The Portrait of a Head of National Penitentiary Administration That Receives Donations of Thousands of Euros (Part I)
Serghei Demcenco is the deputy director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries. He lives in a house in a residential sector in midtown Chișinău, surrounded by luxurious houses. Demcenco didn’t mention in his declarations of assets and personal interests the house where he lives.
According to his previous declarations of assets, since 2014, Demcenco received donations from relatives worth 60,000 euros. However, he doesn’t mention the degree of kinship of these relatives.
Recently, Demcenco was found guilty of allowing a conflict of interest, but he was acquitted because the limitation period of contraventional liability expired.
In another case, Demcenco was charged with ill-treatment by the police force, but he was not found guilty by national courts. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) convicted Moldova in this case and forced the state to pay damages of almost 30,000 euros.
Demcenco has been Deputy Director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries since May 2018. Until then, for more than two years, he was Deputy Director of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions, now named the National Administration of Penitentiaries. Prior to joining the Department of Penitentiary Institutions, Demcenco worked at the same institution, as head of the Internal Security Directorate. Several directors of the National Administration of Penitentiaries have changed in recent years, but Demcenco has managed to stay in office, fulfilling the duties of interim director, periodically.
According to the CV, Demcenco worked only in the public sector. During 1993-2010, he worked for the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 2010-2012, he worked at the Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption, which later transformed into the National Anticorruption Center and he continued working there from 2012 until 2014. Demcenco holds the special rank of Senior Inspector of Justice.
His Mother’s House Located on a Lot Purchased from the Former Director of the National Anticorruption Center
Demcenco lives in a house located in the Râșcani district, midtown Chișinău, on a street with luxury houses, supervised non-stop by a security guard from a private company. Officially, the building belongs to Galina Demcenco, Demcenco’s mother, born in 1945 and originally from the village of Prodănești, Florești district, north of Moldova.
ZdG previously wrote that Demcenco’s parents bought the 24,000 square meter lot, on which the house was later built, from Viorel Chetraru, former director of the National Anticorruption Center, currently vice-president of the Court of Accounts. Chetraru had obtained the lot at a normative price in December 2001 from the Chișinău City Hall and sold it to the Demcenco family a year later.
The buildings in Demcenco’s yard cannot be seen from the street due to limited access and the high fence.
However, one can notice at least two buildings with two levels. According to the Land Registry Services, the main building in the yard, the family house, has an official area of 112 square meters. In addition, there are two other buildings of 74 and 37 square meters each, that are registered at the Land Registry Services.
The reception minutes of the three buildings were written in November 2017. One of the buildings, as well as the courtyard, partially extend onto a related lot of 200 square meters, which is the municipal property and for which a lease was concluded in 2014. According to the Land Registry Services papers, Demcenco’s mother leased the related lot for a period of 10 years, until 2024.
Demcenco’s mother is also the owner of a 45 square-meter apartment in the Buiucani district, midtown Chișinău, bought in 2014. The villagers from Prodănești, Demcenco’s hometown, told us that Demcenco’s mother taught the French language at the village school her entire life, and Demcenco’s father, Mihail Demcenco, who meanwhile died, had worked in the former kolkhoz.
The people we talked to also told us that Demcenco’s mother sold the house in the village, which was a regular one, without any facilities. One of the people from Prodănești, with whom we spoke, informed us that Demcenco’s mother would live with her daughter.
Donations of 60,000 Euros “From Relatives”
Although Demcenco has been living in the house belonging to his mother for several years, he has never declared the property in any of his declarations of assets and personal interests submitted since 2014 until now. This goes against the Law on the Declaration of Property and Personal Interests.
Demcenco indicated in the declarations of assets a 56 square-meter apartment, acquired in 1994, and half of an urban lot of 24,000 square meters, bought in 2007.
In the 2019 declaration, Demcenco indicated that he owns an Audi car, manufactured in 2009 and purchased in 2019, a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, produced in 2006, and a motorcycle from 1975. In 2019, the deputy director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries got a salary of over 13,000 euros (254,600 lei), which is over 1,000 euros (21,000 lei) per month. In addition, he got his retirement pension, which amounted to over 5,700 euros (112,400 lei), the equivalent of 400 euros (9,300 lei) per month.
