Justice

The judges “with nine lives”

During the past ten years, the presidents of Moldova have one by one rejected almost 80 judges, candidates proposed by the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) for promotion, re-approval, appointment and transfer.

Author: Anastasia Nani, Victor Moșneag
17/09/2015 14519

In the documents remitted to the SCM, Vladimir Voronin, Marian Lupu, Mihai Ghimpu and Nicolae Timofti have cautioned that those rejected do not have a place in the judiciary because they discredit Justice, are not objective, have unjustified wealth, have integrity issues, relations with businessmen conducting shady businesses. Most often, the findings were based on the reports from the Information and Security Service (ISS). Despite the arguments brought by the rulers of the country, SCM kept on position or even promoted around 55 judges. In the meantime, some of them left the system honorably taking their sins with them, and at least 30 keep making justice to this day. CIJ has obtained and analyzed all the documents remitted by the Presidency to SCM since 2005 till today. We invite you to find out what the arguments of the presidents were and what SCM did.

According to the law, the magistrates of first instance courts and those of appeal courts are appointed by the President of the country as a result of a contest, and based on SCM's suggestion. In the beginning of their career, they come to a position for five years, and if they do their job honestly, they are appointed permanently until the age ceiling of 65 years is reached. The head of the state can reject candidates only when they identify irrefutable evidence of their incompatibility with the function and if the candidate violated the legislation or legal selection and promotion procedures. Still, SCM can force the President's hand by repeatedly submitting the same candidate, this being a common practice in Moldova.

CIJ has officially requested the Presidency and SCM to present the documents by which the heads of the state have rejected the candidate judges over the past ten and a half years. However, the two institutions refused to provide such documents. The representatives of the Presidency argued that the “principle of observing the rights and reputation of candidates for the position of judge, their privacy, intimacy and family life”. We managed to obtain these documents of public interest and we published some of the below.

THE PERIOD OF VLADIMIR VORONIN

Grigore Lungu, Ialoveni rayon court of justice

Grigore Lungu's candidacy for the position of Head of Ialoveni court of justice was rejected at the end of 2005 by Vladimir Voronin, back then President of Moldova. The document signed by the head of the state and remitted to Valeria Sterbet, SCM chairman at the time, states that in his previous term, Grigore Lungu had “failed to ensure even a minimal accepted level of activity of that court.” “Both Mr. Lungu, as well as the other judges are committing severe procedural deviations. (…) A separate aspect of Mr. Lungu's activity is his examination without proper preparation and within from one day and up to one month of cases for which the legislation provides a specific term of examination,” according to Vladimir Voronin's document. The head of the state has referred to three cases, two of which were on divorce. The Magistrate had examined them in only three days, which is against the law. Another case was regarding the loss of parental rights, examined in only nine days. “Moreover, the lack of clarity regarding the use of MDL 8.000 from the extra-budgetary account for repairs to the office automobile, as well as the transfer of MDL 411.450 from the Ialoveni Court deposit account to a banking institution in the country and the disappearance of the documents regarding the destination of the transfer of this amount and its beneficiary,” Vladimir Voronin wrote.

Though Grigore Lungu could have been punished even criminally for these violations, he is still a judge to this day. Last year, the magistrate tried to come back to the function of chairman of Ialoveni Court. The Performance Evaluation College by the SCM barred his way qualifying him with “insufficient.” “Following confidential interviews with the court employees, the findings were that Judge Grigore Lungu has a bad reputation in the Ialoveni Court, has an often scandalous behavior due to which the court clerks change often. He goes into deliberation together with the clerk and the assistant, thus violating the confidentiality of the deliberation. To his colleagues’ rebukes of his behavior, the later reacts inadequately, which is a blatant procedural violation, which tarnishes this way the image of the judiciary,” according to the decision of the College.

Andrei Gutu, Balti rayon court of justice

Another magistrate that managed to dribble President Vladimir Voronin’s refusal to appoint him is Andrei Gutu, investigating judge at the Balti Court. In December 2005, Voronin motivated his refusal to appoint him by the fact that Andrei Gutu “working at the Balti Police Station, appeared as a person with mediocre knowledge, who does not show diligence and perseverance, does not have his colleagues’ respect and has no authority among them, and which places his own interests above all.”

The President exemplified with two cases. For instance, as investigator, Andrei Gutu returned MDL 500.000 worth of chemical substances to the owner, substances previously seized by the police officers as evidence in a criminal large-scale theft investigation. This jeopardized the criminal prosecution. Another example is the criminal case involving citizens Gavriliuc and Lungu, from which a large number of audio and video equipment units was seized as evidence. Later, the court ordered the return of the money.

„But found that part of the equipment was missing, being taken, according to some data, by Mr. Gutu”, the document shows.

Only half a year later, despite this disclosure, Andrei Gutu had put on the judge robe, Voronin being obliged to sign a decree appointing him in that function. In February 2014, The Evaluation College qualifies him as „very good,” and in May, 2014, he was reappointed for the same position till he reaches the age ceiling.

Valeriu Ciuntu, Criuleni rayon court of justice

Also ten years ago, Vladimir Voronin rejected de candidacy of Valeriu Ciuntu who aspired to the function the presidency of Criuleni Court. The motifs for rejection mentioned in the documents should have made Valeriu Ciuntu incompatible not only with the function of chairman of court but also with the function of judge. However, the magistrate is still working.

