Policemen Outside the Law

Policemen Outside the Law
07 November 2008 | 15:00
600 complaints to the Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding the abusive behaviour of policemen
258 penal cases – prosecuted
32 policemen – fired
12 inspectors – under penal investigation for taking bribes
24 former co-workers of the MIA – detained in a specialised prison at Lipcani

Even if they are caught red-handed taking a bribe, they continue working in some capacity in the police force. Often the investigations start, yet rarely are policeman suspended, “as a result of a lack of evidence,” and even if a file reaches court, the offending officer is released “due to the lack of elements of a crime” being committed.

The police are one of the most corrupt elements in the Republic of Moldova; a survey carried out by Transparency International-Moldova in the period February 23-March 10 2008 showed that 51% of the respondents issued unofficial payments to the police. On the other hand, even some chiefs of police offices declare that, in fact, they would make “an immoral woman of an innocent girl, as the police from the Republic of Moldova do.” At the same time, we have a number of policemen condemned for acts of corruption.

Two cases of criminal behaviour and tentative swindling

Case nr. 1

In June 2007, an employee of the Department of Frontier Guards Troops (because of his position within the organisation, he requested to remain anonymous) addressed the Centre for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption with the allegation that the head of the Penal Investigation Department of the police station of Drochia, Adrian Rotari, and his deputy, Eduard Cristian, took $250 from him, invoking that, in exchange of this, he wouldn’t be called as a witness in a penal case. “I am innocent. The police said that I would be called as a witness of an altercation between my neighbours and an unknown person. I understand that they entrapped me” V. told us. He affirmed that, even if the policemen insisted, he refused to give evidence.

Multiple summonses came one after the other from Drochia Police. “There, Rotari and Cristian threatened that I risk being involved in a case and asked me to bring them $250 in 30 minutes,” V. affirmed. That day, V. denounced them at the CCECC.

“At the CCECC I was told that, to prove the policemen’s guilt, I should accept their demands. I agreed. Drochia is situated 180km from Chişinău. Until those from the CCECC reached me, I would take money to the police for several days. First, it was 200 lei, then 300, and after that $50, telling them I didn’t have the whole sum of money and that I was still looking for it.

“How can it be, if you work at customs?” V. remembered the policemen’s reply, who were probably confusing frontier guards with customs officers. “I think that, because of this confusion, they put an eye on me, looped me, because customs officers are like policemen, they ask for money from everybody,” V. explained.

He said that “the ploy had success,” and Rotaru was arrested exactly at the moment of taking the money. After the ‘documentation’ of the case, he was escorted to Chişinău, to the Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office. Both the CCECC and Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office confirmed to Ziarul de Gardă Rotaru’s arrest.

V. doesn’t know what efforts the Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office made, but he affirmed that his demands, made with the hope that the policemen suspected of corrupt actions would be punished, were in vain. “They are both working, threatening me as often as they can, and from the official answers I’ve received, both from competent bodies from Drochia and Chişinău, I found out that “the penal investigation could not be started because of a lack of evidence,” V. said.

“Entitled? I have no words!”

In Drochia, the head of the Penal Investigation Department, Adrian Rotaru, was in his office, yet refused to talk about the case. Yet, he told us with satisfaction that he had been entitled to by the Prosecution Office. Cristian Eduard told us he hadn’t had anything in common with Rotaru and that the case had been closed. “I can speak to journalists only with the commissar’s permission,” the policeman said.

The Police Commissar, Andrei Gradinaru, told us that “such cases do not happen very often.” “Nonsense!” – he said abruptly, when we asked him if, in the case of taking bribes, the deputies share the money with their chiefs, as they themselves declare.

“From Chişinău, where Rotaru was escorted, the file was sent back to Drochia. We spent a lot of time there, going from the Prosecutor, Iancu Zaporojan, to the Vice Prosecutor, Anatol Banaru. They kept telling me: ‘the case is still being investigated’. One day, Banaru, with joy in his soul, told me: ‘the case has been solved, but not in your favour’,” V. told us.

Meanwhile one of the witnesses in the file was invited to the police station and was beaten in order to make him leave the region. The ‘witness’ confirmed to us this fact. “They called me with a summons. At the police station I was told to leave Drochia until things blow over. When I told them I couldn’t leave, they started beating me.”

I asked the vice-prosecutor what a “lack of evidence” meant in this case: “new circumstances appeared which proved a lack of evidence,” was the reply. The policemen asked for money not as a bribe, they did it for other purposes,” Banaru affirmed, telling that “the money was taken for ‘the compensation’ of the damage caused to the injured party.” When asked if, in such cases, policemen have the right to take the place of the court, which is the only one able to determine if any damage was caused and its value, Banaru confessed: “it is not the responsibility of the police, but they wanted to solve the problem through peaceful means without starting a trial.”

“When I understood that the prosecution protected those two policemen, I contacted the court. I also called the General Prosecution Office,” V. explained, being surprised that, after that, on December 30 2007, while on his shift, Judge Vladimir Cravet, took a decision according to which “the request of the petitioner V. is groundless.”

