Corruption in Moldova is engrained in politics and society, as oligarchic elites account for a significant portion of country’s wealth. While progressive reform has taken place in Moldova, the implementation of laws lags behind, and corruption exists in various sectors of the economy – from healthcare and procurement to judiciary and law enforcement.
A recent example is dubbed as “theft of the century”, as US 1 billion disappeared from three Moldovan banks, Banca de Economii, Unibank, and Banca Sociala. A mix of schemes was utilized to make this possible, including toxic loans, shareholder deals, and asset swaps. This fraud accounted for a 12% decrease in the country’s GDP, and allegedly was staged in agreement of those in power. In turn, the gap in the banks’ obligations to depositors, including pensions and social payments, was filled by the National Bank of Moldova. The efforts to recover some of the stolen funds were largely unsuccessful.
The grand theft has impacted the economy of Moldova, putting the burden of filling the gap created by the theft onto Moldovan taxpayers. Unfortunately, the attempts that have been made to seize the stolen assets have largely not been successful. In addition, it is unclear how many people were involved in the scheme, and the former government of Moldova was not actively assisting in the investigation or search for perpetrators. Those implicated in the scheme had an opportunity to clean up their assets before law enforcement reached them.
Moldovan Whistleblower Protection Laws
In Moldova, in October 2018, a draft law “On the Protection of Whistleblowers” was developed, including many European and international standards, including protection for public and private sector employees, a designated public agency to investigate complaints, a range of remedies and relief, and criminal penalties for retaliation.
The Law on Whistleblowers came into effect in November 2018, yet few disclosure cases were recorded. The National Anticorruption Centre and People’s Advocate Office take upon the duties of reviewing disclosed facts and ensuring whistleblowers’ protection.
Case study: whistleblower dismissed illegally
One of the most prominent cases of whistleblowing in Moldova is one of Iacob Guja, head of press unit in Prosecutor General’s office. Guja disclosed attempts by high-ranking political officials to influence the judiciary. Following a public call by President Voronin in 2003 to end corruption, including public officials’ attempts to pressure law enforcement officers, Guja forwarded letters received by the Prosecutor General’s Office to a newspaper. The correspondence indicated that high-ranking officials had pressured prosecutors into discontinuing criminal proceedings against four police officers who had been under investigation for alleged illegal detention and ill treatment of detainees.
After the disclosure, Guja was dismissed from work for disclosing confidential documents. He filed a lawsuit against his unfair dismissal at the European Court for Human Rights, which ruled that Moldova had breached Guja’s right to freedom of expression which could not be justified as “necessary in a democratic society”. He was awarded €10.000 in damages.
Case study: corruption at a gas extraction company
A worker in Moldova, whose name is kept confidential for the reason of whistleblower`s protection, reported to the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC) of Moldova about corruption in the Ialoveni-Gaz LLC enterprise.
On January 29, 2020, there was a digging in Micauti area, which was performed by the whistleblower. During the digging a gas pipeline was damaged, which led to gas leaking and it became known to Ialoveni-Gaz enterprise officials. The whistleblower repaired the damage by his own resources, but still was invited to the chief-engineer of the enterprise, who asked him to pay 116,000 Lei (6,400 USD) for the damage caused without any official documentation. Then the chief-engineer proposed another solution to pay 33,000 Lei to the enterprise`s budget and 40,000 Lei to him as a reward for reducing the fine.
The chief-engineer was caught red handed after taking a bribe under the surveillance of the NAC officers and anti-corruption prosecutors in February, 2020. He is facing imprisonment from 2 to 7 years.
Police corruption in Moldova
A whistleblower, whose name is kept confidential for the reasons of the whistleblower`s protection, called the Moldovan National Anti-corruption Line 0 800 55555 and informed that on March 8, 2020, his car with foreign registration numbers was stopped by two traffic policemen. The whistleblower was tipsy and didn`t have a driving license with him. Instead of detaining and fining the driver, the policemen demanded 300 Euros not to hold him liable. As the whistleblower didn`t have 300 Euros with him, he gave only 1000 Lei (approx. 56 USD) and then informed NAC about the corruption. The rest of the bribe amount was passed to the corrupt policemen under the surveillance of the National Anti-corruption Center officers and bribe takers were arrested afterwards. In case they are found guilty, they can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Per Moldovan NAC stats, 45 policemen were investigated for involvement in corruption-related activities in 2019, and from January to March 2020 already 12 policemen have been investigated.
Petty corruption among traffic police
The whistleblower, whose name is kept confidential for the safety purpose, reported about the attempt of bribe extortion to the Moldovan National anti-corruption line. He informed that in December 2019 he was stopped by traffic police in Chisinau for irregular crossing at the red light and he was tested positive after an alcohol test. The policeman escorted the whistleblower home and requested 1000 Euros from him for avoiding punishment.
The policeman was detained on Eminescu street of Chisinau at the time of the bribe receipt. He tried to flee the place, so the NAC officers had to shoot 2 warning shots. The policeman faces up to 10 years of imprisonment for corruption.
Bribery at the Agency of Public Affairs
An unnamed whistleblower reported bribery for the car registration in Moldova in February 2020. He informed the Moldovan National Anticorruption Agency that an employee of the ‘Autospace’ dealership proposed to speed up the car registration at the Agency of Public Affairs of Moldova for 200 Euros as he had connections there.
On February 6, 2020, the whistleblower passed the money to the dealership employee under NAC control, after which the latter was detained. The other suspect from the Public Affairs Agency managed to escape and pursuing measures were taken by NAC. Both suspects face up to 10 years of imprisonment for corruption.
A lawyer investigated for corruption
A whistleblower, whose name is not mentioned for protection purposes, was being investigated for large scale fraud in Moldova. Her lawyer from Chisinau promised to help her escape criminal liability as he claimed to have influence over some magistrates from Hincesti court, where the whistleblower`s case was pending, and some officials from Ialoveni Prosecutor`s office and Police Inspectorate, where her case was managed. The lawyer requested 14.000 Euros for mediation, which were given to him in 3 tranches.
After the whistleblower informed the Moldovan Anti-Corruption agency, NAC officers searched the house and the car of the lawyer on January 28, 2020, and arrested him afterwards. He faces up to 6 years of imprisonment.
This is the first lawyer detained by NAC in 2020, however, in 2019, 18 lawyers were investigated for corruption acts.
Reporting corruption attempts at Balti police
The whistleblower from Balti, Moldova, whose name is not mentioned, informed the National Anti-Corruption Agency of Moldova about the corruption attempt at the Balti police department in January 2020. The policewoman asked for 200 Euro for expedite file termination of the whistleblower`s 2016 case, in which he was investigated for debts.
On January 20, 2020, the police officer was caught red-handed by NAC officers after 200 Euro bribe were received by her. She faces from 5 to 10 years of imprisonment for corruption.
Whistleblowers reporting corruption within Border Police Service
Two whistleblowers, whose names are not mentioned for safety purposes, informed the National Anti-corruption Center of Moldova about the bribe in the amount of EUR 12,000 requested from them by the Chief of the Border Police Service in December 2019. The whistleblowers were connected to the cases of car thefts in Romania. The police officer claimed that he had influence over some officials in the Prosecutor’s office, who determine whether to respond to the materials that come from Romanian law enforcement establishments or not. Based on that he promised to solve the problem of their involvement in the car thefts cases in Romania for the bribe, which had to be given in two tranches: EUR 8,000 and EUR 4,000. After the last money transmission performed under NAC control, the Chief border police officer was detained. He faces up to 6 years of imprisonment for corruption.
During the year 2019 more than 40 police officers were detained on suspicion of corruption.