In the elections of July 2009, he was Nb. 53 on the list, in the 2010 early elections he was Nb. 25 on the list and in 2014, he was Nb. 17 on the electoral list of the PCRM. Gorilla was one of the deputies who, officially, became rich once he got the mandate of deputy. He bought a villa, an apartment and two cars. After he joined the PD in 2017, Gorila completed his car collection with a Land Rover Defender.

Artur Resetnicov has always been one of the people close to the PCRM leader, Vladimir Voronin. In November 2007, with the vote of the Communist and Christian Democrat deputies, Artur Resetnicov was appointed director of the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) for a period of five years. Like other colleagues, he was blacklisted as a deputy by the ICPC civic initiative. "In 2010, the SIS management issued a press release according to which, during the activity of the former director of SIS, Artur Resetnicov ruled to destroy a large part of the operative information about the events of April 7, 2009, which does not allow a thorough evaluation of SIS activity during events. The missing documents made it impossible to find out the full truth about the culprits for the serious human rights violations committed during the violent events of April 2009", reads the note of ICPC.

Resetnicov joined the Legislative in 2010, he was a member of the National Security, Defense and Public Order Commission. He was faithful to the PCRM for many years, and then in December 2015 Artur Resetnicov along with 13 other deputies quitted the party. He announced that he does not want to play the games of the party that brought him to Parliament. In mid-December 2018, Resetnicov was appointed by the Government as judge of the Constitutional Court. In June 2019, the CC issued several decisions, described by the Venice Commission as "unprecedented". The Constitutional Court ruled, on the evening of June 7, that the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova of the 10th legislative should complete the formation of the Government by June 7, 2019, inclusively. As a result, the head of state, Igor Dodon, was obliged to dissolve the Parliament, 90 days after the date of the validation of the parliamentary elections. Subsequently, the CC temporarily suspended Dodon from the post of president, after his refusal to dissolve the Parliament, and the PM Pavel Filip was appointed interim president to replace him. The Venice Commission ruled these decisions of the CC unconstitutional. Late in June 2019, together with his colleagues, Artur Resetnicov resigned from the position of constitutional judge.

Anatolie Zagorodny has a compromised image. In the 2009 and 2010 parliamentary elections, the deputy's name appeared in the list of candidates with integrity issues, made public by the Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament (ICPC), which also included the Center for Investigative Journalism. Zagorodnii was blacklisted for using his position of office for personal and party interest. "Although he was allocated two lots for construction by the state, he obtained a very large living space in a dormitory for budget-paid employees who lack accommodation. He favored close relatives to gain benefits. During the 2007 local elections, he asked the local public authorities to grant material aid from the Reserve Fund to people who actually were not disadvantaged ", ICPC stated.

Galina Balmoș was elected deputy on the PCRM lists in 2005. She is a former Romanian language teacher at a lyceum in Straseni. In the period 2007-2009, she served as Minister of Social Protection, Family and Child, in the cabinets of Vasile Tarlev 2 and Zinaida Greceanii.

Victor Mîndru's political rise started in 2001 when PCRM came to power. As he advances in the political field, Victor Mîndru serves several important public positions. In 2001 he was appointed first deputy chairman of the National House of Social Insurance, and in 2003 he was elected head of the Chisinau Territorial Office of the State Chancellery, a position he held for two years. In the 2005 parliamentary elections he was included with the Nb. 42 on the PCRM list, but he served his mandate only for a few months, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection. In 2009, Victor Mîndru was elected again PCRM’s deputy. In the same year, President Vladimir Voronin awarded him the order "Gloria Muncii". In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Victor Mîndru is Nb. 12 on the PCRM list. As a deputy, Mîndru is a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Food Industry and a member of the Delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee.