According to Demcenco’s declaration of assets, his wife works for the Public Services Agency. Last year, she had a monthly salary of about 600 euros (11,000 lei). In 2019, the Demcenco family received “donations from relatives” worth 10,000 euros. Since 2014, for six consecutive years, Demcenco has indicated in his declarations of assets that he received donations from relatives, amounting to 60,000 euros. However, he did not indicate the degree of kinship with the person or persons who regularly donate thousands of euros annually.
Guilty of Allowing a Conflict of Interest, but Unpunished
On March 27, 2020, the Chișinău Court issued a ruling by which the deputy director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries was found guilty of “failure to declare a conflict of interest by a person working in a public organization.”
According to the ordinance that served as the basis for starting the misdemeanor process, between December 2018 and January 2019, when Demcenco was deputy director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries, he “exerted pressure on Mîrzac Sergiu to formally conduct the contest for the position of Head of the Logistics and Administration Department of Penitentiary 8 from Bender and promote in this position the National Administration of Penitentiaries employee Papca Mihail,” Demcenco’s nephew.
The prosecutor of the case stated that according to the law Demcenco “had to inform the National Integrity Authority immediately, but not later than three days from the date of finding, about any real situation of conflict of interest.”
The misdemeanor case targeting Demcenco was sent for examination in court on November 22, 2019. However, a decision on this case was issued only on March 27, 2020. Although the court ruled that “Demcenco’s guilt has been fully proven,” the trial was stopped because of the limitation of the contravention liability.
The reasoning of the decision states that Demcenco committed the deed on January 18, 2019, and the one-year term of liability expired on January 18, 2020. Although he was found guilty, the deputy director of the National Administration of Penitentiaries escaped the misdemeanor sentence, since the judgment was issued later than one year after the act was done.
Recently, the National Integrity Authority initiated an investigation targeting Demcenco, based on notifications which claimed that Demcenco would have managed two companies in parallel with the civil service, which is prohibited by law. By a finding of February 6, 2020, the National Integrity Authority established that no proof was found to the information in the complaints and the control procedure concerning Demcenco was terminated.
Demcenco Targeted in an Ill-Treatment Case, which Reached the ECtHR
The ECtHR convicted Moldova in an old criminal case featuring Demcenco. Demcenco was accused that in 2004, together with another police officer ill-treated the citizen Dumitru Breabin right in the building of the Ministry. Back then, Demcenco was working at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Demcenco and his police officer colleague wanted to force Breabin to admit the falsification of documents regarding the sale-purchase of an apartment in Chișinău.
According to the statements of the victim and the witnesses, found in the ECtHR decision of April 7, 2009, Demcenco and his police colleague beat Breabin with a baton, many of the blows were to the victim’s head. According to the forensic examination reports, the victim was diagnosed with various bodily injuries, head trauma, and post-traumatic deafness in the right ear. The ECtHR judgment stipulates that the injury caused to the applicant led to a 25 percent loss of working capacity.
Breabin’s case reached the ECtHR after Moldovan prosecutors rejected his complaints several times and ignored the statements of the two witnesses who saw Breabin immediately after he was beaten at the headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Subsequently, the prosecutors’ refusals to initiate criminal proceedings were also upheld by the courts, which determined the injured party to appeal to the ECtHR.
The ECtHR found many serious shortcomings in the investigation carried by the national authorities. Following the finding of a violation of the petitioner’s rights and freedoms, the ECtHR admitted his complaint against Moldova and ordered the state to pay him 200 euros in expenses for the treatment of injuries caused by his ill-treatment, 25,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage and 3,500 euros for costs and expenses related to the complaint to the ECtHR. In total, according to the ECtHR ruling, the state was to pay Breabin 28,700 euros.
On December 7, 2009, the then Deputy Prosecutor General Igor Serbinov issued an order to initiate criminal proceedings against Demcenco, executing ECtHR judgment. However, Demcenco filed a complaint in court, requesting the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges against him. On April 10, 2015, the charges against him were dropped by an order issued by the Court of First Instance.