“It was found that he presided the court meeting on the lawfulness of the sale for a symbolic price of the swine farm from Cimiseni village, Criuleni. The decision pronounced in this meeting substantially damaged the rayon budget”, the decree mentions. Moreover, Vladimir Voronin wrote that Ciuntu “was often seen in public and recreational places and the company of questionable characters with criminal records.” Moreover, the judge attempted several times to intervene in the examination of some criminal cases in which such characters were involved, in order to influence the rulings in their favor.

In May, 2014, magistrate Ciuntu was qualified by the Performance Evaluation College as “good”. This year, Valeriu Ciuntu’s business got under the scrutiny of the National Commission for Integrity (NCI). It was established that the magistrate did not include some things in his income and property declaration for 2013 – six unincorporated land plots, for buildings, an automobile, three bank accounts and 552 company shares. The findings were remitted to the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO), which is to decide if the judge will be under criminal investigation or not.

Alexandru Spac, Chisinau Court of Appeal

Alexandru Spac is currently a judge at the Chisinau Court of Appeal. On June 20, 2006 his candidacy to the function of judge was rejected by Vladimir Voronin. The head of state wrote in black and white that between 1996 and 2002, as judge, Spac “showed himself as a person who puts his own interests above his job duties, which tarnishes the judiciary, compromises its independence and impartiality, a judge’s honor and dignity.”

As example, Voronin brought the case of Vasile Caras, former director of the “Intercapital” Financial Corporation, criminally indicted for theft of money deposits, in a file involving 1.200 people, most of them elderly and disabled. The President mentioned that Alexandru Spac, working at the Chisinau Courthouse, was part of the panel of judges that released Caras from detention, with the condition to not leave the city, which allowed him to flee the country.

After almost two years, SCM repeatedly proposed Alexandru Spac for the function of judge, and Voronin rejected him again. Besides the reasons mentioned above, the head of state at the time wrote that Spac “working as a lawyer, was extorting money a bribes for the judges”.

„One of the cases is of a defendant whose interests were represented by him at the Chisinau Court of Appeal. The defendant refused to pay the bribe money. As a consequence, Alexandru Spac, contrary to his status and layer’s code of conduct, requested the court to convict his client,” the document shows.

After being twice rejected by Vladimir Voronin, Alexandru Spac became a lawyer. In 2012, came back with another request, being accepted as judge by Mihai Ghimpu, interim President at the time. At first, Spac was appointed as judge at the Comrat Court of Appeal, and after almost two years he was transferred to the Chisinau Court of Appeal. In October 2012, the magistrate was awarded the “Labour Glory” Order, and last year, the Performance Evaluation College qualified him as “good.”

Nichifor Corochii, Chisinau Court of Appeal

Over the past six years, judge Nichifor Corochii’s career was on the rise. Since 2009 he had been delegated to the SCM, and in 2012 and 2013 lead the institution as interim chairman. Through a decree signed by Nicolae Timofti on January 30, 2014, Corochii became a judge at the Chisinau Court of Appeal, this after not being able to get another mandate as member of the Council. Few know, though, that he was not accepted by Vladimir Voronin for the position of chairman of the Edinet Court.

In April 2006, Voronin wrote that Nichifor Corochii “presented himself as a person who places his personal interests above his job duties, ignores the rules of judicial ethics, tarnishing the judiciary and compromising its independence, impartiality, and the judge’s honor and dignity.”

The President also wrote that the magistrate was maintaining contact with businessmen involved in suspicious affairs, which caused the citizens’ discontent. “As example stands his protection for the business activity of entrepreneurs Mina Tomasevschi, Nicolae Tomasevschi, and Zinaida Mamaliga. Due to this protection, Mina Tomasevschi, who worked also as manager of the local agricultural market, managed to alienate 58 shops and stalls of the 75 that were operating in the market, as well as to reduce the amount transferred to the budget to MDL 25.000-50.000 annually,” according to the document. The same document shows that as “protector” of Mina Tomasevschi, Nichifor Corochii ensured his personal examination for cases opened regarding her activity, “protecting her interests, pursuing her reappointment as manager of the local agricultural market, function from which she was dismissed.”

“It was also found that Mr. Corochii, making use of his friendly relationship with legal executor Tivirenco, ensures the execution of court rulings in favor of Mrs. Tomasevschi’s interests. At the same time, working as judge and protecting Mrs. Tomasevschi’s activity, Mr. Corochii managed to build himself a luxury house in the city of Edinet, on M. Cibotari str. The construction works of Mrs. Tomasevschi’s and Mr. Corochii’s houses took place at the same time,” Voronin wrote in addition.

At the time, these accusations were verified by the SCM members and partially confirmed, so Nichifor Corochii was no longer repeatedly proposed for the function of the Edinet Court. Shortly after, though, he became member of the SCM, and from there, to the Chisinau Court of Appeal. In 2011 he was decorated with the “Civil Merit” medal.”

“Probably the SCM verified the information and it was not confirmed. I don’t really remember what happened. All the information is in my personal file. You can check what happened there. The President has the right to reject, just as SCM has the right to repeatedly propose a candidate,” Nichifor Corochii told us.

Iurie Iordan, Chisinau Court of Appeal

In November, 2006 Iurie Iordan, proposed by the SCM for reappointment in his function till reaching the age limit, was also rejected by Vladimir Voronin. “Workign as a judge, he presented himself as a person with mediocre knowledge, can be influenced in his decisions, does not show diligence and perseverance, does not have his colleagues’ respect and has no authority, places his personal interests above his job duties, is conceited and brutally violates professional ethics,” the President’s document shows. According to the same document, in 2003, examining the criminal case involving D. Constantin, leader of a criminal group, judge Iordan, in the presence of the escorting police officers announced the ruling on his arrest. Later, after a discussion with the detainee, the judge cancelled his own ruling.

