Integrity

President’s advisers: property, interests and tarnished past

Author: Victoria Dodon
28/12/2016 20091

A few days after Igor Dodon was sworn-in as president on December 26, he  presented his team of advisors elected for a four-year term. Most of them were part of communist government and some of them  backed the Socialist Party in Moldova (PSRM) led by Igor Dodon, either by active involvement in the activities of the party or generous donations during election campaigns in recent years.

Ion Ceban, one of the most generous donors in the presidential elections

Photo: CIJM

Ion Ceban, 36, is the new spokesman of the president of the state and adviser on political affairs. As of July 2015, he is leader of the socialist faction in Chisinau Municipal Council (CMC) and yet he does not quit the office of municipal councilor. "I will continue to serve both offices. According to lawyers, there is no incompatibility between the two jobs", said the Socialist MP for Anticoruptie.md.  Also, Ceban has worked as adviser of the Socialist faction in the Legislative and then renounced on it when he joined the presidential team. In 2007-2008, Dodon's party colleague served as Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, then he  was MP between 2011-2015. Known in the past as one of the leaders of the Communist Party, Ceban left the party in 2012, together with Igor Dodon and became member of PSRM.  

In 2015, the socialist received income worth  132.327  lei from his activity of adviser in the Legislative  and benefits worth 67.788  lei.  His wife gained 138.612 lei from benefits, writes the statement on property. In his first year as MP, Ion Ceban  did not declare property other that his salary. Meanwhile, the politician bought a plot with a surface of 0,059 hectares in 2012 and a car Toyota Prius, made in 2005  and bought in 2012 against  the sum of 68.000 lei. Also, Ceban is in the top of the officials, who do not own any housing.

In the presidential elections from current year, Ion Ceban together with his mother, Eugenia Ceban donated 108.000 lei to candidate Igor Doodn. Of this money, 58,000 lei were donated by Eugenia Ceban, who is also member of the faction of PSRM in CMC. The amount represents almost half of revenues which were declared in 2015.  Both of them have contributed to establishing the electoral fund of PSRM and to 2014 parliamentary elections. Ion Ceban made a donation of 90,000 lei, and his mother -  86.700 lei. Reporters of Center for Investigative Journalism revealed the donors of the socialist candidate in an investigation.

Vasile Sova, involved in financial irregularities when he served Foreign Deputy Minister

Former MP Vasile Sova, 57, returns to the field of reintegration. He has worked for 7 years and has the longest term  of minister during the communist leadership. He served minister of Reintegration in the period 2002-2009 in the Government Tarlev and Cabinet of Zinaida Greceanii. Later, in 2009, he was elected MP of the faction of Communist Party in the Republic of Moldova. He was re-elected in 2010 early elections and kept his mandate until 2014, when he did not accede to the Legislative.  The politician served as deputy minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-1998) and Moldovan ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (1998-2002) until communists came to power.

Photo: jurnaltv.md

The official was registered with the number 14 on the lists of PCRM in the race for early parliamentary elections from 28 November 2010 and he  figured in the so-called "black list"  of Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament, in which a group of journalists presented more compromised candidates or candidates with integrity problems.

Journalists reminded of a report of the Court of Auditors which found that  in 1996-1998,  when Sova served  as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was involved in  issuing illegal diplomatic passports. The auditors claimed that out of a number of 635 diplomatic passports that were to be withdrawn from people who have lost the right to use them, 420 acts have not been withdrawn. Also, the  Court  found that Sova, along with other responsible persons, admitted a series of violations in the activity of the central apparatus of the Foreign Ministry and the Moldovan diplomatic missions abroad. In particular, it was about poor management of public finances, unjustified expenditures, procurement of equipment which has not been used and lack of response to prevent the admission of abuses.

In his last statement on property for 2013, when he was MP, he declared 8 plots, a three-room flat and a villa with a surface of 40 square meters in village Crasnoarmeiscoe, district Hancesti, that was inherited by his wife from her parents. Vasile Sova speaks Russian and Ukrainian fluently, but he does not know Romanian.

Andrei Neguta admitted irregularities in Paris and Moscow, when he served ambassador

Photo: politics.md

The new presidential adviser on foreign policy has a diplomatic career  dating back from the communist period. He was Moldovan Ambassador to France and Spain in 2003-2006, and Moldovan Ambassador to the Russian Federation between 2009 and 2012. In 2010, Mihai Ghimpu, then acting president proposed to recall Neguta on the grounds that he was loyal to the Communist Party and not to country's interests. The ambassador was recalled from office two years later, in April 2012, after he said in an interview that the withdrawal in advance of Russian troops from Transnistria "would endanger both Moldova and the whole region".