The prosecutor challenged the decision to cancel the order and the case reached the Supreme Court of Justice. In May 2016, the Supreme Court of Justice took an irrevocable decision, canceling the order to initiate the criminal investigation in the name of Demcenco. Thus, the criminal case of ill-treatment of Dumitru Breabin in the headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs ended after almost 12 years, without anyone being punished.
ZdG found Dumitru Breabin, the man beaten by Demcenco and his police colleague. The victim told us about his experience with the justice system in Moldova and about the decision of the ECtHR in the case against the state.
He told us that he had filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office, the procedure being prolonged for three years. In 2009, he submitted the case to the ECtHR. He noted that the ECtHR was fast in resolving the case. Breabin says that he received from the state the non-pecuniary and material damages indicated by the ECtHR, and after two or three years he was summoned to the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office, where he was told that checks were being made so that the people who beat him could be held accountable:
D.B .: I went and testified again. The new expert opinions were examined on the case, on all documents and, in the end, the case was forgotten.
ZdG: And those who beat you were no longer punished …
D.B .: No, nobody was punished. There were no face-to-face confrontations to discuss whether it was like that or not. Nothing followed.
The man was upset when he learned that Demcenco currently holds a leadership position within the National Administration of Penitentiaries.
“It is not surprising for Moldova today. I think we all know more people, who have committed crimes and are appointed to senior positions. I feel disgust for whatever happens and there is no end to this, nothing changes,” says Dumitru Breabin.
Suspected of Intimidation and Psychological Pressure on a Subordinate
Currently, Demcenco is a suspect in another criminal case of torture. According to the information obtained by Ziarul de Garda, the case was started in November 2019 and is under the management of the Municipal Prosecutor’s Office. The information was confirmed by the representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
“He is suspected of intimidation and psychological pressure on a subordinate who would have revealed several illegalities admitted in detention institutions,” it is said in the Prosecutor’s Office response to ZdG request.
Running Away From the ZdG Journalists
On June 23, we went to the house that belongs to Demcenco’s mother, but where Demcenco lives. We wanted to speak to him. The street where Demcenco lives has many luxury homes. A barrier blocked access to the street where the house is located. A guard approached us and informed us that the street is a private sector.
After about an hour of waiting in front of the barrier, Demcenco appeared driving a Dacia Duster car. Demcenco got out of the car talking on the phone, but when he saw that we were approaching him with a microphone, he hurried into the car and started moving backward.
Even though we approached him and tried to talk to him, Demcenco closed the car windows and run away from the ZdG reporters. On June 24, we tried to contact Demcenco through the National Administration of Penitentiaries’ press service. We sent the deputy director the questions we wanted to ask him directly in a written format, but we did not receive any answers until the time of publication of the article.
• Why don’t you mention the house where you live (Pajurii Street, midtown Chișinău) in the declaration of assets and personal interests?
• The house where you live is officially registered in the name of your mother, Galina Demcenco. Therefore, we would like to know what was your mother’s and father’s income which allowed the purchase of the lot and the construction of the house?
• Your mother also owns an apartment on Sucevița Street, Buiucani district, midtown Chișinău. We would like to know from what money it was bought and who is using the apartment?
• Since 2014 until now, every year, you have received donations from relatives. In total, the amount of donations received is 60,000 euros. Who are the relatives who donated money to you? What are their income sources?
• The Chișinău District Court recently ruled that you have admitted a conflict of interest. The decision states that you put pressure on Sergiu Mîrzac to ensure that your nephew, Mihail Papca, is employed at Penitentiary 8 from Bender. What is your position in this case?
• In 2009, ECtHR convicted Moldova in the case of Dumitru Breabin, who charges you and a colleague of yours, also a police officer, of ill-treatment at the headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in December 2004. What is your point of view on this case? Do you have nothing to blame yourself for being involved in a case that led to a conviction of Moldova at the ECtHR?
• Is Dacia Duster CSG 149 car, which you used to come home on June 23 a service car? Is it legal to use it for commuting to and from work?
• Why did you run away from ZdG reporters on June 23 when they tried to talk to you?