Integrity

Shadow man

Businesses, interests and associates of Serghei Iaralov and Vlad Plahotniuc

La 13 ianuarie 2016, Serghei Iaralov (mijloc) a apărut alături de Vlad Plahotniuc, în fața mulțimii, în scuarul Teatrului de Operă și Balet. Atunci, Vlad Plahotniuc a fost prezentat drept candidatul PD la funcția de premier. Foto: Constantin Grigoriță
Author: Mariana Rață, Anastasia Nani
11/07/2016 66285

All MPs from 2009 know him by sight. He acted discreetly at almost all parliamentary meetings over the past 7 years with the participation of deputy-chairman of the Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc. However, the name of Serghei Iaralov was first mentioned in the context of the fraud from the banking system on October 15 2015, several minutes before the National Anti-corruption Center’s officers arrested Vlad Filat, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party. He revealed for the first time from the Parliament’s rostrum that Iaralov participated „in all discussions and deals” related to Banca de Economii (BEM).  The businessman was in the sitting room. Over the past 2 weeks, the name of Iaralov is very often mentioned by the press in connection with the theft of the billion from the banking system. He is accused of having been the “architect” of the theft. This supposition emerged following the resounding revelations of Mihail Gofman, former Deputy Chief of the Money Laundering Prevention Service of the National Anti-Corruption Center.

Ghost-Businessman

Little is known about Serghei Iaralov. He was official shareholder at SA Propos, a company specialized in cars and diesel sale, founded in 1993 and liquidated in April 2013. The value of shares owned by him was 3.4 million Euros. Also, Iaralov  is development manager at Boston Software Design in Boston, USA, a company that provides outsourcing services in IT. He has a luxurious house in Boston that was purchased in 2005 and is estimated at 418 thousand dollars, located on a plot of 37 acres   totaling 340 thousand dollars.

Currently, this successful businessman does not have any official company registered in his name and does not manage any business in the Republic of Moldova. "You will not find his name or his signature anywhere. He is not that kind of person. He prefers to work from the shadows, through intermediaries, reliable people", said economic analyst Visarion Cesuev. The latter has been the business partner of Serghei Iaralov in late 90s. Both of them managed together the investment fund CAIS, one of the most prosperous of the time, writes Logos Press.

Collapse of CAIS fund

Suddenly, a few years after they started collaboration, CAIS faced serious problems and was in the attention of the National Securities Commission for violations admitted by administration: acquisitions of shares at inflated prices, unjustified bank deposits. Based on some information that later was rejected by the court, Cesuev was criminally investigated and then prosecuted for violations in managing the investment fund.

The fund was liquidated on February 21, 2002, five months before Cesuev gained his cause at the court.  The judgement of the Botanica district court, by which he was acquitted; Cesuev openly declared that he was harassed at Iaralov’s order by Gleb Soroca, his reliable partner, to be removed from managing the fund. Today, Cesuev avoid talking about his former business partner, stating only that he is "a good psychologist, knows how to gain people's trust and is an expert in businesses in the banking system, though he has never opened a business.

"Bancosind" and BEM, copycat bankruptcy

Instead, Iaralov’s reliable partner,  Gleb Soroca, figured as a suspect in a criminal investigation aimed at robbing the bank "Bancosind"  that was liquidated in 1998 as a result of granting a large volume of bad loans. According to an article published in Jurnal de Chisinau in 2003, Gleb Soroca had been accused by prosecutors that while holding an important position in this bank, he contracted credits amounted at  500 thousand lei, based on false documents registered in the name of Lotus company which he owned. As bank guarantee, he presented agreements signed between the two companies on the marketing of diesel fuel. Later, prosecutors determined that the signatures on the documents were forged. The authors of the article spotted, referring to documents from the Department of Combating Corruption and Organized Crime, that the Moldova National Bank knew from the start about bad loans granted by this bank, but preferred to keep quiet.

Iaralov’s partner, in the service of Plahotniuc

Serghei Iaralov (left), together with Gleb Soroca and his wife, Eleonora, Photo: Facebook, Gleb Soroca

Gleb Soroca is a close person of Iaralov's family. On the profile pages on social networks of Soroca and Olga Iaralova, Serghei Iaralov’s wife, there are several photos in which they appear together at birthdays, holidays, vacations. Unlike Iaralov, Soroca owns companies in Moldova. Otherwise, he was manager of the society Propos where Iaralov owned shares. According to data from the State Registration Chamber, Gleb Soroca is the founder of three companies: Rural-Prod, Ordan-Lotus and Maximobil-Com.

