The „Poor” Members of Balti Municipal Council with Businesses Abroad
Following the local elections in 2015, the municipal council of Balti was formed of councilors from seven parties. The largest part belonged to Our Party led by Renato Usatii: 26 members out of a total of 35 members. There were also three communists, two socialists and four councilors from different pro-European parties.
At present, the mayor of Balti lives and carries out his business abroad. It is less well known that some members of the Municipal Council, both at power as well as in opposition, follow his example. They lead a double life, being poor members of the Balti municipal council and businessmen abroad.
Their business was not known before the elections, when many of the candidates declared modest incomes. Some of them declared absolutely nothing. Officially, they had no house, no cars, and no income.
The situation has changed within about one year after the elections, when assets and personal interests declarations for 2016 started to show impressive fortunes, which seem to have emerged from nothing. Hence, some of them own property and business even abroad, from the Black Sea coast to the Atlantic Ocean.
I. The member of the Municipal Council for whom Renato Usatii is a God
Nicolai Grigorisin was one of the poorest candidates for the position of a member of Balti Municipal Council in 2015. Officially, he owned nothing and had no legal income. According to the assets statements, the income of Grigorisin’s family was almost MDL 2,000 a month, the money earned from business owned by the wife of the current member of the municipal council.
One year after the elections, Grigorisin looks in the statements as a true local baron: he is manager of a Ukrainian company that controls a guesthouse on the Ukrainian coast; is the founder of FC Zaria football club in Balti; has two cars and watches worth over MDL 600 thousand.
He is also one of the right-hand men of Balti Mayor Renato Usatii, who is hiding in Russia from the Moldovan justice.
He could be seen practically in all the public appearances of Usati, both in Balti, in Moscow and Chisinau, behind him. He is also one of the most vocal Balti Municipal Council members and the author of the phrase that has become famous in Balti: “Renato Usatii can be compared only with God!”
In addition to politics, Grigorisin has also been involved in Usatii's philanthropic activity before the local elections in 2015. Hence, Grigorisin took part in organizing a sea holiday for children from needy families, sponsored by Usatii.
Prior to the departure, Grigorisin instructed the children gathered at the Balti headquarters of Our Party: “you have to prove that you are educated, beautiful people, representatives of the splendid town of Balti”, he said.
Not in vain, Grigorisin took care of children's security and behavior, because they were sent not to any guesthouse, but to one that belonged to him.
Guesthouse on the Black Sea
The guesthouse is called “Avtomobilist” and belongs to the company Nikdal SRL (originally Никдал - n.r.), which director is Grigorisin.
On 11 January 2017, at a press conference, the member of the Municipal Council admitted that he had businesses in Ukraine, but he had to sell them in 2015. He claimed that the Ukrainian counterparts would warn the Moldovan Secret Services that he would have been involved in training fighters for the conflict in Donbass. Grigorisin said that based on this information he will be detained, which has not happened.
Now, Grigorisin claims that he has no connection with this company, although he is still its administrator and receives remuneration.
“I sold the company three years ago. Now, I have no connection with the company, but I am acting as a director, because, in the summer, the company deals with the accommodation of tourists, and in the given field, I have great experience and offer them consultations (to the current owners - n.r.). They bought the company, it seemed interesting to them, but they do not know in detail how to manage this kind of business. So, in my spare time, in the summer, I offer consultations and receive salary for it”, declared the locally elected representative.
The company has a share capital of UAH 2.7 million (MDL 6.7 million, according to the exchange rate at that time). In the documents, the founder of the company is Taras Vovcenko, who is also a founder of other companies managing tourist hostels in the region.
According to the documents in the Ukrainian registers, the company was founded at the end of 2000. At the same time, the Privatization Department of the Ministry of Economy and Reforms of the Republic of Moldova, a former owner of this guesthouse, expressed its agreement for Nikdal SRL to build new real estate on the territory of this guesthouse.