After being released, D. Constantin fled the country and is currently wanted by police. In July, 2006, Iurie Iordan supposedly contributed to the exemption from criminal liability of three offenders – Secrieru, Custiuc, and Andros – all allies of D. Constantin.

In January, 2005, during the court meeting in which the criminal case of a man was examined, the magistrate turned on the radio at the highest volume, “demonstratively ignoring the judicial procedure and ethics.”

However, after only several months he was reappointed. In November 2013 the Performance Evaluation College qualified him as “very good”. Also in 2013 the magistrate was filmed in the yard of the Chisinau Court of Appeal as he was receiving an envelope from a woman. Later, the two stated they were relatives and that the envelope contained a tax invoice.

Stefan Starciuc, Comrat Court of Appeal

In 2007, Stefan Starciuc was proposed for chairman of the Cantemir Court. However, Voronin did not accept him, mentioning that he had a stained reputation. “During his time working at the Cantemir Execution Office of the Execution department, he was involved in suspicious actions represented by lowering the sale price of space belonging to Apa-Canal Cantemir. He pulled strings at the Centre for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (currently the National Anticorruption Centre – editor’s note) so that the case would not be solved. Also, during his time as judge, examining the criminal case of defendant Corcimari, who had been the Head of Social Assistance Division of Cantemir Rayon Council, Mr. Starciuc conditioned acquitting the defendant and reappointing in the previously held function by asking for a material reward,” the document signed by Vladimir Voronin states.

Back then, Starciuc never got to be chairman. In 2009, Voronin rejected him again, after SCM proposed him for reappointment until the age limit would be reached. Besides the arguments brought in 2007, in 2009 the President motivated his refusal by the fact that “among the lawyers from Cantemir rayon, Mr. Starciuc is known as the person through which criminal cases can be closed, the criminal sentences can be diminished and through which civil cases can be settled in favour of a party, in exchange for money cashed through intermediaries.”

In spite of these accusations, with the help of CSM, which repeatedly proposed him for appointment, in September 2009, Voronin appointed Stefan Starciuc as judge until the age limit is reached.

Anatolie Minciuna, Chisinau Court of Appeal

Anatolie Minciuna has been a judge since 1991. First he worked at the People’s Court of October district of Chisinau, then became deputy-chairman of Rascani Court. In 2008 he was promoted to the Chisinau Court of Appeal. He got the function thanks to the members of SCM, because he was rejected by President Voronin who brought several severe accusations against him.

According to the documents, the investigations found that his expenditures and properties do not correspond to the declared income. “[…] Minciuna family managed to become owner of six auto vehicles: Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Sharan, Opel Corsa (two units), BMW 318i and BMW 520i . At the same time, Sergiu Minciuna, the judge’s son, became a cofounder of Ilagro Promils LLC with 25%. […] Despite the information above, for the previous years, Mr. Minciuna only declared an income only from his activity as a judge (MDL 20.000 in 2005),” Vladimir Voronin’s document mentions.

The President at the time, wrote in the same document that Anatolie Minciuna acquitted criminal authority David Meresinschi, aka “Debil (crazy)”, and the members of his group, indicted for blackmail crimes. In the beginning of 2008, at the repeated request of SCM, Voronin did not object anymore, and Anatolie Minciuna came to the Chisinau Court of Appeal.

In his last income and property statement, for 2014, Anatolie Minciuna declares owning several land plots (15 hectares in Briceni rayon – editor’s note), a cottage in Truseni, Chisinau, and a 71 sqm apartment, acquired in 2014, in the building constructed specifically for judges, at a price of only 360 Eur/sqm. The magistrate also owns three automobiles: a 2002 Land Rover, a 1981 GAZ and a recently bought 2008 Skoda Fabia. In the meantime, his son opened another company. In January 2014, the magistrate was appreciated by the Performance Evaluation College with “very good.”

Xenofon Ulianovschi, Chisinau Court of Appeal

Xenofon Ulianovschi has been deputy-chairman of Chisinau Court of Appeal for seven years now. In November, 2007, his candidacy for this function was rejected. The argument was that Ulianovschi had only been at the Court for a year. In addition to that, as member of a panel of judges he reduced the sentence of a Turkish citizen three times, the man being accused of trafficking children. In 2008, the magistrate still got the much desired function.

In 2012, he got another term. In 2013, SCM decided to initiate disciplinary action against Xenofon Ulianovschi who was accused of issuing falsified rulings. Because the judge was investigated, his name was temporarily excluded from the list of magistrates proposed for state awards. Still, in 2014, Ulianovschi received the “Order of Honour” awarded by the President of the country.

Alexandru Motricala, Dubasari Rayon Court

In April 2008, Alexandru Motricala, proposed by the SCM for the function of investigative judge at the Dubasari Court was rejected by the head of the state. Vladimir Voronin wrote to the Council that “as a prosecutor, he presented himself as a person with mediocre knowledge, easily influenced in his decisions.”

“He did not show diligence and perseverance in his work, does not have his colleagues respect and has no authority among them, is conceited and blatantly neglects the rules of professional conduct,” the President mentioned.