But the most curious is the company Ghiocel Dalb where Soroca is listed as an administrator. The company, founded in 2009 has managed the restaurant "Ghiocel Dalb" in the park "La  izvor". In 2010, the company merged by absorption with Finpar Invest, a company about which the press wrote that is seized by Plahotniuc. Thus, the restaurant on the islands "La  izvor" came into the property of Finpar Invest, with almost half a hectare of park.

Deals at "La Izvor" and "Guguta"

American company Power Investment LLC is the only founder of SRL Ghiocel Alb. This US Company appears as the only partner at SRL Briat & Co, that in 2009, just some weeks after Ghiocel Alb, bought the café "Guguta" in Public Garden Stefan cel Mare.  The manager of Briat & Co  in documents is Corneliu Padnevici , current  MP of the Democratic Party. In 2010, Ghiocel Dalb and Briat & Co merged with Finpar Invest concomitantly. Today, the company wants to build an 18-storey hotel on the place of the cafe. The decision will be taken by the courts. Previously, the two judgments of the Supreme Court of Justice, the transactions by which cafe "Guguţă" and the restaurant "Ghiocel Dalb" came in the property of  Finpar Invest, were declared lawful.

Business at "Moldexpo"

Serghe Iaralov, Gleb Soroca and Arcadie Andronic, director of "Moldexpo" at a party of family Soroca. Photo: Facebook, Eleonora Soroca

Another person who appears frequently in family photos alongside with Iaralov and Gleb Soroca is Arcadie Andronic, director of the exhibition center "Moldexpo". Andronic was appointed in February 2011, following a competition organized by the Ministry of Economy, led by Valeriu Lazar in that period. A year later, he signed five lease contracts by which he leased 1.17 ha of land for the exhibition center of the company Finpar Invest SRL, for a period of 25 years. On this land, there were built the offices of Publika TV, Prime, Channel 2 and Channel 3 and three radio stations: FM Muz, Publika FM and FM Maestro, that were registered in the name of Vlad Plahotniuc a year ago. In 2015, Finpar Invest SRL sued the Public Property Agency and center "Moldexpo", requesting the right to privatize the land of 1.17 ha on which the offices of media outlets are located. The case is pending at the Buiucani district Court.

 

Businesses and persons who ensure "connection" between Serghei Iaralov Iaralov and Vlad Plahotniuc. Author: Alexandru Vremea

 

Businesses in US with the lawyer of Plahotniuc

Olga Iaralova and Val Gurvits. Photo: Facebook, Olga Iaralova

Gleb Soroca is not the only "connection" between Serghei Iaralov and Vlad Plahotniuc. Iaralov holds a 50% share in the company 70 Lafayette Park 2 LLC, an offshore performing real estate business. The company is registered in Massachusetts, US, and the company manager is Natan Temin, who is from the Republic of Moldova, according to information from socialization networks. According to US records, Natan Temin holds positions in four other companies, all of them offshore: 8 Lafayette Park 10 LLC - manager and registrar agent, Imperial Vin LTD - treasurer, Management Central LLC – manager, 7 Central Square LLC. In the last two, (registered agent - n.r.) appears Val Gurvits lawyer, co-founder of Boston Law Group, previously  presented as lawyer of the democrat MP Vlad Plahotniuc. In December 2012 he and  two defenders, Vitalie Nagacevschi and Yorgos Trillidis in Cyprus, appeared in a press conference stating that according to their investigations, the politician, the then First Deputy Chairman of Parliament, was not included in any trial  at the London Court, Prosecutor in Cyprus or in any monitoring of Interpol. Val Gurvits said that namely for this purpose, he traveled to London and Lyon, France.