Alexandru Podlesnov from the General Prosecution Office also told him that “because of the lack of delinquency components” the two policemen could not be punished. Podlesnov affirmed that “he examined all the evidence and the outcome is adequate. If he is not satisfied with the decision of the prosecutor and with the reply of the General Prosecution Office, he can go to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Case nr. 2

On June 27 2007, Ruslan Iordache, 18-years-old, from Telenesti, called the helpline of the Centre for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, and informed them that the police were regularly asking for bribes from young people aged 18-23 years old whose parents were working abroad.

The solicitor pointed to Victor Cravciuc and Anatol Popovici from Telenesti Police, who, according to him, used to ask for money to “solve his problems.” At the beginning, Iordache said that, “they accused the boys of non-existent crimes,” after that, they started asking for money. “My parents work in Russia. Being aware of the fact that my parents are far away and that nobody can defend me, the policemen threatened that they would start an investigation concerning me and asked for money in exchange for a ‘refusal decree’. I gave them $1,500, but they didn’t leave me alone,” Iordache said, specifying that, after he had given them the money, they asked for more. “Last time, they asked me for $1,000,” the boy said.

After that he took his case to the police. After three days, on June 30 2007, at 7 p.m., the representatives of the Internal Security Department of the MIA and of the Anti-Corruption Prosecution arrested the senior inspector of Telenesti Police, Victor Cravciuc, whilst taking $300 from Iordache. Cravciuc was escorted to Chişinău and was detained at the CCECC for 10 days. After that, he was released. “I was speechless when I saw him at Telenesti police station again,” Iordache stated.

“The Anti-Corruption Prosecution didn’t make any attempt to ask for Cravciuc’s dismissal, and we followed the decision of the court,” Nicolae Vasilisin from the Internal Security Department of the MIA explained to us. He also specified that, “the investigation of the MIA is being suspended till the final decision of the court is made.”

I asked him how he feels about the the accusations of taking bribes, and his arrest and release; “I was beaten both during my arrest and during the investigation,” the policeman affirmed.

“You have been arrested by your colleagues from the MIA, how could that be?” I asked him. “I was beaten. All my documents are OK.” Even a few months after he had been arrested, Cravciuc prefers talking about the abusive treatment which he had been exposed to, rather than about the reasons for his arrest.

The Anti-Corruption Prosecution investigated the case according to art. 324, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code, in term of ‘passive corruption’ and sent the case to Telenesti Law Court. The other suspected person, Anatol Popovici, a policeman too, worked as a witness.

“What do you want? The elements of a crime are missing”

On February 4 2008, Telenesti Court acquitted Cravciuc, invoking “the lack of a crime.” The judge, Oleg Scolnic, told us that evidence was missing. Asked if being caught taking a bribe could be considered as evidence, Scolnic said that there was no grounds for it in the relationship Cravciuc-Iordache. Iordache’s name was mentioned neither as suspect nor as witness.” After a pause, Scolnic specified: “Cravciuc attached the act of legal medical expertise to the file, which proves that he was maltreated while being kept under arrest. Thus, he could have filed the testimonies under the pressure of torture. I asked him if Iordache participated in the process. “After he filed his first testimony, he disappeared. He may have left Moldova. In his absence, the summonses could not be issued,” Scolnic stated, specifying that “Iordache owed some money to Cravciuc, and that the CCECC caught the policeman while receiving the debt.”

On the other hand, Cravciuc threatened that all those who made his mother cry will cry too. “Iordache and I are relatives. He paid me a debt,” he said this version of events was accepted by the judge too, while neither Iordache’s neighbours, nor any officials from the town hall were able confirm the relationship of Cravciuc-Iordache.

The prosecutor, Nicolae Stroncea, told us he sent the decision of Telenesti Court to the Court of Appeal. “The sentence was neither persuasive, nor argumentative,” he told us, revealing the fact that, in general, Iordache worked as a witness in the case, and the money given to Cravciuc had to reach other policemen, who could “change a suspect into a witness and back.”

“Iordache left for Russia to find work. He denounced the policemen, but nobody assured his security. How could he go from one court to another and bring forward evidence against policemen who threaten people and are protected by the system at the same time? Cravciuc stood his ground, even if he was suspected of taking a bribe. What would have happened if, instead of policemen, it would have been a doctor or a teacher?”, one of Iordache’s acquaintances told us in Telenesti.

Laws are not part of their life

Hundreds of examples show us how corrupt policemen are as well as their placement out-of-law. According to the MIA Secretary Department, in 2007, around 600 petitioners addressed official complaints, contesting the activity of policemen. In the first three months of 2008, 100 complaints were issued. Also at the Internal Security Department of the MIA we found out that, in 2007, 258 penal investigations were opened against policemen and 216 policemen were suspected of having committed 272 infractions. 81% of penal cases, covering influence peddling actions, passive corruption, torture, application of force in testimonies, forgery of public documents, ignorance in work, theft, privacy violation, physical injuries, were examined by the justice system. In the same period, only 32 policemen were dismissed following court decisions.