As confirmation of what was said, Voronin referred to the fact that Alexandru Motricala would be abusing alcohol, “being repeatedly seen drunk in public places.” After several months, SCM repeatedly proposed Motricala, and President Voronin appointed him as investigating judge at the Dubasari Court, function he holds to this day, after being in 2013 appointed as magistrate till he reached the age limit.

Tatiana Duca, Balti Court of Appeals

Also in April 2008, Vladimir Voronin rejected Tatiana Duca’s candidacy for deputy-chairman of the Balti Court of Appeals. After putting down some text similar to that for other rejected judges, the President referred to a case that the magistrate examined in 2004 and through which, as a result of a dispute, the „North” Customs Office was forced to pay EUR 1,35 ml. worth of moral damage to a private company. Later this decision was cancelled by superior courts. After this refuse, Duca did not get to be deputy-chairman of the Balti Court of Appeals, but continues to work in this court to this day.

Petru Triboi, Nisporeni Rayon Court

On August 7, 2014, Petru Triboi was appointed chairman of the Nisporeni Rayon Court by Nicolae Timofti’s decree. Six years earlier Vladimir Voronin considered that Triboi was not entitled event o the position of deputy-chairman, for which he was proposed by SCM. Voronin was referring to the fact that Triboi was described by his colleagues as being „easy to influence, had no respect among his colleagues, did not show diligence and perseverance, is vain and subjective in his assessments.”

“Also, he is not always exacting towards himself of his subordinates, he doesn’t appreciate the persons around him objectively, basing his perception on own sympathies and antipathies. From a professional point of view, Mr. Triboi can be described as a person with a mediocre competency (…) Being employed with the internal affairs bodies, he had the biggest number of cases closed, in the opinion of others, from pure subjective considerations”, Vladimir Voronin mentioned, but at the same time, it was Mr. Voronin himself that appointed him as judge in December 2005. In 2010, Petru Triboi was appointed as judge until retirement age.

Eugen Psenita, Edinet Rayon Court

Eugen Psenita from Edinet Court was also disliked by Vladimir Voronin. Voronin who had rejected his candidacy for the judge position until retirement age, this refusal practically meaning the dismissal of the judge from the system. “As judge, Mr. Psenita showed himself as a person capable of actions that discredit Justice, compromise the honor and the dignity of a judge”, the President wrote.

 A more than eloquent example was given. “In 2004, Mr. Psenita submitted a request to the Edinet Mayor’s Office, asking to be allocated a living space. In June 2004, he was offered an apartment, but Eugen Psenita refused to accept it. Already in December 2004, he addressed the Briceni Court by requesting action to force the Edinet City Council to entitle him at compensation, because he was not provided with living space. From considerations that could not be identified, the representatives of the local public authorities had accepted all of the claims”, as the President mentioned.

The Briceni Rayon Court ruled in his favor. At the same time, in February 2006, the judge purchased a two-storey house in Edinet Town, paying US$28000 and registering it under his father’s name. The President specified that the income of those two was not enough to cover the cost of such a property purchase.

Meanwhile, in March 2006, for the purpose of executing the  Briceni Court ruling, the Edinet Office of the Executive Department had closed the Mayor’s Office bank accounts, “a fact that endangered the allocation of a 3.54 mln. lei coming from international organizations to local public administration as an investment for social purposes”. Only after the persistence of his work colleagues, Eugen Pleshka gave way on his claims and accepted, instead, an apartment, categorized as living space granted only while employed in this position, which he received from authorities in a very short period of time.

Later, according to the Decision as of December 14 2007, the Edinet City Council modified the initial decision by excluding the phrase specifying „as living space granted only while employed in this position”, which specified the type of „apartment”. This way, once the statute of this apartment was modified, Psenita got the right to privatize it. SCM repeatedly proposed the candidacy of the magistrate for appointment, and Voronin complied with it by appointing him as judge until he reaches the retirement age.

A simple verification of the information presented in the report signed by Voronin reveals confirmations that this magistrate has a shady story of involvement in a real estate scheme. According to cadastral data, in February 2006, Nicolae Psenitsa, father of the judge, born in 1940, aged 66 at that time, became the owner of an apartment (not a house, as shown in Vladimir Voronin’s report – editor’s note) with 4 rooms and a surface of approx. 100 sqm, situated on Nikolai Gribov Str., in the town of Edinet.

In October 2011, based on an exchange contract between the retired Nicolae Psenita and his son, judge Eugeniu Psenita, this real estate item had been given away into the ownership of the magistrate and his family. In his turn, the father had received his son’s 40 sqm apartment on Independence Str. This property could be the subject of that story related to the living space obtained from public authorities, which afterwards had been subject of privatization. But the apartment did not remain in the possession of the magistrate’s father for very long because it was sold exactly in two weeks. The most probable fact is that the name of father was used in order to avoid having the judge’s name in this property transaction.

In the income statement for the 2014 we found that the following property is listed under this name: a land plot in Cotiujeni village, Briceni Rayon; the apartment received from his father in 2011; two garages and two cars shared with his wife based on a mandate. From 2012, the magistrate’s wife owes EUR 30 000 to a natural person.

Irina Tonov, Causeni Rayon Court

In August 2008, Vladimir Voronin also did not accept the candidacy of Irina Tonov, proposed by SCM for judge in the town of Causeni. In his letter, the President detailed that „Mrs Tonov is a specialist with mediocre competencies, often spoken about as being a theoreticist rather than a practitioner.”