Natan Temin. Photo: Facebook, Natan Temin

A year before, in the case imitated by Vlad Plahotniuc against Sergiu Mocanu, leader of the Movement Antimafia on honor and dignity protection, Val Gurvits as a witness, told the court that in late 2009, he hired the Democrat MP for the seat of manager at Media  Resurce LLC, a company he was leading. According to statements by Gurvits in court (document published by Jurnal.md - n.r.), the contract between the two was canceled on the grounds that the defender learned from the press that Plahotniuc had links with the criminal world. "The intention was that Plahotniuc represents the company in Moldova. Owing to the good reputation of our company, we could not allow a person with criminal links to represent this company", reads the report of  Gurvits. For activity at Media Resources LLC, Plahotniuc was paid a sum of $ 80,000, not $ 200,000,  as he did not work the entire period set by the contract. Three years ago, in February, the Democrat MP admitted that he was monitored by Interpol in 2007.

Mysterious adviser

In 2012, Serghei Iaralov made his "debut" in the public sector. On 14 May 2012, the businessman was appointed for the seat of adviser of Valeriu Lazar, Deputy Prime minister, Minister of Economy. In June 2013, Iaralov signed another employment agreement at the ministry, for the same function. According to the property statement from that period, Iaralov served as member of the Management Board of Metalferos in the period 2012-2013. The media wrote that this company is owned by Vlad Plahotniuc.

Contacted by Anticoruptie.md, Lazar said that he did not remember how Iaralov was elected adviser at the Ministry. „ I had more advisers within a period of 5 years, some of them- on long term, others- on short term, with different responsibilities, in line with the job description. I can be wrong but Serghei Iaralov was responsible of foreign investments attraction”, said the former minister. 

In the period when the businessman acted as adviser of Valeriu Lazar, the Ministry of Economy formulated the proposal to initiate public-private partnership project for the concession of State Enterprise Chisinau International Airport. The first government decision to this effect was adopted on June 19, 2012. Asked if Iaralov is involved in this draft resolution, the former minister avoided answering the question.

Political deals

pdm.md

Serghei Iaralov participated in the negotiations from 2014 and 2015 on establishing the parliamentary majority. Dumitru Diacov and Sergiu Sirbu, other 2 politicians who represented the Democratic Party in these discussions, explained the presence of Iaralov by the fact that he was member of the National Political Council, though officially he ranked 129.  Political analysts said that Vlad Plahotniuc tried to influence the development of negotiations with the help of Iaralov. "I do not think this is a topic that should be revealed or debated. It is a matter related to the internal affairs of the party. We do not try to interfere with your affairs",  said Sergiu Sirbu. Politician refused to say how long has Serghei Iaralov been member of the Democratic Party. „You ask too many questions. I think it is not fair. If he wants to tell you… but I do not have the moral right to provide such information”, said the democrat MP and refused to tell us how we can find the businessman.

"Yes, he participated in many rounds of negotiations, including the negotiations in 2013, by the way, Marian Lupu (chairman of Democratic Party - n.r.) came less often to the negotiations than Serghei Iaralov. I do not know from what moment and from where, but he has a big influence on the Democratic Party", said the liberal-democrat Vadim Pistrinciuc. 

Though he did not have any important function in the faction, Iaralov and Constantin Botnari always joined Vlad Plahotniuc  at parliamentary sittings. Botnari  refused to tell us what Iaralov did in the Parliament. „Leave me alone! I do not have any information. Look elsewhere”, said the democrat.

Neither former MPs from other factions could say about the role of the businessman in the sittings of the Legislative. „I do not quite remember about the activity of Iaralov.  We know each other by sight. We greeted each other because I saw him very often at the Parliament where he came like at job”, said former communist MP Iurie Muntean, deputy minister of Economy in the period 2008-2009. 

Iaralov and BEM

For two weeks Iaralov is the protagonist of a new assumption about the theft in the banking system. After Mihail Gofman, former Deputy Chief of the Money Laundering Prevention Service of the National Anti-Corruption Center said  in the program  "Interpol" on TV 7 that the "coordinator of the  theft of the billion is a private person, from the entourage  of Vlad Plahotniuc  who is not known to the public " the name of  Serghei Iaralov appeared on socialization nets. Evidence of Iaralov’s involvement in "theft  of billion" have not yet been made public. Our attempts to contact Gofman failed, former NAC employee did not answer the phone for several days.

