• Airport concession dossier: lawyers ask for hearing of ministers from Leanca Government. Adrian Băluțel: “They want to tarnish the President’s image”

    Airport concession dossier: lawyers ask for hearing of ministers from Leanca Government. Adrian Băluțel: “They want to tarnish the President’s image”
    Photo source: Chisinau International Airport
    by
    13 February 2024 | 13:42

    “The truth is simple and public: Maia Sandu did not vote for the concession of the Airport to the company of the criminal group Șor, Avia Invest”. This is the reaction of the head of the Office of the President of the Republic of Moldova, Adrian Băluțel, to the information that appeared in the public space regarding the request to hear Maia Sandu and Dorin Recean as witnesses in the trial in which eight former high-ranking officials are accused for the concession of the Chisinau International Airport.

    Adrian Băluțel came up with a message on social media, three days after the court hearing at which the lawyers of the former dignitaries demanded the hearing of members of the government led by Iurie Leacă, including Sandu and Recean, in which he said that “the culprits are trying to prolong the trial as long as they can and escape responsibility, and now they want to tarnish the image of the president”.

    “The October 2013 government meeting at which that vote took place is public, anyone can review it and see that Maia Sandu did not vote. Moreover, the government led by Maia Sandu repealed in September 2019 the government decisions that aimed at the concession of the airport, and in 2023 the airport returned to state management,” notes the head of the President’s Cabinet.

    On 9 February, the Buiucani Court held a new hearing in the case concerning the concession of the Chisinau International Airport, in which eight former dignitaries are accused of excessive power, reports Radio Free Europe Moldova.

    Former Prime Minister Iurie Leanca’s lawyer asked the judges to invite all members of the cabinet of ministers at the time as witnesses in the trial. Vladislav Rosca explained that they should tell the court whether or not Leanca had made them vote for the airport concession.

    The source also reports that lawyer Victor Munteanu, who represents former Economy Minister Valeriu Lazăr, has presented the court with a list of potential witnesses, including former Democratic Party President Dumitru Diacov, former Parliament Speakers Marian Lupu and Igor Corman, and former interim Parliament Speaker Liliana Palihovici. According to the lawyer, they were responsible for taking the “political decision” on the airport concession. The list also includes former Prime Minister Pavel Filip and former Justice Minister Sergiu Litvinenco.

    State prosecutor Mariana Leahu told the court that if all the people mentioned by the lawyers are summoned as witnesses, “the limits of the examination of the case will be extended to the maximum”. The judges announced that they will decide at the next hearing whether to accept the list of defence witnesses, scheduled for 4 March.

    The examination of the Chisinau International Airport concession case began on 18 May at the Buiucani Court of Chisinau, where the case was assigned to Judge Djeta Chistol. During the first hearing, the lawyers submitted a request for the formation of a panel of three judges. The request was accepted and a panel composed of Djeta Chistol, Tatiana Bivol and Petru Păun was formed.

    Following the concession of the Chisinau International Airport, the state has been caused a material damage in the amount of 392 million lei, said the head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (PA), Veronica Dragalin.

    Eight people, including the former prime minister of the Russian Federation, are named in the case sent by prosecutors. Iurie Leanca, former Minister of Economy Valeriu Lazar, former Director General of the Public Property Agency Tudor Copaci, former Deputy Director of the Public Property Agency Angela Susanu, former Deputy Head of the Public Property Administration Department of the Public Property Agency Maria Senda, former Acting Director General of the State Enterprise “Chisinau International Airport” Petru Jardan, former Financial Director of the enterprise Alexandru Ciutac and Head of the Economic Analysis Service of the Chisinau International Airport Alla Tubari.

    The concessioning of Chisinau Airport was carried out in several steps. First, on 19 June 2012, the Government issued a decision on the initiation of the public-private partnership project for the concession of the asset. This was followed by a decision of 29 May 2013 by the interim government led by Iurie Leanca, approving the concession and setting its conditions. Then, on 4 October 2013, the Cabinet of Ministers reconfirmed the decision on the concession of Chisinau Airport approved in May. Maia Sandu, who at that time held the portfolio of Minister of Education, abstained, and representatives of the reformist Liberals voted against. After all these steps, also in 2013, the airport was concessioned for a period of 49 years to the company “Avia Invest” (founded 28 days before the deal), affiliated to the former fugitive MP Ilan Shor.

    Chisinau International Airport returned to state ownership on 27 March 2023, based on a decision of the Chisinau Court of Appeal. The concession company had been accused of failing to make promised investments in the airport’s development. In mid-November this year, Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spînu said that investments of 200-300 million lei were needed to develop the airport’s infrastructure, so several options were being considered, including its concession.

    AUTHOR MAIL sabinrufa1@gmail.com

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