• The Landlord from the President’s Native Village

    The Landlord from the President’s Native Village
    27 April 2020 | 09:51

    The owner of the President hotel in Chișinău, a five-star hotel, Alexandr Dodon who is also President Igor Dodon’s fellow villager started an agriculture business in his native village – Sadova, Călărași district, the center of Moldova. He built his business on the southeastern edge of the village, on the site with orchards planted during the Soviet period. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the villagers got ownership of the orchards in the form of shares. In recent months, Alexandr Dodon has been buying the shares from the locals aiming to increase his land ownership in the region. However, some villagers claim that the businessman put pressure on those who refuse to sell their lands. The people feel anxious and avoid talking openly about this. On the other hand, Alexandru Dodon states that there is no pressure.

    At the end of March, ZdG received a message from a reader regarding a businessman who is continuously increasing his land assets in the Sadova village, Călărași district, the center of Moldova. 

    “A few years ago, Mr. Alexandr Dodon (not the president’s brother), the owner of the famous Hotel President, started buying/renting land in Sadova. First, he leased the pond in the village with the initial idea of rehabilitating it and improving the place for the villagers. After a while, they put a fence around the pond, built camping houses there, and forbid access to the pond and adjacent roads. 

    Later, he began buying land neighboring to his parents’ house, often using illegal methods. For example, the house of a man, who did not want to sell it, was demolished while the man was away. The man died of a heart attack shortly after he learned the news. Currently, A. Dodon began to grab the land adjacent to the pond, reportedly using the same illegal methods. 

    It is rumored that he wants to connect his house with the pond, which means almost 25 percent of the old village. Those who do not want to sell their land find their trees/orchards/ vineyards cut down and they are told to come and get their wood from their own land. Please help the people of Sadova to recover/keep the land they have had for a lifetime,” ran a message that came to our newsroom at the end of March. The sender, however, asked to remain anonymous. 

    On April 17, the ZdG team arrived in Sadova. We talked to the locals, the authorities, as well as to the workers who remove the trees and prepare the ground for a new plantation.

    Most of the locals we met on the village streets refused to speak about the land bought by Alexandr Dodon. Several residents of Sadova told us that they were afraid to talk about how Alexandr Dodon persuaded so many landowners to yield their land. Talking to the locals, we found out the names of people who supposedly did not want to sell the land shares, yet, in the end, they were forced to give up the arable land, the vineyard, or the orchard that they owned since the abolition of the collective farms.

    We found out that, on the eve of our visit to Sadova, the workers hired by Alexandr Dodon cut down all the trees on the property of a woman from the village, without having any agreement or consent. Raisa Cozma, who inherited 32 acres and her parents’ house in Sadova, is now a pensioner and lives in Călărași. Contacted by phone, she confirmed the words of the locals and explained how we can get to her freshly cleared land. 

    When we arrived on the spot, one of the workers in the area greeted us. He introduced himself as Gheorghe, Alexandr Dodon’s nephew. He said that the trees on Raisa Cozma’s land were cut down accidentally. Gheorghe explained that Raisa Cozma’s land borders with two pieces of land that were bought from other persons. The workers will have misunderstood the explanations of the owners, and thought that Mrs. Cozma’s land was part of the lands bought by Alexandr Dodon. Gheorghe mentioned that Mrs. Cozma remains the owner of the land, and she will decide if she wants to sell it or not, emphasizing that on the land there were no trees only some bushes. 

    We asked Gheorghe to help us contact Alexandr Dodon so that we could discuss the purchase of land from the villagers. After a few minutes’ talk on the phone, Gheorghe told us that Alexandr Dodon was busy and could not talk to us. He did not even want to give us the businessman’s phone number. He insisted, however, to clarify that Alexandr Dodon, who buys the land from the villagers, is neither a relative nor a friend of President Igor Dodon, who comes from the same village and who has a brother, called Alexandru.

    We asked Nicolae Racoviță, a cadastral engineer at Sadova village hall, about the land issue on the outskirts of the village. He states that the Village Hall has not received any other complaints related to possible abuses or pressure on the villagers, other than that of Raisa Cozma. He mentioned that Alexandr Dodon is a native of Sadova and wants to invest in agriculture. In order to invest in agriculture and to consolidate the land, he negotiates with the people. The engineer stated that following the complaint, Mrs. Cozma and Alexandr Dodon reached a common agreement. Thus, the woman will keep ownership of her land and will take the wood too.

    He also informed us that Alexandr Dodon’s people do the clearing based on verbal agreements with the landowners because the villagers only have documents to authenticate the landowner’s right and cannot sell the land before registering it with the Property Records of the Territorial Cadastral Service.