Visarion Cesuev former business partner of Iaralov said that in 1995 Iaralov had a plan of raider attack on BEM. "I know that by 1995 his companies had a plan with BEM.  They wanted to take control over this bank through capital emissions. The group represented by Iaralov planned to buy new emissions and to take control over the bank. But he failed to bring the plan to end because other companies have gone ahead and bought shares of the BEM. Then, the Communists came and they ruined their game.  Everything was stopped owing to Calin", said Cesuev.

Following some fraudulent schemes in 1995, the state share in BEM was reduced to the catastrophic minimum  of 14.19%. Then, in unclear circumstances, the government decided to initiate an emission at Banca de Economii , that was completed on 22 September 1995. The  emission was purchased by three companies founded by  the off-shore NefteGazGroup (NGG), based in Malta,  managed by Russian citizens. Following the transaction, M-Credit joint enterprise got 23.33% of shares in BEM, foreign-owned enterprise Transworld Invest - 28.33% and Compasinter insurance company - 8.03%.

Reporters from Anticoruptie.md contacted many officials of that period and responsibles of Banca de Economii, but nobody remembers who claimed emission from BEM in 1995. All sources contacted by us said that the shares from BEM were bought by the three companies using state money, from a state loan granted to concern Moldenergo to purchase fuel oil for winter. Moldenergo concluded a contract worth 50 million dollars with NefteGazGroup without organizing any tender and the money was immediately sent to the accounts of TransWorldInvest, Compas Inter and  M-credit. Cesuev does not  think that Iaralov is  involved in the theft of the banking system now. "There was another target, the National Bank’ reserves", said the political analyst.

Former employee from Banca Sociala, Sergiu Sagaidac says that he does not think that Iaralov has coordinated the big theft from the banking system. "He came up with the idea", said Sagaidac.

Viorel Morari, head of Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office said for Anticoruptie.md that so far Serghei Iaralov was not questioned in the case on banking frauds from Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank. He did not say whether he was summoned. "Iaralov did not have any management position or other status in the financial and banking institutions. Citizens Sagaidac and Gofman, who allege his involvement do not want to appear at hearings ", said the prosecutor. However, Morari assures that Iaralov will be questioned by prosecutors as he made statements in his name. This will happen if there is evidence showing his involvement. 

As for the so-called accusation: there is a fellow in the back, called Iaralov Serioja. I am glad that he is in this room, he participated in all discussions and all deals. I recognize that I also participated. Country, matters , people ... including discussions about minority government, about saving the banks. By the way, I want to see speedy process in Airport concession.

Vlad Filat, former PM
October 15 2015, day when he was arrested by the National Anti-corruption Center

Vlad Plahotniuc is the sponsor 100%, he is the ideologue, he has Iaralov, citizen of US, the one who blow up the Bank Guineea, he left and now he returned and is in the pocket of Mr. Vlad Plahotniuc. Less ideology and more activity of servicing him. Including discussions about minority government, about saving the banks.

 

Ion Sturza, former PM, businessman
December 18 2015, press conference

Serghei Iaralov is not involved in the banking fraud. As MP, I was member of the inquiry Commission of frauds from 3 banks and I had a separate report of opinion where Iaralov , the Democratic Party and Vlad Plahotniuc are not included. The report clearly tells about the persons involved in the fraud. They are: Ilan Shor and his companies, Vlad Filat and many others.

Iurie Chirinciuc,
Minister of Transportation and Road Infrastructure
July 8 2016 

I am angry with Serghei. We used to be best friends for a period of 10 years and then it happened (Iaralov married to Duganov’s wife). Iaralov is not involved in the theft from BEM. He is an honest businessman. He is not a close friend of Plahotniuc. I have never seen him at a family holiday. Perhaps, they just manage businesses together.

Pavel Duganov,
Former friend and first husband of Olga Iaralova, current wife of Serghei Iaralov
July 8, 2016
 
Serghei Iaralov (left, middle) in the parliamentary sitting dated October 15, 2015, on the day when the liberal-democrat MP Vlad Filat was arrested. Photo: Constantin Grigorita

Reporters from Anticoruptie.md tried to contact Serghei Iaralov  with the help of his wife, few days ago. Similarly, Pavel Duganov, former husband of Olga Iaralova, promised to send our contact data to the businessman to give us a comment. Meanwhile, we questioned lawyer Val Gurvits about his relationship with Serghei Iaralov and Vlad Plahotniuc. By the time of publishing the investigation, none of the people we have contacted replied. 