“It is considered that her success is mostly determined by the protection of the decision makers. Irina Tonov is a hotheaded person, is easily irritated, thus causing disputes and conflicts. Another aspect that can not be ignored is the existence of data on the fact that the property declared by the Tonov couple does not correspond to the reality. Moreover, a verification procedure is being currently undertaken in order to find information regarding acceptance of bribe money by Mrs Tonov, as a professor at the State University of Moldova, collected from several students in order to pass the exams and tests during the 2008 summer examination session. All the money was collected by a trusted person, in the opinion of Vladimir Voronin.

Being rejected by the CPRM/Communist Party Leader, in December 2011 Irina Tonov was accepted by another President – the interim Marian Lupu. In one year, Nicolae Timofti promoted her to the position of deputy-chairman of Causeni Court. In a short period of time the magistrate became interim chairman of this institution. The judge owns two apartments, a commercial space of over 1700 sqm, a car, and under her husband’ name, Igor Tonov, she holds 100% of the Ghidprim LLC shares, a company registered in one of their two apartments owned by the family on Puskin Str. in the capital city.

Marcela Nicorici, Falesti Rayon Court

Marcela Nicorici was appointed as magistrate in the Floresti Court in 2003 for a five-year period, based on a decree issued by Vladimir Voronin. In 2007, also through a presidential decree, she was promoted to Balti Court. But in 2008, when she was proposed by SCM for the position of judge until age limit is reached, Vladimir Voronin rejected this candidacy.

“It has been found that Mrs. Nicorici does not ensure the examination of cases within reasonable time limits; some of them are postponed without justification, and others are performed with violation of envisaged procedure, thus causing dissatisfaction of parties present in court for the trial”, as stated in the report. Voronin offered the example of Mioara JSC case, the examination of which was postponed for a half a year, thus being afterwards handed over to another judge.

“I bring to attention the fact that Mrs. Nicorici, contrary to the Code of Professional Ethics provisions, allows herself to consume alcoholic drinks with friends while at work. Moreover, she is the founder and manager of the company IC Iurist-Nicorici, specialized in the delivery of legal services, which is a violation of the legislation”, according to the same report.

As a consequence, on December 26, 2008, due to her not having been appointed as judge until reaching the age limit, Marcela Nicorici was dismissed from this position. After she left, as the Magistrat.md platform statements, she had the following jobs as an intern lawyer and administrator for insolvability cases at the company IC Nicorici Marcela, consultant at the Balti Court, lawyer at the foreign capital company “Moldova zahăr” LLC. This year, in May, she has returned to the judiciary system, despite the fact she had been previously dismissed, being accepted without any problems by the SCM, and the President Nicolae Timofti approved her for the position of judge at the Falesti Court for a five-year period.

Veronica Carapirea, Basarabeasca Rayon Court

On September 30, 2008 Veronica Carapirea becomes the chairman of the Basarabeasca Court based on the decree signed by Vlabimir Voronin. In two month only, the President refuses to appoint her as judge until the reaching the age limit. As per statements from the presidential report, Voronin was upset with the fact that “she commits serious violations of the judicial procedures and professional ethics norms in case examinations, by unreasonably justifying the offenders and suspects or issuing sentences that are evidently contradicting the legislation and the evidence collected by the investigation officers.”  The President referred to the case of a suspect - Irina Reihert, for whom the magistrate reduced the punishment period from approximately seven years of imprisonment to five years of prison with suspension. In April 2009, Vladimir Voronin finally signed the decree based on which Veronica Carapirea becomes judge until the age of retirement.

Vladimir Cravet, Drochia Rayon Court

Vladimir Cravet was another candidate not accepted by Vladimir Voronin. He remained judge only because of the SCM members’ support. “It has been discovered that, while fulfilling job responsibilities pertaining to his assigned position, Mr. Cravet pursued personal interests that prevailed over his professional duties by rejecting, without justification, the prosecutors’ requests on criminal investigations, including sabotage on cases of criminal offenses related to drugs and ammunitions. Also, Mr. Cravet has violated the judicial procedures and professional ethics norms during his investigation activities, which were performed in a superficial and irresponsible manner, thus demonstrating his professional capacity was of an average level and that he proved to be an individual that can be easily influenced in his decisions by bribe money”, as Vladimir Voronin mentioned in 2009.

During the same year, being repeatedly proposed by SCM, Voronin signed the order of appointment, and he continued a subsequent judge’s mandate. In 2014, Nicolae Timofti re-approved him, from the first try, for this function.

Aurelia Plesca, Bender Court

In July 2009, SCM proposed Aurelia Plesca for the magistrate position at Basarabeasca Court for a five year period. “It was found that Mrs. Plesca, acting as a consultant at Bender Court, showed herself as an individual pursuing personal interest with prevalence over professional duties, being influenced in decisions, which are actions that undermine  justice and compromise independence, impartiality and dignity of the judge’s status” - the report explained the reasons why Vladimir Voronin rejected this candidacy. In addition, also according to this report, for six years until now, the declared property has not correspond to real situation.

Six months later, in October 2009, Mihai Ghimpu - the interim President at that time, appointed her as judge at the Bender Court for a period of five years, based on a signed decree. In 2014, Nicolae Timofti appointed Aurelia Plesca as judge at the Bender Court until she reaches the age of retirement.

