• Unauthorized Construction on the Nistru River

    Unauthorized Construction on the Nistru River

    On the bank of the Nistru River, in Molovata village, Dubasari district, the Eastern part of Moldova, construction works have recently started. These construction works displeased several inhabitants.

    The owners of the land plots, one of whom is President Igor Dodon’s brother-in-law, decided to extend the construction right into the waters of the Nistru River. The owners poured concrete in the Nistru River and arranged a platform to be used as a wharf. The neighbors are displeased because they can no longer use the river’s waters, which are close to the construction. 

    Construction works are in full swing in Molovata and the villagers say that this property would be serving as a resort, including for the presidential family. 

    The construction works are taking place in Molovata village, the hometown of the first lady, Galina Dodon. Although the land plot was bought last year, the neighbors told us that construction works began only this spring. 

    The land plots are located on the bank of the Nistru River and a high fence surrounds the area, to the discontent of the neighbors, who compare it to the walls of a penitentiary. 

    “They just have to pull the barbed wire and it’s like Rusca (a penitentiary in Hîncești district, in the center of Moldova),” the neighbors told us. 

    The President’s Brother-in-Law Has Purchased a Lot on the Bank of the Nistru River 

    The residents of the village say that an old house stood on the land plot on the bank of the Nistru River, on which construction is currently underway. After the former owners died, their children agreed to sell it. The area became the property of new owners.

    Initially, in 2019, a certain Radu Secrieru, aged 24, purchased the land plots. Later, in February 2020, Petru Merineanu, Galina Dodon’s brother, bought one land plot, with an area of 0.1044 hectares, of which the media has not written so far. 

    Secrieru remained the owner of the second land plot, of 0.11 hectares. The second land plot has an exit to the Nistru River. Radu Secrieru is the son of Liviu Secrieru, who together with his brother, Dinu Secrieru, appears as the founder of Gurmand Invest and Olioterra companies. The first company has got a license in transport activities, registering in 2019 a profit of about 97,000 euros (1.9 million lei). Olioterra is a manufacturer of oils and fats and previously concluded several contracts with the state. In 2016 and 2017, Olioterra won contracts worth about 178,000 euros (3.5 million lei) with the endowment department of the Ministry of Defense.

    Olioterra company went through several lawsuits because of the debt payment. Most of the lawsuits are against other companies. 

    In one of the disputes, Olioterra sued the Agency for Intervention and Payments for Agriculture (a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture), which had refused to pay subsidies of around 49,000 euros (957,000 lei), declaring their case ineligible. 

    In April 2019, after a trial that lasted more than two years, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of Olioterra company, forcing the Agency for Intervention and Payments for Agriculture to pay the subsidies of almost 51,000 euros (1 million lei). ZdG sources, close to the Secrieru brothers, claim that they have a long-standing friendship with Dodon.

    “Why Are You Asking Me Whose Property It Is? Ask Dodon.”

    On July 17, we went to Molovata village to see the construction. We found a terrain, with several machines and some building materials on it, all fenced with high concrete walls. There were several surveillance cameras surveilling the territory. The cameras are installed both in the inner courtyard, as well as in the outer corners of the concrete fence. We also noticed a platform that extends into the waters of the Nistru River, similar to a terrace. Later, we learned that the platform would serve as a wharf, a small port for mooring boats. 

    When we asked the residents of the village about the owner of the land plot, they told us that the terrain would belong to the president’s family.

    “As far as I know, it belongs to Petrea, Dodon’s brother-in-law. They say that he will establish there first, and then someone more important will come. I think it is Dodon, who else is more important?” says a resident of the village.

    “But why do you ask me whose property it is, ask Dodon,” one of the neighbors told us. 

    “Dodon is said to do the construction. He is a boyar now, he does what he wants,” claims another resident from Molovata.

    The New Construction Outraged the Neighbors

    We found neither the owners nor any workers on the spot. Instead, we managed to talk to several neighbors who were outraged by how things have changed after the new landowners came. Several women, whose houses adjoin the land under construction, say hundreds of heavy vehicles that damaged the roads badly. The heavy vehicles have brought construction materials. 

    “I can’t say how many trucks with sand they have brought here. Even the houses cracked, to say nothing of the dust,” one of the women told us. 