 

Case "Mafia of meat" 

At the Government meeting held on 18 November 2009, Viorel Chetraru, who served as head of the Centre for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption in that period, has published a list of people who were involved in schemes to monopolize the meat market, generically called "Mafia of meat ". One of them is Serghei Iaralov. "In the initial phase of monopoly implementation,  these are members of the Association of importers and producers of meat, citizens Anatolie Tretiac, Nicolae Curtoglo, promoted by citizens Vladimir Soroca, Vitalie Burlacu, Serghei Iaralov and representatives of ministries who were entrusted with the right to regulate this activity - Anatol Spivacenco, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food, Iurie Muntean, former deputy minister of economy", said Viorel Chetraru.

Two years later, Ziarul de Garda reported that 6 criminal cases were initiated on the big case “Mafia of meat” covering 6 companies; all of them were fined by 100,000 lei each. Serghei Iaralov’s name is not listed in the case.

As for Nicolae Curtoglo, he represented the company Alfa-Engineering, that privatized the hotel „National” about which the press wrote that it is owned by Vlad Plahotniuc. Also, Curtoglo is member of the managing Council of Moldindconbank, institution that made interbank placements in Banca de Economii and Banca Sociala. The experts from Kroll found that investments have created the false impression that these two banks have liquidity and continued to provide bad loans. Anatolie Triteac was a member of the Management Board of Victoriabank by 2014.

Viorel Chetraru’s statements at the governmental meeting from November 18, 2009. Source: Privesc.eu

Luxury and opulence

According to the data from the State Registration Chamber, the office of Propos SA is on str. Vlaicu Pircalab, 13 in Chisinau ( office of the Liberal Party until 2009)

In 2012 and 2013, when he was appointed  adviser at the Ministry of Economy on contract-basis, Serghei  Iaralov presented his income statements. In 2012, businessman showed that he earned  40.071 lei in almost half a year as he worked within the state institution. Other 9654 lei he received from the post of member of the company Metalferos, 14.560 lei- for the seat of financial director at  Moldbuilding SRL and 52,000 dollars- for   manager, he ensured the development of the company  Soft Design Boston.  He received 54 200 dollars from Propos SA  for penalties submitted based on contracts. According to data from the State Registration Chamber (SRC), the office of the company is located on str. Vlaicu Pârcălab 13, in Chisinau, which used to be the office of the Liberal Party by 2009. 

Serghei Iaralov said that he owned a house and together with the adjoining land were valued at about 758 000 dollars. The house, purchased in 2005, has 290 square meters, eight rooms including four bedrooms. According to public records, the house is located in the town of Middleton, Massachusetts in the USA.

Based on information from public records, the house of Sergei Iaralov it is in the town of Middleton, Massachusetts

Serghei Iaralov declared in his property statement for 2012, 3 cars: Mercedes-Benz S 555, 2008  and purchased the next year with  1,5 million  lei, Mercedes-Benz GL 550, 2010 - 1,1 million lei, Pontiac Solstice, 2009 and purchased in 2010 at the price of 385 thousands lei. The last 2 were registered in Massachusetts, where his family lives. According to Iaralov’s acquaintances, he lives in Chisinau most of the time.

Serghei Iaralov wrote in 2012 that he had investments estimated at 3,4 million dollars at Propos SA and had a 50% share in the company 70 Lafayette Park 2 LLC in US. In the same year, Serghei Iaralov opened a deposit account estimated at 300 thousand dollars with an interest rate of 6.2% and revealed that he had a debt of over 600 thousand dollars, contracted in 2005, when he bought the house and the land in US.

For 2013, the businessman declared the same goods and revealed in the statement that the revenue from the Ministry of Economy has increased to 92 thousand lei, and as a member of the Administrative Council of SA Metalferos, he received about 70 thousand lei. Also, he received over 17.000 dollars from the deposit of 300,000 dollars.

From the pictures posted on social networks by Olga Iaralova and Alex Duganov, stepson of the Democrat MP, it can be inferred that the three of them live a luxurious life. Olga Iaralova and Alex Duganov published photographs in which all of them travel in private jets, drive expensive cars, and go on vacations and lavish parties.

This investigation is  accomplished within the Project „Shining a Light on Corruption in Moldova” carried by the Center for investigative Journalism and Freedom House with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

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