THE PERIOD OF MIHAI GHIMPU 

Maria Chiperi, Anenii Noi Rayon Court; Virgiliu Buhnaci, Botanica District Court; Dorel Musteata, SCM Member 

In March 2010, SCM remitted a request to the Presidency by asking Mihai Ghimpu to appoint Maria Chiperi and Dorel Musteata from the Anenii Noi Rayon Court and Virgiliu Buhnaci from Botanica District Court as magistrates until they reach the retirement age. “Findings reveal the incompatibility of the candidates with a judge function since, during their service at work as well as outside working ours, they commit actions discrediting justice and, thus, compromising the honor and dignity of a judge’s status, including actions that are suspicious from the objectivity perspective during service, ignorance towards professional ethics and violation of legislation by offering consultations on litigation issues”, according to a document signed by Mihai Ghimpu.

One month later, the SCM members came up with an additional request, and the President found himself obliged to sign the decree. Moreover, the magistrates were promoted. For example, in 2011, as per decree signed by Marian Lupu, Maria Chiperi becomes deputy-chairman of Anenii Noi Court. She managed to hold this position also in 2015, based on a similar decree signed by Nicolae Timofti.

Also in 2011, Dorel Musteata became chairman of the Anenii Noi Court. After three years he became a SCM member. “After I was rejected, I submitted a verification request. Data had been checked and an information note was issued. I was proposed for the second time. And just in one year I became chairman of the court. I have been appointed for this position without any problem. As I understood, this happened because of some internal issues, due to some anonymous letters, or this could be related to a political decision. More or  less seriously, I learnt that Mihai Ghimpu was upset with those coming from Anenii Noi, where people had been giving their votes to the communists” - as Dorel Musteata commented on this.

In June 2015, Virgiliu Buhnaci, in his turn, was appointed for the investigating magistrate position at the Botanica District Court in the Capital.

Sergiu Godorogea, Raşcani Rayon Court

Sergiu Godorogea from the Rascani Rayon Court, according to a report signed by Mihai Ghimpu, also discredited justice and compromised a judge’s honor and dignity. “Thus, Mr. Godorogea, at Police request, without any prosecution procedure having started in compliance to legislation, as well as based on prosecutors’ requests, had signed warrants for search and seizure operations, which did not end up as desired, but generated complaints from citizens that were submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office” – a fact shown in the document based on which Mihai Ghimpu rejected the appointment proposal of Sergiu Godorogea’s candidacy for the investigating magistrate position until retirement age. But one month later Mihai Ghimpu signed the appointment, and Sergiu Godorogea became an investigating magistrate until retirement age. After four years, Nicolae Timofti reapproved him as judge at Rascani Rayon Court.

Vasile Stihi, Telenesti Rayon Court

In March 2010, SCM proposed Vasile Stihi for chariman of the Telenesti Court. The reasons of his rejection, stated in Mihai Ghimpu’s report were as follows: “Findings reveal incompatibility between Mr. Vasile Stihi and the court chairman function”, because he violates the substantial and procedural legislation in his cases, does not have an unimpaired reputation, does not follow the professional ethics. Also, we have learned about some inadequacies with regards to his property right over some real estate items”.

In 2011, Marian Lupu accepts him for the position of deputy-chairman for the same court.

THE PERIOD OF NICOLAE TIMOFTI

Oleg Melniciuc, Rascani District Court

Two years ago, SCM proposed Oleg Melniciuc, at that time acting as a judge and deputy-chairman of the Rascani District Court in Chisinau, for the position of chairman at the same structure. Nicolae Timofti had clearly replied that this magistrate’s objectivity is under suspicion. “In my view, Mr. Meniciuc, acting as deputy-chairman, has shown that his performance in the name of justice in some of the civil cases did not comply with the stipulations envisaged by the Law on the judge’s statute and the Code of ethics, and it involved conflicts of interest issues – the document shows. Therefore, the President of the country reminded about a complex control conducted at this court finding an unsatisfactory court activity. In June 2013, Nicolae Timofti has appointed him for the position of chairman of the Rascani District Court.

Anatolie Galben, Rascani District Court

In 2014, Nicolae Timofti rejected the Anatolie Galben’s candidacy when SCM proposed his re-approval as common law judge. Mr. Galben is one of the magistrates that tried the cases of young people arrested during the April 2009 events.

“The data in the ISS verification request refers to judge Anatolie Galben’ violation of the impartiality principle in some of the cases, thus generating suspicion over his rulings (…) SCM overlooked some circumstances which had to be considered and corroborated with the statute of the judge” – the note sent to the Council says.

In June, SCM members proposed this candidate again, and Nicolae Timofti is to issue a decree.

Ion Turcan, Centre District Court

A couple of months ago, SCM proposed Ion Turcan for the position of chairman of Centre District Court from the Capital, a function he has been holding since 2011. But Nicolae Timofti informed his former colleagues that the ISS has data compromising the integrity of the candidate, and the reported details pertaining to this fact bring up reasonable doubt over this person’s rulings”. This way, the President of the country has rejected the candidate and insisted upon additional verification by SCM.

ZdG has previously disclosed that the ISS information mentioned that the magistrate went on a vacation in Poiana Brasov, Romania, which was offered as a gift by an indicted. “It is the President’s right to reject or approve. The ISS data is not supported by evidence and does not correspond to truth. Everything stated in the information letter was examined and supposedly happened over three years ago. Nevertheless, they again come up with lies, I apologize for the wording” Ion Turcan stated, specifying that neither him nor his family have ever been to Poiana Brasov. Nicolae Clima, an SCM chief inspector and judge, told us that no final decision about Ion Turcan has yet been made.