Neguta was targeted in a report by the Court of Auditors in 2007, according to which, during his tenure as Moldovan ambassador in France, he committed several violations related to money management. Thus, about eight thousand lei were used for private travel of a family member of the ex-ambassador to Madrid and Barcelona, for personal phone calls of the chief administrator of the embassy, for gifts and household items. The Ambassador also withdrew from the bank chief accountant's signature in order to raise money unconditionally. In total, over the last year in office, the Embassy would have managed fraudulently 375,000 lei.

Also, irregularities were registered during the  diplomatic mission in Moscow. In 2012, the Court of Accounts has found serious violations at the Moldova’s Embassy in the Russian Federation. Besides mismanagement of financial resources, four paintings  from the National Heritage disappeared from the inventory of the Embassy. .A year later, in 2013, journalists have revealed the case with the luxury cars with diplomatic matriculation numbers attributed to the Embassy of the Republic of Moldova  in the Russian Federation. It  is about 60 cars, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes or Škoda attributed to the Embassy, ​​the total price of which is millions of euros. Reporters wrote that among those who used the  cars, was businessman Ilan Shor, and his wife, singer Jasmin. Some diplomatic plates had been allocated to businessmen in exchange for $ 30,000, while others - in exchange for favors. Diplomatic matriculation numbers were issued during the term of Ambassador Andrei Neguta.

Andrei Neguta presenting his credentials to Dmitry Medvedev (May, 2009) Photo: kremlin.ru

Moldovan prosecutors have opened a criminal case for abuse of power or ultra vires, but the case was not settled. Last fall, the police said that they sent to the Russian police an interpellation by which they requested to be informed about the persons who requested diplomatic plates. Russian authorities have refused to grant legal aid to colleagues in Moldova. More than a year since then, the case beats the time.

"We did not receive any reply from the rogatory commission and other actions in the last few months have not happened. Sometimes, it is difficult to work with the Russian Federation, we cannot further investigate the case because we do not have a reply from them”, said Viorel Morari, head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office.

When Neguta was recalled, he was appointed adviser at the Moldovan Metropolitan Church, in charge with  relations with the diplomatic missions accredited in Russia and CIS countries. Metropolitan Vladimir  gave him the order "Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky" for "efforts in his tenure of  diplomat and for supporting different activities of the Church." On the other hand, the diplomat was Communist Party member until September 2014, and a month later, in parliamentary elections from November 30, he was candidate Nb.5  on the lists of the Socialist Party in Moldova. He kept his seat of MP up to present. Also, Neguta was the opponent of Zinaida Greceanii for the seat of president of the state in the second failed attempt to elect the president in June, 2009.

In 2015, Neguta declared an income worth 188.484  lei from salary of MP and a pension worth 57.000  lei. He did not declare any plot, house or car. On the other hand, he declared many banking accounts and shares in 7 companies, of which he did not receive any income: SA Raut in Balti, SA Nord Mobila in Drochia, SA Unita and SA Zidcalten in Hancesti, SA Nord Zahar in Briceni, SA Provit in Cahul and SA Fond in the capital. In the electoral race for presidential elections, Neguta donated 74.200 lei  to candidate Igor Dodon.  

In October 2015, the MP was targeted by the National Integrity Commission, on suspicion that he missed much information in the statement of income for 2014. Specifically, he did not declare any property, though he had a residence visa in the Republic Moldova, he owned shares  and databases showed that he was founder of Hincesti Privat SRL and SA  "FOND – Administrator Fiduciar." Also, Neguta  did not present information about financial assets and any income received by his wife. Being questioned by members of the Commission, Neguta explained that the flat which he owned in Moldova was sold in 2004, while his family  settled abroad. In 2012,  he set a permanent address to receive a pension, and after returning home in 2014, couple Neguta lived in their son’s apartment. He gave explanations pertaining other uncertainties in the statement and the case was closed. 

Maxim Lebedinschi, the loyal lawyer of socialists

Photo: realitatea.md

Lawyer and representative of the Presidency in relations with Parliament and the Government, Maxim Lebedinschi, 30, is a member of the Central Election Commission, whose composition  was voted in June 2016. He has had close ties with the Socialists for years. Incidentally, in the advisory opinion on his integrity, when the Legislative voted for his membership at CEC, Intelligence and Security Service warned the MPs that Lebedinschi  is party member, which contradicts the Electoral Code. Otherwise, SIS concluded that the new member of the Committee is not facing problems of integrity.