    Raisa Cozma, with whom we later met in Călărași, said that she found out about the works on her land from a relative who lives in the village. She called the police on April 5 and explained the situation to them. Therefore, the police together with the engineer went to the site and saw that all the trees were cut down. The woman arranged for her brother-in-law to take the wood.

    The woman added that Alexandr Dodon called her a few days later and asked her if she didn’t want to sell her terrain. She informed him that she will not sell her land, mentioning that she inherited it from her parents and wanted to give it to her children.

    While discussing with other villagers from Sadova, who have terrains in the area where Alexandr Dodon’s land is based, ZdG found out that although the villagers want justice, they are afraid. They said that they are landowners too and soon the businessman could come after their land. They mentioned that one of the villagers found his house demolished after he refused to sell his land. The villagers referred to another person who inherited land from her parents but did not draw up documents on the land after her parents’ death. When she went to the village hall, she found out that she did not have any documents and the land was taken from her without being paid. The villagers suggested that this was not the first case of abuse. 

    The villagers told us about an 80-year-old woman, who did not have proper documentation on her land. The businessman’s people brought the old woman’s wood home. However, they told her that she will be paid her money when she will have the documents in order.

    Another woman had about 20 acres of young walnuts, which had been bearing fruit for about seven-eight years. The woman did not work and she hoped that the nuts would bring her a retirement income. Alexandr Dodon cut down her orchard. 

    The villagers say that Alexandr Dodon does not ask people if they want to sell their land. The villagers mention that initially, he paid about 50 euros per acre, but now he offers the elderly only 25 euros per acres, while, according to the villagers, the price should be higher as the land is located close to the village.

    We asked another local woman how they persuaded her to sell the land and whether she was satisfied with the transaction. She told us, briefly, that she is afraid to speak about what happened. She added that the villagers are forced to leave a written consent that they agree to give their land. 

    Since 2012-2013, Alexandr Dodon is buying land in Sadova, especially near his parents’ house. During that period, he registered several of his properties in the name of his son, Nichita Dodon, who was 10 years old. In the autumn of 2019, when Nichita Dodon was 16 years old, he caught the eye of the press after video images appeared on the internet of a group of young people, including Nichita, driving a luxury car on Chișinău streets with excessive speed and firing from a pistol.

    Other properties in the area were registered at the Territorial Cadastral Service in the name of Tatiana Pîrțac, Alexandr Dodon’s wife. Earlier, Alexandr Dodon leased a plot of land of over two hectares with a lake. The lease is valid until 2036. Alexandr Dodon owns two other plots of land, bordering with the lake, formed by merging several smaller plots of land, with a total area of ​​almost four hectares. A one hundred sixty-seven square meters wooden house and several summer gazebos were built there. As the land has the status of agricultural land and is not intended for construction, the wooden house on the lakeshore is registered as an agro-industrial construction.

    When we asked Alexandr Dodon about the wooden house built on the agricultural land, he told us that all the constructions are in accordance with the law.

    At the end of 2019, ZdG wrote that in recent years President Igor Dodon’s family also purchased dozens of agricultural lands in Sadova. They are on the other side of the village, at the entrance to the locality. At the beginning of 2020, ownership on some of these lands passed from Galina Dodon, the President’s mother,  to the portfolio of the Agrofactory company, founded by another Alexandru Dodon, Igor Dodon’s brother. Earlier, the president declared that he was not a relative with Alexandr Dodon, the owner of the Hotel President, although he admitted that they knew each other, as they came from the same village.

    Alexandr Dodon’s Answer

    About Possible Pressures On To The Villages: 

    “The villagers call me themselves to say they want to sell their land. I did not even want to buy that much land. If you want to be objective, invite all the people who sold their land and they will say nothing but thanks. There was no pressure on anyone. You went to the village and you saw very well that there was no pressure. If I had forced almost 200 people to sell their lands, if there had been any pressure, the whole country would have known about it. You say that everyone is afraid. But why are they afraid? To begin with, I did not negotiate. I personally talked to very few of them. My classmate and my nephew negotiated with people, as well as some villagers. Half of the persons, or maybe even more, approached on their own saying they wanted to sell as they didn’t use the land except for about 10 percent of it.”

    About The Person Whose House Was Demolished:

    “You give me the name of a person who is already dead, right? I do not know him. About 150 people have sold their land. They are all alive in the village. Go to each one and you will see that everyone is satisfied. I was born in Sadova and I want to invest some money in my village. Does this bother anyone?”

    About Raisa Cozma’s Case: 

    “Mrs. Raisa appeared after her nephew sold the land. I talked to her personally and she has no complaints. If she wants to sell her land, I will buy it and if not, I will not buy it. I exercise no pressure on anyone. Show me a person who says I pressed him and then I can understand you.”

    AUTHOR MAIL eng.zdg@gmail.com


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