Natalia Berbec, Hancesti Rayon Court

Several months ago Natalia Berbec, a recent graduate of the National Institute of Justice, was proposed for magistrate at the Hancesti Rayon Court for a five-year period. This happening in the context when a year earlier her candidacy as judge wishing to see herself in the Buiucani District Court was rejected.  Nicolae Timofti reminded about the letter he sent to SCM to point out on the existence of reasonable suspicions over the Natalia Berbec’s integrity. (...) such appointments can compromise the efficiency and the image of justice, as well as the positive effects expected as outcomes from the reforms applied to this sector”, the President mentioned.

According to the ISS, during 2001-2009 she was part of the legal staff at ME “Regia Transport Electric” - RTEC (the municipal Energy Comnay), an enterprise subject to “raider attacks” at the time. According to the same ISS data Natalia Berbec was previously in a relationship with Ruslan Garstea, who in his turn, had ties with the underground businessman Veaceslav Platon, the one suspected of raider attacks over RTEC. Last year, during an SCM meeting, Berbec has denied the data from the ISS. “How can I prove that I do not know Platon, if I really do not know him?” - Berbec asked the SCM representatives. In July, the President of the country has signed the decree appointing Natalia Berbec as judge at the Hancesti Court.

Stefan Starciuc and Grigori Colev, Comrat Court of Appeal; Serghei Gubenco, Comrat  Court

Stefan Starciuc, the one heavily criticized by Vladimir Voronin, came into Nicolae Timofti’s view. The judge together with two other colleagues - Serghei Gubenco, chairman of Comrat Court, and Grigori Colev, magistrate at the same court, were proposed for the positions of judges at the Comrat Court of Appeal. Nicolae Timofti did not accept them asking SCM to conduct and additional check of the candidates. “The data from the ISS letter of notice raises the issue of integrity and generates reasonable suspicions over their rulings”, as written in Nocolae Timofti’s document.

In April 2015, the Council has repeatedly proposed their candidacies to the President.  “(...) I find a paradoxical situation at SCM – an institution exercising judicial self-administration, did not examine the contents of the consultation notices from the verification body  for those in public positions and the candidates – the ISS. Even more so when the additional verification of those candidates was indicated by the SCM itself”, the letter informing the SCM on the rejection of those candidate notes.

In May, at an SCM meeting, Starciuc, Gubenco and Colev have demanded to be repeatedly proposed to the President. This demand created confusion among magistrates from the Council and they did not know how to respond. „We have a problem. We do not have access to the State secrecy” reminded SCM member Teo Carnat about the fact that the President referrers to data received from ISS with state secret contents, to which only a limited number of person have access.

“I know that I did my job honestly and that there are people my rulings are not agreeing with. But this is the real situation. Maybe they are from the law enforcement bodies. We make decisions in compliance with law, not with somebody’s interest. I have no idea who is asking ISS whether I deserve or not to get the position with Comrat Court. I had cases involving policemen.., other people”, Stefan Starciuc reported in front of SCM members.

They were convinced and, finally, have repeatedly proposed Stefan Starciuc and Grogori Colev as candidates for the judge position at Comrat Court of Appeal to be appointed by the President. So President Timofti has signed the decree.

Ghenadie Morozan, Chisinău Court of Appeal

Ghenadie Morozan, the magistrate at the Rascani District Court in Chisinau, who had tried the young people during the April 2009 events, has been recently promoted for a position with the Chisinau Court of Appeal. The SCM members have been insisting on this candidate despite the fact that President Timofti has rejected him several months ago.  In his letter to SCM, Nicolae Timofti refers to notice of the NGOs Union “The Anticorruption Alliance” on the person’s lack of integrity, lack of professional reputation and impeccable morality. The NGOs alerted on the fact that the judge has discredited the judicial system with his actions violating the human fundamental rights and freedoms.

“Taking into account the data from the notice letter referring to the candidate’s integrity of Mr. Morozan, who is proposed for a judge position, this available information brings up reasonable doubts over his rulings, thus we consider Mr. Morozan’s promotion to judge at the Court of Appeal inopportune, without a verification of the provided information by the SCM – an institution with judicial self-administration” – the President’s report mentions.

Buddies who left the system after years

During the last ten years, there were many judges who were rejected by the President, but they still continued their job being supported by SCM, and, then, ultimately left the system with big honors. Some of them were entitled to money allocations valuing hundreds of thousand lei.

Ion Dandara, for example, has worked in the judiciary system till 2014, despite the fact he was rejected by Vladimir Voronin in 2006 on grounds of not being an impartial judge. And Andrei Negurita had been a judge in Stefan Voda till 2014. In 2006 he was rejected by Voronin on grounds that “he had connections with the criminal groups from the country, and he was devoting his weeks-ends to fishing in the company of Leonid Caragia - the leader of the “Caragia”criminal gang”.

Mihail Dolghieri left the system only in 2014, although Vladimir Voronin mentioned in April 2006 that he was allegedly involved in “influence peddling during the investigation of some disputes” and suspected for “promoting the interests of criminals”.

Victor Arnaut had been a judge till 2013, and then he left the system voluntarily, although Vladimir Voronin rejected him in 2006 for “promoting the interests of a group of persons”.

Ion Busuioc had been a magistrate of the Center District Court in Chisinau till April 2015. He left the system, when he was found guilty for a car accident that resulted in the death of one person. In 2006, Vladimir Voronin informed SCM about the fact that he “violates the law, is brutal with the trial participants and is very subjective”.