The house where the deputy Alexandr Bannicov lives. Photo: CIJM

Alexandr Bannicov served as deputy from 2010 to 2019. Previously, during the Tarlev and Grecianii Government, he was the director of the Privatization Department, but also the director of the Land and Cadastre Agency. Several years ago, the Court of Auditors found that in the period 2004-2006, the institution headed by Bannicov did not carry out adequate control over ensuring the integrity of public assets. On November 24, 2006 the property under management amounted to 20.5 million lei, while on July 2, 2007 its value decreased to 10.8 million lei. In 2007, Alexandr Bannicov was also criticized by Vasile Tarlev that he failed to develop an effective system of central control of land use, including agricultural land, with all forms of ownership. For these reasons, the MP was blacklisted in 2010 by the Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament, which also includes the Center for Investigative Journalism. Bannicov did not change his financial situation with the vote of the Filip government or with the accession to the PD as he was already a millionaire at that time. His gesture seems to be motivated by the fact that a criminal case was filed against his son. In June 2014, the 27-year-old man, together with another man, were detained by the employees of the “Fulger” Special Purpose Brigade and prosecutors, being suspected of trafficking in narcotics.

Petru Porcescu was elected deputy after he participated with Nb. 13 on the PCRM list in the November 2014 parliamentary elections. In fact, Porcescu also ran for deputy in 2009 and then in 2010, was with Nb. 44 on the PCRM electoral list. Then, Porcescu resigned as deputy in favor of the position of deputy chairman of Straseni district.

The most controversial information about Porcescu's activity dates the period when he served as general director of Tobacco-CTC starting with March 2002. Although he was in charge of the Complex for less than a year, Petru Porcescu built a house in Straseni town. Jurnal de Chisinau wrote that his subordinates also worked on the construction of the house. During this period, Porcescu raised a salary of about 52,000 lei. This was the reason for which Petru Porcescu was targeted in a report of the Court of Accounts, because he would have received an unfounded increased salary, contrary to the Regulation on the remuneration of the heads of state enterprises. Porcescu was removed from the leadership of Tutun-CTC on February 10, 2003, on the grounds that the company had huge losses. But just ten days after his dismissal, Petru Porcescu gave a big party on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, and the head of the trade unions from Tutun-CTC handed him the keys to a three-room apartment in Chisinau. This is in the conditions when the shareholders of the complex did not receive their dividends, and the workers did not get their salaries.

Corneliu Mihalache was the editor of the journal "Puls"- the media outlet of the Communist Youth Union of Moldova. From this position, in 2006, at only 34 years old, Mihalache makes a spectacular leap - he is elected president of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council, with the vote of six of the nine members of the BCC. The media wrote then that Mihalache had to give up his PCRM membership. Less than a year later, he was fired as he was accused by his colleagues of keeping secret official information from them and of making political statements in favor of the PCRM. He remained a member of the BCC until November 2012. Corneliu Mihalache was elected deputy in the November 2014 elections after he had served as editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Nezavisimaia Moldova". Elena Gudumac joined the Parliament after, in February 2015, Ion Tomai gave up his mandate and served as president of Ocnita district.

Vladimir Voronin: "5 million euros for 14 MPs"

PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin has repeatedly stated publicly that the 14 defecting deputies would have been paid hard money. Some deputies, including Elena Bodnarenco said that they would be offered money to join PDM. The media wrote about sums between 300 thousand and 500 thousand, which some deputies would have received in order to migrate to PDM. Voronin's statements in a show in February 2020, come to confirm these amounts.

"Five million euros for everyone and every month they received money in envelopes. Some received more and others less. Those from the organizing group received more. A few days later Sergiu Stati bought his Jeep, and after a while Galina Balmos bought and apartment and a car. CNA needs to verify what properties these traitors bought after they left our faction. Now, some of them sit in the Parliament and keep a straight face ", said Vladimir Voronin.

Collapse of the PLDM faction and the "golden" votes for the Filip Government

The parliamentary majority, ready to vote, in January 2016, for Democrat Pavel Filip as prime minister, would not have been created without seven Liberal Democrats and three unaffiliated deputies. Apparently, under the pressure of the protest, some withdrew their signatures when the PD insisted on the candidacy of Vlad Plahotniuc, but changed their minds when Pavel Filip was proposed to the head of the Executive. After they voted for the Democrat, some of the Liberal Democrats joined the Democratic Party faction and others-that of the PPEM faction.