At the Anti-Corruption Prosecution, the Vice-Prosecutor, Vasile Levitchi, told us that, in 2007, 12 policemen were put under penal investigation for taking bribes. I asked him why, in the case of policemen, the files do not reach court, and if they do reach it, the sentences are in their favour. “Usually, the investigations which attempt to catch someone in the act, be it by bugging telephones or videoing them prove that a crime was committed.” But, in court, as judges say, problems arise, new evidence appears, even if, according to the law, the judges have to take into consideration the evidence of the penal investigation, as well as that brought during the trial.

Cases with the involvement of policemen are complicated. Witnesses change their testimonies, they may be even have been ‘bought’, blackmailed or intimidated by policemen,” Levitchi explained, pointing out the fact that legal stipulations regarding the witnesses’ and victims’ protection provides the assurance of personal bodyguards. “Citizens don’t really know that the state can protect them,” he said, emphasising that the perception of corruption in society is wrong.

Denouncing corrupt policemen not encouraging enough for citizens

Prosecutors of the Anti-Corruption system say that, usually, denouncing corrupt policemen is not encouraging enough for citizens. Such cases are brought to the court mostly by those who don’t have money for a bribe, or by people who are demanding too big a sum of money. “70-80% of the policemen suspected of corruption are investigated whilst being able to carry on life as normal. Seldom judges decide to keep them under house arrest or prohibit them leaving the country and avoid arresting them. Thus, after the crime has been committed, the victim notices him in at work in the police station. As a result, fear and regret appear,” Levitchi affirmed.

According to the Penal Procedure Code, a policeman can be suspended from his position during the period of investigation on the account of the prosecutor’s decree, approved by the administration of his subdivision. In reality, policemen continue their activity, where from they usually influence the investigation.

“You are asking as if you are not aware what state you live in. I paid 500 euros to the judge. I ‘made a deal’ with the prosecutor and with the chief. I spent 2,500 euros on this case. I will try to get my money back,” a policeman, who got involved in a penal case for taking a bribe in 2007, as a result of being caught said.

Prosecutors also say that in the cases of taking a bribe, big sums of money are in circulation, from 1,000 to 20,000 lei, according to unofficial data. Money goes from investigators to their superiors or even to judges. “It is a lot of money in Moldova. Who can resist such sums?” prosecutors from the Anti-Corruption system wonder, who deal with the investigation of cases of corruption for civil servants.

I spoke to Eugen Axentiev, general police inspector of Chişinău: “I was put in a situation of making from an immoral woman, as the police do, of an innocent girl. Just look at the policemen’s cars, to understand how corrupt police are,” the inspector affirmed. Near the police station, from 6 Tighina street, cars such as Audis, Mercedes and BMWs are waiting for their owners, who officially receive a salary of 2,000 lei.

Vladimir Turcanu is a deputy of the CPRM, head of the Juridical Commission for Assignments and Immunities, former minister of the MIA of the Republic of Moldova and Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to Russia, being suspected also of corruption regarding wine, confesses that, there is a lot of corruption in the police system, and this is because technical and processing possibilities are not modern enough and that society does not trust the system’s fight against corruption. “If people were sure that corrupt policemen would be punished, they would denounce corruption with more courage,” Turcanu affirmed, specifying that, in such cases, it is difficult to gather evidence, because in the process of giving and receiving bribes, witnesses usually miss it.

The Statistics of MIA, in disharmony with those of Department of Penitentiary Institutions (DPI)

How many policemen are convicted? How many former policemen complete the list of those 10,000 convicts?

The general director of the DPI, Vladimir Trofim, informed us that, according to the Execution Code, condemned people who, despite of previous positions, can be threaten with revenge are kept separately from other categories of convicts, in Penitentiary nr. 2 from Lipcani. At present, there are 24 former representatives of MIA in the prison. 58% of them (only 13) are inside for serious and very serious crimes.

Those who receive a bribe – continue giving it

Being asked to comment on the difference between the infraction committed by the policemen and the number convicted, Gheorghe Amihalachioaie, the head of the Lawyers’ Bar, said that “there is a classic solidarity among the policemen, prosecutors and judges. It is a well-organised system. Those who receive bribe continue giving it. They know how much and whom to give it to in order to escape punishment. On the other hand, policemen are ‘experts’ in gathering evidence. They pressurise witnesses or victims, influencing them to change their testimonies,” Amihalachioaie affirmed.

The dismissal of Papuc: the beginning of the end?

The capture of 200kg of heroine on March 20 2008 recalls the subject of corruption within the MIA. Even if Gheorghe Papuc wasn’t accepted into the government of Greceanaii, and a version, according to which, immediately after the heroine case was discovered, the former minister was arrested at his home circulated, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Moldova, Valeriu Gurbulea, told us that Papuc’s name wasn’t heard in the ‘Heroine Case’, and in the court we found out that, no arrest mandate was issued for the former minister. And the last rumours about the existence of an ‘informal’ photo with Papuc, near Caralar, the driver of the Hyundai car, where the 200kg of heroine was found, are denied by the chief of the investigation, Sergiu Garabagiu. On the other hand, the declaration of one of those three arrested policemen, “everything is just a challenge!” lets us think.


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