    “We were worried about what was around here. The fences were cracking too. We asked questions, but no one takes us seriously. They brought tons of cement,” another woman told us.

    The residents of the village are also dissatisfied with the fact that their new neighbors built a concrete platform right in the Nistru River, thus restricting the other inhabitants’ access to the river waters.

    “We cannot bathe. We used to come here, but now…” the people told us. 

    The villagers claim that the new owners carried construction works on the Nistru River without holding the appropriate papers and that they illegally cut down several trees on the river bank. 

    “Who gave them permission? We cannot come nearer than 50 meters from the riverside to the construction. We used to walk around here, but not now. They had power. They also cut down trees. They say someone came from Moldova’s Waters Agency, but if one has money, it doesn’t take long to settle the issue…,” tells a woman.

    ZdG Asks the Mayor of Molovata about the Wharf

    We contacted Igor Brînza, the mayor of the Molovata village. He informed us that he does not know if the owners have permission to build the wharf on the river bank.

    “As far as I know, an old house was purchased there a few months ago. A young man came to the village hall and registered the purchase of the land plot with that old house. I do not know that man. As for authorization, I do not know if they legalized it to the end. I just know they were doing the paperwork. You need to ask them about it. It’s about a series of permit documents that they have to obtain,” the mayor declared. 

    Regarding the villagers’ claims that the construction would be related to the president’s family. The mayor answered briefly that he has no interest in the kinship of the persons who bought the land or their relations. 

    Searching for the Authorizations

    We tried to find out whether the land plot owners have all the permits for the construction of the wharf on the Nistru River. Therefore, we addressed to Moldova’s Waters Agency, controlled by the Ministry of Environment. There we were informed that the agency received such a request. In response to it, the Agency’s representatives informed the land plot owners that Moldova’s Waters coordinates the construction of the wharves. These wharves should be temporary (which can be dismantled), in compliance with legal provisions. The Agency’s representatives also told us that the owners should also have a permit issued by the Environment Agency. 

    “The Environment Agency can issue an authorization, not Moldova’s Waters Agency. It is an environmental permit for the special use of water, given that the construction is in the water, and the water is the public property of the state. They can design and build whatever they want if the Environment Agency undertakes responsibility and issues the permit,” mentions Eugen Belîi, head of the Water Resources Management department at Moldova’s Waters Agency. 

    The representatives of the Environment Agency informed us that such authorization has not been issued and that no application has been received so far. 

    “I did not issue such a permit. There was no request received by the Agency. In any case, I personally did not receive any request from any citizen from the village,” says Angela Savca, the main expert within the Regulatory Directorate and Permissive Environmental Acts.

    Secrieru’s name was not found in the list of environmental permits for the special use of water on the Environment Agency’s website.

    A Fine of Over 300 Euros

    We also addressed to the Environment Protection Inspectorate in Dubăsari. We found out that Radu Secrieru, the legal owner of the land plot on which the wharf on the Nistru River was built, was fined for violating the protection of waters laws, resulting in water pollution, soil erosion and other harmful phenomena. According to the Environment Protection Inspectorate, Secrieru also was fined for illegal cutting of trees in green spaces.

    “A protocol has been drawn up based on two articles: Article 109 (1) and Article 122 (2), referring to water pollution and soil erosion. A fine of 120 conventional units (one conventional unit is worth around 2.5 euros or 50 lei) was imposed which is over 300 euros (6,000 lei), as well as the damage amounting to over 700 euros (14,468 lei), including for cutting two trees,” says Valentin Ojog, Chief Inspector of the Environmental Protection Inspectorate in Dubăsari

    The inspector also informed us that Secrieru paid the fine within 72 hours, benefiting from a reduction of 50 percent, while the damages were paid in full. 

    “He had no experts’ report, neither from Moldova’s Waters, an agency within the Ministry of Environment, nor from The Environment Agency, he does not hold any documents. We’re waiting to see what will happen further. We have drawn up an inspection report and we have submitted prescriptions, to get the necessary papers. After 30 days, we will check the fulfillment of the provisions again and after that we will make an informative note to the Chișinău Inspectorate, maybe also at the Prosecutor’s Office, we shall see,” the inspector mentions. 

