• Former head of the Southern Regional Development Agency, who used family garage for company car, loses case against the National Integrity Authority

    Former head of the Southern Regional Development Agency, who used family garage for company car, loses case against the National Integrity Authority
    Photo: bas-tv.md
    by
    06 March 2023 | 18:03

    Maria Culeșov, former director of the Southern Regional Development Agency (ADR), will not be able to hold public office and positions of public dignity for a period of three years, after the Supreme Court of Justice put an end to the case in which she challenged the act of the National Integrity Authority (ANI) accusing her of violating the law on conflict of interest when she concluded several rental contracts with her husband.

    Specifically, ANI found that Maria Culeșov, as director of the ADR, rented the garage from Vladimir Culeșov and paid him over 25 thousand lei for it.

    The former director said ANI did not see a conflict of interest in this situation, as long as the amount paid was “modest” and her family did not get rich.

    ANI examined the facts at the request of the South Territorial General Directorate of the National Anti-Corruption Centre, which noted that Maria Culeșov, as director of the South ADR, signed contracts with her husband, Vladimir Culeșov, between 2017 and 2021 for the lease of a 24-square-metre garage. In four years, the ADR paid 25 thousand lei.

    According to ANI, both the rental contracts and the acts of purchase of rental services were signed by Maria Culeșov as lessee and Vladimir Culeșor as lessor.

    Asked by ANI, Culeșov said that she kept a Volkswagen Tiguan car in her husband’s garage, donated by the German Embassy to the Southern Regional Development Agency, “on condition that the car would be kept in a secure garage”.

    On 25 February 2022, Maria Culeșov filed an application with the Chisinau Court of Appeal against ANI, requesting the annulment of the act of finding, and on 21 April 2022, ANI filed a motion requesting that the action be declared inadmissible.

    By a decision of 15 December 2022, the Chisinau Court of Appeal declared inadmissible the administrative proceedings brought by Maria Culeșov against ANI for annulment of the act of finding, on the grounds that the action was brought after the expiry of the time-limit and the applicant did not request that the time-limit be extended.

    The former director of the South ADR challenged the decision, but the Civil, Commercial and Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice decided on 22 February 2023 to reject the appeal filed by Culeșov and to uphold the decision of 15 December 2022 of the Chisinau Court of Appeal.

    She employed her husband as a driver and her son-in-law as a lawyer

    In 2015, Maria Culeșov was found to have another family conflict of interest involving her husband and her son-in-law, Andrei Coadă.

    The National Integrity Commission (CNI), ANI’s predecessor, found that in 2015 Vladimir Culeșov was employed as a driver and Maria Culeșov’s son-in-law as a lawyer at the South ADR. At the time, Maria Culeșov explained that her son-in-law had been hired through a competition, but her husband had been hired as a driver due to the lack of trained staff in the city of Cimislia.

    At the time, the NIC found that Culeșov had violated the legal regime of conflict of interest, but closed the case on the grounds that the legal regime of conflict of interest had been resolved by releasing her husband as a driver.

    Reinstated and dismissed the same day

    Maria Culeșov had been director of the South ADR since 2009. In 2021, by order of the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment, she was dismissed from her post. She challenged the order, and by a decision issued on 9 December 2021 by the Chisinau Court she was reinstated in her position.

    The next day, Andrei Spânu, then Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, signed an order reinstating her and another dismissing Maria Culeșov again.

    Maria Culeșov had previously also held the position of vice-president of the Cimislia district organisation of the Democratic Party of Moldova. In the parliamentary elections of 24 February 2019, she ran in the national constituency of the PDM, on position 28.

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