How Much it Costs a Country to Free a Controversial Businessman
According to Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo, Veceaslav Platon’s case is now pending for review. In the last six months, court decisions have eased Platon’s path to freedom. The Chișinău Court is currently examining a total of three criminal cases targeting Platon. In the next period, the court could decide to merge all three criminal cases pending. In this context, the revision of the criminal case and Platon’s possible acquittal may result in the state having to pay compensations of over €51.27 million (1 billion lei).
However, ZdG argues that Platon could also claim lost income for this period and non-pecuniary damages reaching €512.71 million, which is around five percent of Moldova’s GDP. The controversial businessman and former parliamentarian deputy Veaceslav Platon received his sentence of 18 years in prison in the largest criminal case linked to the theft of the billion in Moldova in April 2017. He was accused of obtaining approximately €51.27 million (1 billion lei) from Banca de Economii through illegal schemes. The state collected from Platon the €51.27 million (1 billion lei) by selling his goods and shares at Moldova Agroindbank and Moldindconbank, two of the largest banks in Moldova.
Prosecutor General Alexandr Stoianoglo: We managed to establish that Veaceslav Platon’s case was entirely falsified. We established this while examining the set of criminal cases on Moldova’s largest bank fraud, as well as other criminal procedural materials.
The accusation was based on deliberately distorted evaluation and misinterpretation of the facts, which resulted from the allegations provided by Shor. Therefore, the citizen Platon was convicted illegally and is illegally serving his sentence. Based on the accumulated evidence, the Prosecutor’s Office will initiate the procedure of reviewing Platon’s sentence and will insist on a fair examination of the case, with the guarantee of all his procedural rights, which he previously was denied.
We will ask the court to examine the case in a transparent manner in order to avoid all kinds of speculation, as well as to allow the society to assess the materials that served as the basis of his accusation. We want to find out who is behind these falsifications and who benefited from the stolen billion.”
Platon’s Lawyers Requested a Review of the Sentence in September 2019.
In September 2019, Platon’s lawyer filed a request to the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office and called for a review of the sentence issued in April 2017. On November 20, 2019, prosecutor Artur Lupașco refused to open the review procedure. Thus, the lawyers appealed the order in court.
On January 9, 2020, Judge Nicolae Corcea admitted the appeal signed by Platon’s lawyers, Ion Crețu and Alexandru Bodnariuc, and declared prosecutor Lupașco’s order null forcing him to liquidate the detected violations of human rights and freedoms.
“Finally, the actions we had asked for have been undertaken… The prosecutor, probably, decided on other additional actions. Following the Prosecutor General’s statements, we consider that all facts we indicated upon found confirmation. Previously, when we submitted the request for revision, no action was undertaken and they continued to conceal the information about the real beneficiaries (of the theft of the billion, ed. note). Now, it has been proven that the case was falsified. Since 2016, we kept claiming that the case was forged, we supported claims by evidence, but no one believed, no one paid attention,” says Ion Crețu, one of Platon’s defenders.
“Now the Prosecutor’s Office is going to submit to the court the request to review the case. If the judge agrees, the case will be reviewed. According to the Prosecutor General, there is enough evidence to review the case,” considers the lawyer.
Platon Could be Under Non-Custodial Interrogation.
Crețu claims that Platon could be put under non-custodial interrogation if the case is reviewed. However, this decision belongs to the judges.
“We believe he will be released. The prosecutor stated that Platon did not steal this money and that the criminal case was entirely falsified, which we have claimed for years,” says the lawyer.
The defender claims that if Platon is released from prison, he may be placed under non-custodial investigation.
“Platon has no intention to leave Moldova, on the contrary, he will remain to prove his innocence. He is not going to leave. We talked several times and he said that he is not going to hide, he will stay in the country,” the lawyer pointed out.
However, the final decision on whether to start reviewing the case or not belongs to the court, and a request from the Prosecutor’s Office in this regard is yet to be filed.
“According to the Prosecutor General, the case will be reviewed in order to ensure respect of Platon’s rights, including the right to a fair trial. The court will be required to conduct hearings in an open trial and, as provided by the Code of Criminal Procedure, with the assurance of all procedural guarantees. If the court decides for a public trial, the case will be re-examined in a public trial,” said Ion Caracuian, interim Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases, an institution that manages the revision procedure.
Thus, if the court accepts the request for review the case could be resumed from scratch, return to the first instance, and be judged already based on new evidence, accumulated by prosecutors following the review of the case.
Platon Facing Justice in Moldova.
Till now, Platon faced several trials. Favorable decisions in his case started a few months after Vladimir Plahotniuc, former leader of the Democratic Party, left the government, fled the country, and is now announced in international search. Platon accused Plahotniuc of fabricating his case.
On July 25, 2016, Viorel Morari, the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office at that time, stated that prosecutors searched five companies and their administrators at three financial institutions, namely Victoriabank, Moldova Agroindbank, Moldindconbank, and the Asito Insurance Company. They searched for documents to prove that Platon benefited from the fraud of the Banca de Economii of Moldova.