On 11 December 2012, the company managed by this local council member also became the owner of the land on which the guesthouse was located. Until then, the ten thousand square meters were leased from the local public administration in Zatoka.
On one of the portals dedicated to the guesthouses in Odessa region, this guesthouse has a rating of 9.0/10 and boasts that it built a new bedroom complex in 2014, right on the seashore of the Black Sea, with a restaurant and a playground for children.
Fighting for land and buildings/real estate
In addition to that, in the register of court disputes in Ukraine, the company is included in more than ten court rulings. Most of them are related to the recognition of property rights over two buildings, totaling to over 300 square meters.
Nikdal SRL was sued by the company that executed the construction works and claimed for the property rights on those buildings.
From the documents in the file from the Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine, it appears that Nikdal SRL continued the construction of those buildings even after the lease contract expired. In the same case file, it is noticed that the company administered by Grigorisin does not have any documents on building commissioning. However, the Supreme Court did not rule on the property rights for those buildings, sending the case file for re-examination. Finally, Nikdal SRL has won the case and the rights over those buildings.
According to Grigorisin, this conflict broke out in the 1990s: “That was in the 1990s. My father owned the company and there was such a story, characteristic of those years. When my dad died, there were some people with false papers, according to which they were the owners. It was a serious procedure. Behind all this was the police. However, after that, the power changed and honest people started to appear among the police officers and prosecutors, and Nikdal won all court proceedings.”
Poor politicians, but with businesses
Grigorisin appeared on the political scene in the Republic of Moldova jointly with Renato Usatii. At the same time, Grigorisin became the head of the branch office of Our Party in Balti, and his wife Natalia ran for the position of Member of the Moldovan Parliament in the 2014 elections, being 10th on the list.
In her assets declaration submitted to the CEC, Natalia declared an income of MDL 46,000 for two years as Managing Director of Egmas Ltd and a Land Rover Discovery 4 manufactured and procured in 2010.
Natalia Grigorisin did not become a MP, because Usatii's party was removed from the electoral race in November 2014. Instead, a year later, in the local elections, Nicolai Grigorisin was already on the lists of Our Party and after the massive vote of the Balti residents, he was elected as a member of the municipal council. In the declaration of assets submitted to the CEC, Grigorisin did not declare anything.
However, the Grigorisin family currently owns a few places/venues in Balti, such as the “Caramelle” club and “Alians” billiard hall, registered at the same address. Grigorisin also held two cars and two watches worth MDL 600 thousand, metioned in the 2016 assets declaration.
The locally elected representative says he was not obliged to declare his fortune in 2015. “I was not obliged to declare anything until the 2015 elections because I was not a public figure. This declaration, according to Moldovan legislation, should be made by the members of the Parliament. The members of the local councils are required to file the declaration starting from 2017”, he says.
But, The Central Electoral Commission, in response to our request mentioned that all the candidates were bounded to declare their wealth.
Both venues are located in the Balti Municipal Stadium Complex, where FC Zaria Balti plays its home matches. Zaria is the most prestigious football club in Balti, succeeding several times to fill the podium of the National Division.
In June 2015, two weeks after Our Party won the local elections in Balti, the rights to the football team were transferred to AO Balti Football School, where Grigorisin declared a 33.3% shareholding. Earlier, the mayor of Balti mentioned that Zaria Balti is owned by him, along with Grigorisin and Nicolae Tipovici.
Egmas SRL received the land on which Caramelle is located and the building permit in 2001, and in 2006, it became the owner of the land. Today, according to the assets declaration, the land is worth over MDL 2 million.
In 2013, by decision of the board of directors, the company extended its territory from the sport complex account. Then, the company acquired two plots of 32 sqm and 19 sqm, worth MDL 3,6 thousand and MDL 2 thousand respectively.
Last year, the company built the toilets on the territory of the stadium, and after a while, based on the decision of the Balti Municipal Council, Egmas SRL became the owner of the construction.