The house built by Nae-Simion Pleşca. Photo: ZdG

Nae-Simion Plesca was on the electoral list of PNL in 2001 and then he was a candidate on the PLDM lists in 2009. In the 2010 election, the politician was Nb. 27 and in the parliamentary elections in November 2014 he was Nb. 28 in the PLDM list. He got the mandate of deputy in July 2015 after Anatolie Dimitriu, his party colleague, was elected president of Ialoveni district and resigned from the position of MP. Since he joined the Legislative, Nae-Simion Plesca has doubled his number of properties. Half of the properties owned by the Plesca family were purchased in 2012. A year later, the deputy was targeted by the National Integrity Commission, which filed a complaint regarding a possible violation of the declaration of assets for 2012. According to CNI, Plesca bought four buildings and a plot of land amounted at 1.3 million lei, given that the total income of his family did not exceed the amount of 300,000 lei. Moreover, CNI revealed that the MP did not declare 11 bank accounts: current, card, deposit, but also three cars. In December 2013, CNI closed the case which targeted Nae-Simion Plesca. After he quitted the PLDM faction, Nae-Simion Plesca was "adopted" by the Democratic Party.

Mihaela Spatari started her political career at the age of 18, when she became a member of PLDM, and later she was elected deputy-chairperson of the party's youth organization. In just one year, Mihaela Spatari was included in the list of PLDM candidates for the 2009 parliamentary elections, although on a more distant position and does not join the Legislative. She is running on the PLDM list in the 2010 elections. In the November 2014 parliamentary elections, Mihaela Spatari is included in the PLDM lists with Nb. 20 and she is elected deputy at the age of 25.  

Gheorghe Mocanu joined the PLDM right from the setup of the party and a few months later he was elected president of the Party's Youth Organization. In 2010, he was elected deputy, he was Nb. 20 in the list of Liberal Democrats. He was a member of the PLDM’s Standing Bureau and member of the Committee on Economy, Budget and Finance of the Legislative. In the electoral campaign for the November 2014 parliamentary elections, Mocanu donated 80,000 lei. According to the statement on income, in 2014 the MP earned over 250,000 lei from the activity of deputy, allowances and deposits at financial institutions. He has two bank accounts in lei and has not declared any plots or buildings, except for an administrative office with an area of 27.7 square meters in Ialoveni which he bought in 2008.

Aliona Gota in 2000 gave up her teaching career and became a secretary of the Council of Cucoara commune in Cahul district. Moreover, she was active in the associative sector. Three years later, Aliona Gota graduated from the Academy of Public Administration of the President of the Republic of Moldova. In 2007 she won the local elections and became mayor of Cucoara commune, a position she served until February 2015, when she became a deputy. In the November 2014 parliamentary elections in Moldova, Aliona Gota was Nb. 24 in the list of PLDM candidates and initially failed to join Parliament. In February 2015, she replaced Grigore Belostecinic, the rector of ASEM as he resigned. In April 2015, Aliona Gota was appointed secretary of the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights and Interethnic Relations. Over the years, Aliona Gota reported modest property, but in 2018 the deputy became the owner of a Hyundai Accent car for which she paid 6,700 euros. In the same year, she crashed the car, after which she received compensation in the amount of 41,000 lei and sold the wreckage of the car for 5,000 euros.

Stefan Creanga joined the Parliament after he had served as Deputy Minister of Finance for almost a year. The politician was director general of the Public Procurement Agency for 4 years. From 2006-2008, Ştefan Creanga was a lawyer and advisor to the general manager of SA Ipteh, a company that owns a building in the center of Chisinau. In February 2014, Stefan Creanga announced his resignation from the position of member of the Central Electoral Commission, and a month later PLDM appointed him head of the party's electoral staff.

Nicolae Juravschi became a deputy on the PLDM lists in 2011. Late in July 2015, Juravschi announced that he was leaving the PLDM, in the process of negotiations for the creation of a new governing alliance, and joined the European People's Party of Moldova, led by Iurie Leanca. The Liberal Democrats described his gesture as an act of political betrayal. After he voted for the Filip Government, Juravschi joined the PD faction. In February 2014, the General Prosecutor's Office opened a case against the MP, based on a finding of the National Integrity Commission (CNI), issued two months earlier. CNI found that Nicolae Juravschi did not report in the 2012 statement on property that he owns a BMW X5 car, several plots of land and shares in three companies. A few months after the case was started, the prosecutors closed the case because there were no elements of a crime.