Lebedinschi said for Anticoruptie.md portal that he would accept the new office from January 2, 2017 and he would not renounce on the seat of member of CEC. "To exclude misinterpretation of the law, we will address a request to the National Integrity Authority, that will decide on the conflict of interest between 2 offices. We will decide how to act upon reply", said the lawyer.

Maxim Lebedinschi is a licensed  lawyer since January 2010. Previously, he served as lawyer in the Cabinet of lawyers “Avornic and Partners” and  in the Bar  Association "Lebedinsky & Partners" (which he led together with his brother, socialist MP Adrian Lebedinschi).  In 2013 and 2015, he was representative of  MPs in the legislative before the Constitutional Court,  and then non-titular adviser of the  faction of PSRM. Previously, he worked with Charity Foundation "Solutia" owned by Igor Dodon. In recent years, the lawyer represented Igor Dodon in the court several times. Also, he was the representative of CEC in the case "Diaspora versus Moldova".

Lebedinschi was generous with socialists as his colleague Ion Ceban. In the parliamentary elections from 2014, he donated 188.100 lei to the faction. His brother Adrian Lebedinschi donated 74.600  lei to support candidate Dodon for the seat of president. Also, he donated to the Socialist Party 174.250  lei  in 2014 parliamentary elections and 44.000  lei  in 2015 local elections.

Popovici (front) and Perju (back) Photo: realitatea.md

Otherwise, the member of the Central Election Commission is among the persons affiliated to PSRM who loaned last year half of million lei from company Exclusiv Media SRL,  owned by the socialist MP Corneliu Furculita and owner of NTV Moldova channel.  The money is part of a transfer worth over 30 million lei that reached the accounts of Media Company from an off-shore company registered in Bahamas. The scheme, developed some months before the race for presidential elections, was revealed by journalists from RISE Moldova. Then, Lebedinschi  said to journalists that the loan had been fully repaid to Exclusiv Media SRL company.

Corneliu Popovici and Ion Perju, experts in Education and Agriculture

Corneliu Popovici, adviser on education, culture and research, is a former lecturer at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Moldova.  In the period when Vladimir Voronin was president of the country, he was deputy-director of the Academy and quitted this office in March 2008. Ion Perju  was appointed adviser on agribusiness and public administration. He quitted the  office of agribusiness expert at the World Bank under  Agribusiness  Competitiveness Enhancement project (ACED), funded by the US Government. Previously, he was Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry in Greceanii Government (2008-2009).

Foto: vedomosti.md

Elena Gorelova, economist with tough criticism to current leadership 

For now, the only lady among the presidential advisers is Elena Gorelova, doctor of economic sciences and deputy-director of the Center for Strategic Studies and Reforms, a nongovernmental organization that carries out research and develops strategies in economic policy. She occupied the seat of deputy minister of economy in the early 2000s for a short period of time. He criticized the current government repeatedly and during the electoral campaign for the presidential elections, she represented candidate Igor Dodon in some debates.

Ruslan Flocea,  from National Anti-corruption Center to general secretary of the Presidency

The new Secretary of the Presidency will quit the office from CNA. Ruslan Flocea was head of the General Territorial Division (DGTA)  Centru of the institution, starting with May 2014. Previously, he was part of Zinaida Greceanii government, current chairperson of PSRM. He  served as adviser of the prime minister in 2008-2009.

Foto: realitatea.md

As leader of DGTA Centru, Flocea had a salary worth 18.700  lei per month (224.872  lei  for 12 months of the year), and his wife had an income worth  175.603 lei, she worked for the National Social Insurance Company. Couple Flocea owns 2 houses: one with a surface of 85,4  square meters and annexes inherited in 1994 and another one- with a surface of 160,4 square meters that was obtained by donation in 2014. Also, the couple owns 5 plots, some of them for agriculture and cover a surface of over 1,6 hectares. Last year, Flocea sold the car Opel Zafira KAO against the sum of  80.000 lei,  and owns a Volkswagen Touran, 2011,  which he drives by proxy. 

This investigation was accomplished under the project „Shining a light on electoral transparency in Moldova”, carried out by the Center for Journalistic Investigations with the support of Freedom House.

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