At the same time, the brother of the Municipal Council member, Ghenadie Grigorisin, was elected in 2016 as the president of the Football Association in Balti.
II. Municipal Council Member with a restaurant in Spain and ten cars
If Grigorisin chose to do business on the Black Sea shore, then his colleague, Igor Basistii, president of the Our Party faction in Balti Municipal Council, preferred a more elitist seaside, the Atlantic Ocean. It owns 51% of the company managing a restaurant in the Spanish town of Santander, located in the central area of the city, near the Biscayne Bay.
The restaurant enjoys the appreciation of the visitors. For example, a Spanish blogger praises “the Moldovan chef (Sergiu Samson - n.r.), who cooks excellent Spanish dishes”.
The restaurant opened its doors at the end of November 2013, having Sergiu Samson, the godson of Igor Basistii, as its administrator. The latter, however, did not indicate this business in the assets declaration submitted to the CEC before the 2015 local elections.
On his social networking pages, Samson has lots of pictures with Basistii, addressing his ecstatic comments like: “You're the best man on earth”, “I miss you”, “My dear man... you're the best!” and so on.
According to the declaration of assets filed before the local elections, in 2013 and 2014, Bastistii gained about MDL 1,000 per month. However, in 2015, Basistii was in possession of two luxury cars: a BMW X5 and Audi A8, as well as a range of land plots including commercial spaces of nearly 600 sqm.
The assets statement for 2016 shows that besides BMW and Audi, Bassistii had several models of Opel, Volkswagen, Ford, Renault etc.; a total of ten cars, eight of which he did not declare before the local elections, although it came into their possession between 1997 and 2003.
In addition to that, in the year of the local elections, Basistii together with his wife bought a land of 60 sqm., which value exceeds MDL 100,000. To this, additional MDL 30,000 is added as donated by the Balti Municipal Council in 2016, in support of the Our Party candidate in the presidential elections.
In Balti, Igor Basistii owns and manages two companies: II Basistii Igor and Profimax SRL. The first company was founded in 2002 and owns a sauna – “Fregat” - located on 31, Ivan Kojedub Street, on a 455 square meter plot of land worth more than MDL 300,000, according to the estimates made in 2009.
Profimax SRL was founded in 2007 and has its legal headquarters in the Beer Factory region, at 17, Mihail Sadoveanu Street, in a 240 sqm. building, which belongs to a relative of the Municipal Council member, according to the official documents.
III. The undeclared business of the former communist Ciornii
The podium of locally elected representatives with business in other countries is completed by Andrei Ciornii. Currently, he appears to be one of the main opponents of Our Party in Balti.
Ciornii is an experienced politician and civil servant. Under the tutelage of the Communist Party, he held a number of important positions in Balti: from Deputy Mayor, to the Head of the Registru Branch and the Director of the Municipal Enterprise on Housing Management. At the same time, the member of the Municipal Council was leading the Communist branch of Rascani and was dealing with his own businesses.
In addition to that, on the lists of the Communist Party, Ciornii was elected as member of the Municipal Council in 2015. During the local elections of that year, the Municipal Council member contributed to the electoral campaign of Communist Party (PCRM) with MDL 50,000 and his brother Denis contributed with MDL 25 thousand.
Last year, however, the PCRM renounced to the Communist members of Balti Municipal Council on the grounds that they no longer represent the interests of the party, but the personal ones. In the list of “excommunicated” communists were included Ciornii, but also the leader of the Russian community in Balti Pavel Buceațchi, who has an impressive collection of buildings in the key areas of the city. Meanwhile, Buceatchii said that he has about MDL 15 million (MDL 3.5 million, USD 250,000 and EUR 350,000) with his wife on the banking accounts, plus other assets. At that list also entered Octavian Mahu, who soon became chief of democrats in Balti.