Petru Stirbate has been a member of the PLDM lists since 2010. In September 2015, the politician left the Liberal-Democrat faction on the grounds that the party "is not ready to leave its ongoing vicious circle." On the other hand, the PLDM hinted that behind this departure was a scenario of collapse of the party and of the pro-European governing coalition. After he announced that he quitted PLDM, MP Stirbate was criticized by the Liberal Democrat MP Maria Ciobanu. Quoted by Ziarul National, she said that her former colleague “is corrupt to the core, built a castle house in Orhei Park and hired all his relatives in public office.” After he voted for the Filip government, he joined the PD faction. After he migrated to another the party, Petru Știrbate expanded his property, and in 2016 he owned a new Suzuki Vitara car, for which he paid 13,600 euros. A year later, he bought a plot of 11 acres and an apartment of 50 square meters in Romania.

Ion Balan changed several parties during his political career. By profession he is an agronomist and manager in public administration. In the 2001 parliamentary elections he was a candidate on the Democratic Party lists. He has been part of the PLDM team starting with 2007 and he was elected MP in 2009. After he left the PLDM, he joined the Democratic Party faction.

Lidia Lupu is a former communist who migrated to the socialist party after the PCRM joined the opposition. In July 2015, the deputy left the PSRM faction, although the party's leaders announced shortly that they would exclude her from the party because she voted for a Democrat as president of Hancesti district. Lidia Lupu then hinted that she would like to join the PD faction, which happened in March 2016. In the parliamentary elections of April 2009, she was Nb. 33 in the list of the Communists’ candidates for deputy, and in the July 2009 election she was Nb. 65. In the early elections of November 2010, Lidia Lupu is not in the PCRM list. During the period when the communists were at power, she was president of Hancesti district for several years.

In 2003, when she was prefect of Lapusna county, Vladimir Voronin, then head of state, decorated Lidia Lupu with the Medal Civic Merit "for fruitful activity in public administration, contribution to promoting socio-economic changes and active public and organizational activity”. Although Vladimir Voronin praised her, the employees of the Court of Accounts criticized her, Lupu was targeted in several reports. The representatives of the institution found that Lidia Lupu, first as prefect of Lapusna county, and then president of Hancesti district, admitted violations in public budget management, granting preferential loans and agricultural land. According to the documents, during the 2007 local elections, she distributed aid from the reserve fund to people who were not disadvantaged. Also, in 2007, she admitted incompatibility of duties for half a year. While she served a district councilor, she was head of the Hancesti Territorial Administrative Control Directorate. In the 2009 elections, the former communist was in the list of candidates who did not meet the integrity criteria, drawn up within the Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament.

Lidia Lupu was targeted by the reporters of the Center for Investigative Journalism after in 2006 she assigned to the communist deputy Anatolie Zagorodnii a place in the dormitory of the Hancesti District Council. According to the authors, she made a European-style house with four rooms and all amenities with an area of about 100 square meters. "At least two or three families out of the 70 young specialists could have lived in this space, as they seek at least one room from the District Council, because they spend their salary for rent", wrote the journalists.

PD split and set up of the “Pro Moldova” parliamentary group

Andrian Candu announces the split of PDM

In February, six Democratic deputies, including Andrian Candu, Sergiu Sirbu, Vladimir Cebotari, Eleonora Graur, Corneliu Padnevici and Grigore Repesciuc said that they were leaving the Democratic Party of Moldova and they set up a new parliamentary group - Pro Moldova. "Civilized divorce in the PDM team", as Andrian Candu described the decision to leave the party, was determined by the actions of the party's leadership, which would like a coalition with the Socialists, in the absence of consultations with the right-wing parties. The former President of the Parliament pointed out that several members of the PDM do not agree with the decisions taken by the party's leadership but they would have been blackmailed. In the following months, one by one, the deputies Gheorghe Brașovschi, Vasile Bîtca and Ghenadie Verdeș, Elena Bacalu, Oleg Sîrbu, Efrosinia Grețu and Ruxanda Glavan announced that they were leaving the PD factions and joined the new parliamentary group.

On October 23, together with Sergiu Sîrbu, three other members of the Pro Moldova faction left the party. These are Ruxanda Glavan, Eleonora Graur and Grigore Repeșciuc. A week later, Corneliu Padnevici also announced his departure. All five announced that they would remain politically unaffiliated, but did not ground their decisions.