“A 30-day arrest warrant was issued on Platon’s name, and he was announced in search,” declared Viorel Morari on July 25, 2016. Platon was officially accused that he benefited from non-performing loans amounting to €41.02 million (800 million lei) from Banca de Economii.
On the same day, Platon was detained by the subdivision Alpha of the Ukrainian Security Service. On August 29, 2016, Platon was extradited from Ukraine to Moldova on a charter flight.
“Plahotniuc Wants to Blame Me for the Billion Theft.”
On September 1, 2016, the controversial businessman was detained for 30 days in Penitentiary no. 13. After leaving the courtroom, Platon stated that Plahotniuc would like to shift the blame for the billion theft on him.
“Plahotniuc wants to shift the blame for the theft of the billion on me,” Platon said. He later said that “everything is prearranged and the evidence in the case is false.”
In mid-November 2016, Platon’s case was sent to court. And the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office announced that Platon is under criminal investigation for fraud and money laundering.
Platon’s trial took place behind closed doors. And after 31 court hearings, a panel of judges from the Chișinău Court, Buiucani headquarters (Victor Boico, president of the panel, and judges Elena Cojocari and Vitalie Budeci), sentenced the controversial businessman to 18 years in prison in a high-security penitentiary.
The court seized the assets and goods that allegedly were owned by Platon through intermediaries, amounting to €44.56 million (869 million lei), which were to be alienated if the Chișinău Court of Appeal upheld the sentence.
At the same time, Platon was forbidden to hold positions in the banking system for a period of five years. He was accused of obtaining approximately €51.27 million (1 billion lei) from Banca de Economii through illegal schemes. At the time, Shor, fugitive Moldovan businessman, was running the financial institution allegedly being his accomplice.
The Supreme Court of Justice Rejects as Inadmissible Platon’s Appeal.
After the sentence was pronounced, Platon managed to say that his sentence is a sentence for the entire country. While being taken out of the courtroom, he stated that the sentence was nothing more than a circus directed by Plahotniuc.
According to lawyers, Platon was denied the right to speak for himself. The whole trial took place behind closed doors, and Platon did not participate in several hearings after the judges decided to exclude him from the trial. Platon’s lawyers repeatedly complained that the judges and prosecutors, in this case, acted unilaterally, violating their client’s rights.
“We will contest the decision at the Court of Appeal, but we will certainly lose there as well,” said Eduard Rudenco, one of Platon’s lawyers.
On December 18, 2017, the Chișinău Court of Appeal pronounced its decision after 24 court hearings. The panel of judges, including Liubovi Brânză, Oxana Robu and Igor Mânăscurtă, maintained the sentence of the first court without changes.
The Supreme Court of Justice maintained the decision. On November 14, 2018, judges Vladimir Timofti, Nadejda Toma, and Anatolie Țurcanu declared inadmissible the appeals filed by all parties in the case.
On May 7, 2020, the Plenum of the Criminal College of the Supreme Court of Justice also rejected as inadmissible the appeal for annulment filed by Platon’s lawyers. At the national level, Platon exhausted all appeals in the first case, in which he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The Supreme Court of Justice will motivate its decision on June 5, 2020. In the meantime, prosecutors are to request a review of the sentence in this case.
The Second Case Reaches the Supreme Court of Justice. Platon is sentenced to Another 12 Years in Prison.
New cases that target Platon follow. In December 2017, the Chișinău Court issued a new verdict for Platon – 12 years in prison and a fine of over 15,000 euros (300,000 lei). The court also deprived him of the right to hold office or exercise a certain economic activity within three years.
The sentence was issued after two criminal cases on Platon’s name were merged. In one case, Platon was found guilty of attempted fraud. He tried to raise more money from the share capital of some companies he owned through intermediaries.
In another case, Platon was found guilty of attempts to corrupt two employees of the Special Purpose Group Pantera, who guarded and escorted him in the courts. Platon would’ve promised them apartments in Chișinău, cars, or financial means amounting to 5,000 euros to make them perform their duties improperly, including facilitating access to a mobile phone.
Chișinău Court of Appeal upheld the sentence in Platon’s cases and decided to cumulate the sentences in both criminal cases examined, the one in which Platon was sentenced to 18 years in prison and the one in which he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Thus, Platon got a new prison term of 25 years of deprivation of liberty by accumulating sentences.
Platon’s Case After Plahotniuc Fled the Country.
In December 2019, things started to change. A panel of judges from the Supreme Court of Justice overturned the decision of the Criminal College of the Chișinău District Court and ordered the retrial of the case by the same Chișinău District Court, in another court panel. Magistrates Iurie Diaconu, Ion Guzun, Liliana Catan, Dumitru Mardari, and Maria Ghervas found several violations in the examination of the criminal case, ruling that in Platon’s case the right to a fair trial was violated.
On January 30, 2020, the magistrates of the Chișinău District Court, Ion Pleșca, Elena Cojocari and Silvia Gârbu (after having the case in the procedure for 14 days), ordered the case to be judged again by the first court. The judges of the Chișinău District Court ordered the retrial of the case in the same court, in another panel of judges.