Vasile Manascurta worked for the Ungheni Rayon Court until three years ago, and although  was rejected by Vladimir Voronin for “being subjective and partial, and protects his son-in-law’s business by favoring the placement of two cigarette kiosks, one of which was installed in green space area of the court’s courtyard”. After he left the system, he worked as a lawyer, but in 2014 he was detained by the National Anticorruption Center for bribery.

Another interesting case is the one of the former judge Victor Lanovenco. He was dismissed last year after becoming the first judge evaluated with “negative” by the Qualification College by the SCM. Before that, he was severely reprimanded for making a scandal in a store in Vulcanesti town. In December 2012, he came into a food store wearing no shoes, just his socks, disturbing the public order and was escorted to the Police office.

Vladimir Voronin was pointing out on his behavior since 2008, when he rejected the approval for the judge position until retirement age. The President mentioned that the candidate was “arrogant, irresponsible, and had no respect”, and on December 7, 2008, being on duty, he examined 12 administrative cases while in his car in the courtyard of the court, by applying in an express and an authoritative manner minimal fines for each offender”. “Mr. Lanovenco was abusing alcohol, including in public places”, Voronin was noting.

The Presidency with its hands tied

Ion Paduraru, secretary general of the Presidency of Republic of Moldova, says that when a judge with integrity issues is being promoted, then the institution currently run by Nicolae Timofti has its hands tied. “The President has a critical view over such situations, because he considers that SCM is not doing its job properly when they promote candidates that were already rejected in the past”, Ion Paduraru states.

In this context, the secretary general reminds that a draft law has been submitted to the Parliament since 2012, amending the norm for cases when SCM repeatedly proposes judges for appointing, when their candidacy has to be voted for by all twelve SCM members and not only by 2/3 of them as currently.

 “If it were approved, I think that in many cases there would have been at least one member against the proposed candidate, and a judge with problems would have never passed. Probably this draft law didn’t pass because it’s not convenient. I don’t know why and to whom. We will request the expedition of the examination. Possibly, this topic was not taken into serious consideration. Currently, the President has no leverage, although he is the one to ultimately sign the decree of appointment”, Ion Paduraru explains.

CSM: “We have no access to state secrecy”

The SCM representatives are also displeased. If the Presidency complains that the SCM does not take the information from the presidency into account, then Victor Micu, the SCM Chairman, is dissatisfied with the fact that the letters coming from the head of the state do not provide specific data on the rejected candidate.

“When we examine a candidate, we receive a comment notice from ISS specifying that the person is possibly a risk factor. But there were situations when we proposed a candidate a second time and considered that based on that information, the President did not have the right to reject him, because it was just general information. According to the Law on state secrecy, in the SCM only the chairman, the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General have access to state secret information ex officio. But me, as the chairman, I do not have no access to state secrecy. Under such circumstances, when notice letters from ISS and presidential decrees contain general information and the judge asks that we prove the risk factors he poses in a public meeting, and we fail to do this, then we have no choice than to propose the person again”, Victor Micu insists.

The magistrate states that the documents signed by the head of the state should include more details. “This way we would be able to show the judge the exact accusations against him. I understand the situation when it’s indeed a state secret, but when we are talking about the activity of a judge, there should be no secret information. The notice letters should not contain information about the judge’s cases, as we can access this information from our computers, but about his personality, the meetings he has with shady people or about him having a wrong life-style. Now, the Judicial Inspection, also not having access to secret information, delivers an informational note with reference to same notice, based on which the candidate is being rejected. This informational note is presented at the SCM meetings. If the accusations are not proven, then we cannot do anything with the tools that we have”, Victor Micu explains.

Nicolae Clima, a former judge at SCJ and SCM’s chairman during 2006-2009 considers that the information in the President’s rejection notes is often different than the truth. “Usually, while I was in SCM, the president (Vladimir Voronin – editor’s note) was receiving information from certain institutions. I do not intend to say that this information was wrong, but what I can say about us is that every time we would engage in a verification process of all circumstances why the candidate was rejected, we were learning that most of the reasons did not correspond to the extent invoked. If we were to analyze all candidates refused by the President and the SCM has repeatedly proposed with additional materials, you will be convinced that SCM actions were always correct”, the former magistrate assured us. Nicolae Clima, currently chief inspection judge at the Judiciary Inspection of the SCM, believes that in the future, just like in other countries, the President should be excluded from the judges’ appointment process. “Of course we have to get to that level, since we are still so far away”, he notes.

The experts: “SCM does not listen to ISS and the President”

“The SCM motivating that the Judicial Inspection is not able to prove the information presented in the notice letters is a circumvention of accountability, just because the inspection judges do not have access to secret information, and respectively, can not verify such data. That is precisely why the President’s response to a magistrate’s appointment or promotion should be detailed enough to convince the SCM that the ISS is not influencing negatively or even make attempts at the inviolability or independence of the judge”, Ion Guzun, the legal counselor at the Legal Resources Centre from Moldova (LRCM) believes.

Lilia Ionita, expert from the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption agrees. Nevertheless, she states, that the Law on the Judge’s Status as well as the international and regional standards recommend that proposals for magistrates’ appointments should come from an independent authority that is mostly composed of magistrates (SCM).

“The intervention of the political level (The President, Parliament) should be minimal. This is about the separation of powers in a state and that’s it. It’s different, though, when the SCM members do not listens to what ISS and the President have to say and when the “right” candidate gets into the list, they close their eyes an

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