Several days ago, the theme of political cases moved from the phase of political and theoretic approaches to the phase of complex practical actions and even practical results. In fact, it is for the first time that the Moldovan authorities recognized the political cases as a phenomenon in an official way, started to investigate them and to adopt attitudes and to even take reparatory actions. The phenomenon of political cases and its elements apart were discussed by invitees to a public debate entitled “Political” criminal cases: protagonists, methods, goals, consequences” that was staged by IPN News Agency.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said the political case is a generic term for cases with suspicions of illegal, abusive, selective investigation based on political reasons. “At least this is how the prosecutor general described the 38 cases in a news conference held on February 19. As regards the criteria by which they can be classed as such, these were clearly enumerated, namely illegal, abusive, selective investigation based on political reasons. These are sad things for the whole society,” he stated.
“A group of six prosecutors was to assess the 38 criminal cases and decide if they were political cases. Later, these cases were to be debated and analyzed in concert with the prosecutors dealing with the cases and take measures depending on the results. After the analysis, the cases under investigation were to be dropped. As regards the cases that were pending in court, the prosecutors were to withdraw the accusations or to issue ordinances to reclassify the deeds. The cases under implementation were to be checked in the eventuality of taking extraordinary appeal action.”
Igor Boțan noted the phenomenon of political cases is present in the states with totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and the Republic of Moldova can be said to have an authoritarian regime. For society, it is very important to answer the question: “How was it possible for a businessman who was only the leader of a party with representation of 1/5 in Parliament, without any public post, to become the coordinator of the state power in the Republic of Moldova?”. And this wasn’t only self-naming, but was also recognition on the part of academicians even. “Given such conditions, there are reasons to ask ourselves “What kind of society are we?”.
Lawyer Ștefan Gligor said the political cases are an instrument that covers the whole period after the declaring of Moldova’s independence. It is an instrument of pressure, blackmail, extortion, called criminal cases started by political order or by order of organized crime. “And those raider attacks, takeovers in the insurance, banking and non-banking sectors were conducted by the organized crime in cooperation with politicians, who were accomplices. These facts formed the basis of cases handled by order or through which they aimed to intimidated businesspeople so that these conceded the business. It happened so at the end of the 1990s – the start of the 2000s. This phenomenon developed together with the centralization of power by Vladimir Voronin, when the representatives of international organized crime started to assert themselves. The prosecution service was perceived by these patrons of trade unions as one of the most efficient instruments for swiftly achieving one’s goals,” said the expert, noting this is true not only about the prosecution service, but also about the Superior Council of Magistracy, the supervision authorities, etc.
According to the lawyer, a case by order means that instructions were given for a person to be examined, namely their work, lifestyle, relations with relatives, so as to identify a possibility of starting a criminal case and of determining a particular behavior in this. “Surely, advantages were to be obtained, depending on the nature and goal of that attack. The investigation, prosecution bodies started such cases and the role of the National Anticorruption Center cannot be neglected here. This, together with the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, was a key element in the handling of these cases. Together with the coming of Vlad Plahotniuc to power, the control of all the branches of the power, the unofficial institutional subordination became systemic in character and the Government, the prosecutor general, the SCM were actually the executors of an organized criminal group,” he stated.
Ștefan Gligor noted the criminal group at a certain moment met with resistance on the part of society. There were people who protested because of their own political beliefs and instruments of pressure were found against them, the criminal case being the most efficient instrument. This instrument was used when the people pronounced themselves publicly on political issues or when the goal was to take over the business, or when a person was needed to make statements against another person.
President of the Metals Employers Association Valentin Eșanu, businessman who was convicted in a “political” criminal case and was rehabilitated, said that in August 2017, he and seven employees of his enterprise were arrested over alleged money laundering and tax evasion. They were held for two years at Penitentiaries No. 13 and 16. He was set free one year after the legal detention period expired and was arrested against at the penitentiary’s gate in another criminal case, started over the purportedly illegal construction of a fence. In a month, he was set free and in two days was arrested again.
The businessman said the real reasons for such actions taken against him were the protests mounted in 2013-2017 in favor of liberalizing the ferrous and non-ferrous metals market. “I consider I was arrested mainly because of the revelations I made about the schemes used to launder money at “Metalferos” and about those who were behind those schemes,” noted Valentin Eșanu.
According to him, in June 2019, he and another 11 persons were recognized as political prisoners by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Representatives of the Delegation of the European Union followed closely his trial, attending also hearings. The representatives of the EU were his only hope when he was under arrest as he considers the Moldovan justice system is the most corrupt and illegal. It is highly improbable that things in justice will change as the events witnessed during Plahotniuc’s regime persist yet.
The debate “Political” criminal cases: protagonists, methods, goals, consequences” was the 140th installment of the series of debates “Developing political culture through public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.