Transparency International Issues its Opinion Regarding the Government’s Decision to Eliminate a Number of Privileges Enjoyed by the Officials of Moldova’s National Bank
Transparency International Moldova issued a statement supporting the Government’s draft decision to cancel the provision that allows Moldova’s National Bank to pay for the lawyers defending the bank’s employees involved in criminal cases at the workplace.
At the same time, the NGO finds the initiative to correspond to the public interest, advising the government to reimburse the legal expenses incurred by bank employees if the employees managed to prove their innocence in court. Previously, several former bank employees were investigated in the case of stolen billion.
Transparency International Moldova claims that the legislative initiative to limit or condition the National Bank to bear the costs of defending its employees in case of final court decisions on the involvement of National Bank employees in financial-banking fraud corresponds to public interests. However, experts point out five sensitive issues and recommendations to the authorities.
- The current provisions of the National Bank Law were introduced in 2015-2016. These provisions were harmonized with the international financial institutions’ law, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), based on the best international practices in order to ensure the institutional independence of the National Bank.
At the same time, the phrase related to persons with decision-making positions within the National Bank, who could be involved in banking fraud, creates a different understanding of the provisions’ meaning, introduced in the law and also gives a different understanding of the legal protection offered to persons directly or indirectly involved in fraud.
- After the National Bank management staff filed a complaint to the IMF, the institution expressed its concern regarding the authorities’ initiative to limit the protections and benefits offered to the persons from the National Bank allegedly involved in the banking sector frauds. The document sent back by the IMF envisages the unilateral position expressed by the persons who could be targeted, directly or indirectly, in the investigations of the competent bodies. Respectively, there could also be a situation of “conflict of interest” creeping into the complaint signed by the National Bank authorities to the IMF.
- The draft approved by the Government and requested to be urgently adopted by the Parliament, in essence, does not affect the institutional independence of the National Bank, nor does it undermine the decision-making independence of the National Bank in terms of monetary policy, banking supervision or other legal powers. The draft, in essence, provides only the obligation for the National Bank to recover the money paid for legal services and legal representation from the persons convicted by final decisions of being involved in fraud in the financial-banking sector.
- On the other hand, the provisions for the subsequent recovery of the money already provided by the National Bank to some companies or legal services offices/lawyers will be difficult to implement. If the recovery is ordered directly from the current or former National Bank employee – there may be no resources or assets that can be traced for recovery. Subsequently, the National Bank compensating the expenses incurred by the person declared innocent would be a possible alternative solution.
- For a better understanding of the real situation, it would be advisable for the National Bank to make public the relevant information about the cases, in which both the National Bank as an institution and the bank’s employees were challenged in court for their decisions. Who are the accusers, what are the causes, and what are the institutions/persons contracted by the National Bank to represent the interests of their own employees – this information should be made public.
Moldova’s Government recently submitted a draft amendment to the National Bank of Moldova Law, which provides for the elimination of provisions in Article 35 “Guarantees in the exercise of duties,” introduced in 2015 and 2016.
According to these provisions, the National Bank has to cover the expenses for a defender or defending institution for the National Bank employees who are involved in banking fraud.
Previously, Prime Minister Chicu stated that the people will no longer pay the lawyers for those who were involved in the billion theft. He mentioned that while employees from the National Bank are suspects or accused in the billion theft case, the National Bank is paying thousands of euros to assure these employees with defenders.