Scandal involving Ștefan Gațcan's attempt to leave PSRM

In late June, Ștefan Gațcan who gained three months earlier the mandate of deputy in the uninominal constituency of Hancesti on the PSRM lists, announced that he was leaving the faction that brought him to Parliament and joined the Pro Moldova parliamentary group. The socialists reacted immediately. In a press conference, the deputies Batrincea and Furculita declared that the Parliament is to be dissolved, and the General Prosecutor's Office will be notified regarding deputies’ bribing.

The next day, Stefan Gatcan changed his mind. He decided to give up the mandate of deputy. This was not announced by Stefan Gatcan himself, but by the socialist Corneliu Furculita, on his behalf. Subsequently, it was rumored that the deputy Stefan Gatcan had been kidnapped and blackmailed, was threatened with criminal cases, to give up the deputy's mandate after he announced that he was leaving the PSRM faction. The deputy signed a complaint to the General Prosecutor's Office and described the pressures he was subjected to. Moreover, the deputies from the Pro Moldova political party claim that Gatcan was detained by his former colleagues from the Socialist Party while walking in the Parliament’s halls.

He was allegedly isolated in an office in Parliament by the Socialists Grigore Novac and Nicolae Pascaru, who threatened him with a fight and forced him to sign the declaration of resignation of the office of MP. The General Prosecutor's Office confirmed the receipt of the complaint signed by Gatcan, as well as the initiation of a criminal trial based on the complaint filed. On the same day, Gatcan posted on his Facebook page a video message from a vineyard, in which he announces that he was OK and that he needs a rehabilitation period. Subsequently, the Border Police confirmed that Stefan Gatcan left Moldova. A week later, Stefan Gatcan announced in a new video, that he was withdrawing his request from the General Prosecutor's Office regarding the alleged intimidation from the socialist deputies in order to determine him to give up the mandate of deputy.

Statements about deputies’ bribing

Early in 2016, Communist MP Elena Bodnarenco and Liberal Democrat Maria Ciobanu publicly stated that several lawmakers had been offered huge sums of money or other benefits in exchange for voting for the Democratic candidate for prime minister. The communist MP said in an interview for the regional newspaper "Observatorul de Nord", that the 14 MPs who left the PCRM faction and set up the Social-Democratic Platform "Pentru Moldova" received money or were blackmailed with criminal cases. At the same time, Elena Bodnarenco admitted that she was also offered money or positions to leave the Communist Party faction. Liberal Democrat Maria Ciobanu also hinted that several of her colleagues in the PLDM faction, who voted for the Filip government, were promised benefits. Summoned by CNA, the two deputies refused to give statements as they do not trust the judiciary.

A single trial ended in acquittal 

In spite of many accusations in the media regarding the deputies’ bribing, the law enforcement bodies have started a single case, which, in June 2020, ended in the acquittal of the defendants. In March 2014, a former police officer and a model were detained by law enforcement, who were to send $ 250,000 to a deputy to leave the faction he was member of. In July 2017, the former police officer Vitalie Burlacu was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and the model Irina Baglai - to eight years in prison. A year later, the Chisinau Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the court of first instance, and in August 2019 the case was resumed from the beginning. The magistrates from the SCJ ordered the retrial of the case by the same appellate court, but in a different court panel. During all this time, the name of the deputy who was to receive the money was not made public, as well as the names of those who orchestrated the corruption process. On June 12, 2020, former police officer Vitalie Burlacu and model Irina Baglai were acquitted.

The court ordered the cessation of the criminal investigation on the grounds that new circumstances have arisen that exclude the criminal investigation in this case. By the same decision, the Chisinau Court of Appeal ordered the return of 250 thousand dollars, money raised during the searches, and 500 thousand euros, money taken from a safe rented by Irina Baglai to a subsidiary of the commercial bank Energbank.

Statement on condemning the party switching, voted unanimously

This June, the faction of the Democratic Party of Moldova, which in the previous legislative expanded its membership twice due to the phenomenon of party switching, proposed the adoption of a Declaration on condemning the acts of party switching and political corruption. It happens after the party lost half of the deputies. The initiative of the Democrats was supported almost unanimously, including by the deputies who switched from one party to another. The text of the document mentions that party switching has a direct impact both on the ethical and moral foundations of society and vitiates to the disfigurement of the political system and political processes in the country.