After the local elections in 2015, the relations between Ciornii and Renato Usatii started to become increasingly tensed. Usatii built its electoral campaign on the Communists' failures, and the Communists responded by accusing Usatii and those close to him of links with the criminal world. The relations between the two camps have generated many conflicts at the meetings of the Municipal Council.
Meanwhile, their war has moved to the online environment; because both left Balti - Usatii returned to Russia, and Ciornii settled in Ukraine.
Criminal civil servant and mass-media patron
In Balti, Ciornii was involved in several financial schemes, which were revealed by the Financial Inspectorate and the local press. As a result, in December 2013, Ciornii ended up having a criminal case opened for abuse of power. More precisely, he was accused of having purchased a few cars that he owned as a natural person at an increased price as Manager of the municipal company GLC.
Ciornii was also blamed for purchasing garbage containers (MDL 2 million) from the account of the municipal enterprise, which he later sent to Terra Solubritate SRL for free, which received in concession the sanitation services of the municipality.
The criminal file opened in the name of Ciornii was closed in the same year on the ground that it did not contain elements of the offense.
After that, being a member of the Municipal Council, Ciornii became a member of the Administration Board of water supply municipal company Apa Canal, which he used for personal interests. More precisely, at that time, the invoices issued by Apa Canal printed the advertising of Blackwaterhous SRL owned by his ex-wife and brother of Andrei Ciornii, Denis.
At the same time, the company rented, through the decisions of Balti Municipal Council, billboards in the city for 20 years, for MDL 45 per year.
In parallel to the public functions, Ciornii has also developed his own businesses. He is the founder of three companies: SC Dialog-Media SRL, Blue Star SRL and Chard-Agro SRL. Among the main business partners of Ciornii are his relatives, but also Igor Vitiuc, nephew of the deputy speaker of the Parliament Vladimir Vitiuc.
Together with Vitiuc, Ciornii founded the newspaper Gazeta in Russian language and some radio stations. Via Blue Star SRL, Ciornii owned the first local radio station that appeared outside of Chisinau and the private TV station in Balti TV-6-Blue Star. At the same time, according to esp.md, for a while, Ciornii, through his mother-in-law, controlled the most famous TV channel in Balti - BTV.
Ciornii conquers Ukraine
In March 2016, the Balti Municipal Council voted for Ciornii to withdraw his mandate of a member of the Municipal Council, under the pretext that he was absent from a few council meetings without any good reason.
However, Ciornii's mandate of Municipal Council member was restored exactly after one year through a court decision. Meanwhile, Ciornii disappeared from Balti, settling in Ukraine, where the reporters of Social Media Balti discovered that he owns real estate and develops businesses.
Andrei Ciornii is the owner of Incasso SRL (ТОВ Інкассо) in Vinnytsia, a town in Ukraine located 200 km from Balti. The company was registered in November 2014, and Ciornii became its head in April 2016, precisely in the period when “he was forced” to leave Balti due to the conflict with Usatii.
The company is registered in a 90-square-meter apartment, officially owned by Ciornii's ex-wife, Alexandra Demciuc.
Officially, the company is mainly engaged in collecting payments and retailing. However, on a human resources website in Ukraine, the company placed ads in May 2016 to hire Ukrainian and Russian language journalists to work for a news website. Three months after that, Ciornii's company was also hiring interior designers.
According to Ciornii's assets declaration for 2016, he earned only MDL 15,000 for a year after selling a property. The member of the Municipal Council, however, did not declare his business in Ukraine and is currently unavailable and does not answer phone calls or messages.
This investigative article was developed with the support of the Project “Strengthening civil society capacities in the field of open data use", implemented by the United Nations Development Program and financed by the SlovakAid Transition Knowledge and Experience Transfer Program of the Slovak Republic. All opinions belong to the authors/author and do not reflect the official position of UNDP Moldova, the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Government of the Slovak Republic or their affiliates.
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