“The first court erroneously established the state of affairs, which does not correspond to the evidence in the case. The evidence was also incorrectly assessed. The first court reached an erroneous conclusion regarding Platon’s conviction, Bahcivanji Andrei and Capanji Maxim,” the judges of Chișinău Court of Appeal mentioned. The panel also ordered to revoke the arrest as a preventive measure applied to Platon in this criminal case.
A Third Case Targeting Platon Arrives at the First Court.
The Chișinău Court will resume the criminal case, in which Platon was previously sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempted fraud and corruption from the beginning. The case will be analyzed without the application of preventive measures.
The first court examines two other criminal cases targeting Platon. In one of the cases, Platon is accused that at the beginning of 2013 he would’ve come into possession of a copy of magistrate Svetlana Novac’s identity documents, who was working at the Supreme Court of Justice during that period. Then, Platon would’ve opened in her name a deposit account of 300,000 euros at a foreign bank and later he ordered putting into circulation the card in question, without the knowledge of the judge, carrying out the continuous withdrawal, through 99 banking operations, of the amount of 297,000 dollars. The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office claimed that Platon carried out the actions following the purpose of denigrating the public image of the magistrate. This case reached the court in August 2019.
All Three Cases Could be Merged in the First Court Hearing.
Another case pending in the court is based on the statements given by Ilan Shor, Moldovan businessman who fled the country in June 2019. The first hearing on this case took place in May 2019. In this case, Platon is accused of fraud and money laundering, as in the first case. Shor declared that he granted credits at Platon’s request, who misled him. Following Shor’s statement, the case against Platon was opened.
According to the information on the court portal, 14 out of the 23 hearings scheduled on the case were postponed for various reasons.
Thus, the Chișinău Court is currently examining three criminal cases targeting Platon. In the next period, the court could decide to merge all three criminal cases pending at the Chișinău Court. Eduard Rudenco, one of Platon’s defenders confirmed the information. A request to connect two of the cases at the Chișinău Court is already pending at the court.
Another favorable decision targeting Platon came in January 2020, when the Chișinău Court accepted the reduction of the sentence by 565 days based on the precarious detention conditions in Penitentiary no. 13.
The State Budget Could Suffer Losses of Over €51.27 Million.
Platon was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the criminal case of Moldova’s largest bank fraud. If the decision, in this case, is reviewed and subsequently annulled or amended, the state budget could suffer damages of over €51.27 million (1 billion lei).
According to the Code Enforcement, if the executed judgment is annulled and during a retrial, the judges decide to reject partially or completely the case then the state will have to return to the defendant everything that was collected on the basis of the annulled decision, as well as of the execution expenses. And if the state can’t return the goods, then it should return their equivalent value established on the date of return of the execution.
After Platon was sentenced, the state collected for the benefit of Banca de Economii financial means amounting to over €44.56 million (869.22 million lei) to cover the damage caused by the crime. Subsequently, the state applied seizure on a series of goods and shares from several companies allegedly controlled by Platon through intermediaries. In Platon’s case, the capitalization of the seized goods has already taken place due to the sale of the packages of shares that Platon allegedly owned, through intermediaries, at two of the largest banks in Moldova: Moldova Agroindbank and Moldindconbank.
On October 2, 2018, the Public Property Agency (on behalf of the Government) sold 41.09 percent of the share capital of Moldova Agroindbank amounting to over €23.15 million (451.53 million lei).
On March 18, 2019 it sold 63.89 percent of the share capital of Moldindconbank for over €39.17 million (764.04 million lei). The total sum obtained from the sale of shares from the two banks amounts to around €62.04 million (1.21 billion lei). From this amount, €44.55 million (869 million lei) were transferred to Banca de Economii, and the rest went on a special deposit account.
There are still several disputes pending in the courts regarding the execution of Platon’s sentence. Persons involved in the execution of Platon’s sentence informed us that, if the sentence of conviction will be annulled or modified, Platon could claim the money taken from him, the lost income for this period, and non-pecuniary damages. The total amount could reach €512.71 million (10 billion lei).
“The Banks Were Sold too Cheaply, the Real Cost Had to be Much Higher.”
Although Ion Crețu, one of Platon’s lawyers, claims that it is too early to discuss damages, he admits that they will try to recover the goods seized and later sold by the state.
“Why seize the property of an innocent person? In our case, an innocent person is punished and his property is seized while the person who committed the crime benefits from the situation. For example, if you were unjustly accused and they would put seizure on your apartment and take your apartment, what would you say? ” asks Crețu.
He claims that the goods assigned to Platon and subsequently sold were undervalued.
“Banks were sold too cheaply, the real cost had to be much higher. It is too early to talk about damages. Platon is interested in proving his innocence. We are going to deal with the damage later. In all these years, we have focused on proving that he is innocent and that not he, but the people who really stole the money are to be held accountable,” states Crețu.
Victor Moșneag, Anatolie Eșanu, Alina Frunza