Precedents: How PPCD deputies voted for Voronin in 2005

The story of setting up alliances with private interests has precedents. In February 2015, the team of the Center for Investigative Journalism published an investigation into how a group of 48 deputies from the Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), led by Iurie Rosca, and the Communist Party obtained apartments at a preferential price, much lower than the market price, in a block on Petru Movila str., right in the heart of Chisinau. It happened in February 2005, around the March 6 parliamentary elections. In the elections, only three electoral contestants exceeded the electoral threshold - the Communist Party (45.98% of votes, 56 seats), the "Democratic Moldova" Bloc (28.53% of votes, 34 seats) and the Christian Democratic People's Party (9.07% of votes, 11 seats).

The informal alliance with half-price apartments in the center of Chisinau was confirmed a month later.

Lilia Ionita, anti-corruption expert at the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption

On April 4, 2005, the procedure for electing the head of state took place in the Parliament. At that time, the president of the country was elected by the vote of the deputies from the Legislative. The deputies were to choose by secret ballot between two candidates - Vladimir Voronin, acting president, and Gheorghe Duca, president of the Academy of Sciences. The voting procedure was accompanied by a big surprise. All 11 PPCD deputies voted for Vladimir Voronin (!), which was completely unexpected and unacceptable for that moment. In the end, Vladimir Voronin was elected with the vote of 56 deputies of the PCRM faction, eight deputies of the PDM faction, 11 deputies of the PPCD faction, as well as three deputies of the PSL. Even after the start of the voting procedure, it was not known that the PPCD faction and the PSL parliamentary group would participate in the voting together with the PCRM and PDM factions. 18 AMN deputies did not participate in the vote, and another five AMN deputies were absent. Consequently, out of the 78 deputies who participated in the election of the head of state, 75 voted for Vladimir Voronin. Voronin's opponent Gheorghe Duca got only one vote, and two ballot papers were declared invalid. Thus, Vladimir Voronin was re-elected as head of state.

Expert: "The issue of 'migration for a fee' from one parliamentary faction to another, in order to create comfortable parliamentary majorities, raises big questions in terms of political integrity"

In the opinion of Lilia Ionita, anti-corruption expert at the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, the normative framework did not anticipate that once businessmen join the Parliament, the phenomenon of party switching “will flourish”, so there are not set interdictions for  party switching.

"Political party switching manifested itself strongly after the 2000s, when the political system was accessed by business people. They "nonchalantly" replicated less honest business rules and schemes (raider attacks, business takeovers) in the political system. It is already well known that seasonal and conjunctural migration of deputies have become more frequent or even became a rule when businessmen  take a stand in politics.

The normative framework did not anticipate and, respectively, did not regulate prohibitions for the "movements" of deputies in Parliament from one faction to another, they benefit from constitutional guarantees, according to which "in the exercise of the mandate, deputies are in the service of the people and any imperative mandate is null ". In terms of constitutional approaches, such "movements" are not reprehensible, or it is assumed that deputies act on people’s behalf. However, the issue of political migration "for a fee" from one parliamentary faction to another, in order to form comfortable parliamentary majorities, raises big questions in terms of respecting the rigors of integrity, especially political integrity.

Some of the information in the media regarding the exorbitant amounts paid to the deputies for the transfer from one club of interests to another served as the basis for starting criminal cases. Despite concrete notifications, hearings, evidence collection, etc. no criminal proceedings have been completed, the guilty persons have not been identified and have not been sanctioned, respectively. Some of the persons who notified the prosecutor's office said that they had and presented to the prosecutors, conclusive evidence regarding the "purchase" of the deputies (for example the well-known case of the incumbent deputy Gațcan), but we do not know the follow-up.

Even if the prosecutor's office "does not engage in political games" and does not need to do so, it is important that the prosecution effectively investigates all cases of "buying" deputies, or these actions are classic crimes of corruption. In the absence of effective investigation and tolerance of bad practices in the legislative, confidence in both institutions - Parliament and the prosecutor's office - drops dramatically. Such a state of affairs is sad, because the deputies are the ones who establish rules and send messages to the whole society, that will obviously reject and will not comply with the rules coming from compromised people ", said Lilia Ionita.

The investigation was carried during the media campaign "Raising awareness about corruption in public procurement", conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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