    Ojog also specified that the papers had to be obtained before the construction of the wharf. He also pointed out that the wharf extends beyond private land, being built in the waters of the Nistru River. Therefore, the owner should conclude a lease agreement with Moldova’s Waters Agency, who is managing the water supply in the Nistru River. 

    Radu Secrieru Answers ZdG’s Questions

    Contacted by phone, Radu Secrieru informed us that all the dissatisfaction of the residents of the village, neighboring the construction site, is because they can no longer fish in that region. 

    “The residents are unhappy because I ruined their poachers’ plans. Since I came there, their access to the Nistru River has been cut off a bit on our side. Otherwise, I built them, on our own money, a small pier where they have normal access to the water and a parking lot for boats,” says Secrieru, insisting that his neighbors fish illegally.

    We asked the young man about the construction works that take place on the respective land plots and if the works are carried out jointly with Petru Merineanu, the first lady’s brother (considering the fact that a common fence surrounds the land plots). He told us that he does not know the President’s brother-in-law well and does not have any partnership with him.

    “Merineanu has nothing to do with it. It is our land and we started the construction. We, as neighbors, asked him if he would like to participate in the fence construction and he said ok. I have no partnership with Mr. Merineanu. I first saw him at the notary. He lives in the village, and he told me he wants to have a land plot closer there and that’s it,” states Radu Secrieru, emphasizing that the land plots would be delimited.

    We also asked him about the wharf, its purposes, and if he has permits. The owner stated that the authorization is well underway and that it will meet all the requirements.

    “It’s about a wharf that will be, let us say, for the village common use. Maybe, in the future, we will need a pier to connect the shores, I don’t know,” Secrieru states.

    Asked about the fine imposed on him, Secrieru denies that he would have cut down any tree.

    While several residents in the village confirmed that at weekends important people come to the wharf and have fun with jet skis, Secrieru says that no one can come to rest there as long as the area is under construction.

    “Those who came are from Molovata,” stated Secrieru.

    The construction of the wharf was possible in May this year due to lower water levels in the river. Then, the Office of Reintegration Policy issued a statement, asserting that the water level in the Nistru River fell low after a large amount of water was discharged from the tank of the Dubăsari hydroelectric power plant, located nearby. 

    On May 9, following the drop in water levels of the river, the Molovata ferry was stuck in the mud. The ferry is the only mean by which the residents of the villages on the left bank of the Nistru River can reach the right bank. This endangered the food supply of the villages on the left bank of the Nistru River, which are under the jurisdiction of the authorities in Chișinău. At that time, land transportation was blocked due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Molovata ferry

    Some residents of Molovata believe that then the water was discharged intentionally, following an agreement between the owners of the wharf and those at the Dubăsari dam. Otherwise, it would not be possible to build the concrete walls into the river. However, Radu Secrieru stated that these statements are lies. 

    “They were warned that a big wave of water was coming from Ukraine and that is why they released the water,” mentions Radu Secrieru. 

    Asked about the rumors that Dodon would be among the beneficiaries of the constructions, Secrieru stated that the head of the state has nothing to do with it. 

    “God forbid, you are talking nonsense! What has President Dodon got to do with Secrieru? I do not understand, what are you talking about? Let’s wait five years or ten years, and then write about it again and say: Look, we are sorry, we were wrong. Absolutely nothing is being built there. I guarantee you. The next seven years nothing is going to be built,” stated Secrieru. 

    The Presidency Answers to ZdG’s Questions about the Constructions on the Bank of the Nistru River

    ZdG asked the Presidency about the issue. And the Presidency informed ZdG that the head of state does not know and is not involved in building the wharf in Molovata. 

    At the same time, the answer signed by Nicolae Posturusu, General Secretary of the President’s Office, specified that Dodon has no kinship relationship with the Secrieru family. However, we asked to be informed if there are affinity relations.

    “The President of Moldova does not know about the construction that is being built on the banks of the Nistru River in the village of Molovata – the birthplace of the First Lady. He found out about it from the address you sent to the Presidency.

    At the same time, we inform you that the head of state has no attribution to the respective construction. Moreover, he does not plan to build any building in Molovata. Therefore, the presidential family had no reason to visit the above-mentioned land and neither the building in question. In addition to all this, the head of state has no kinship relationship with the Secrieru family (Radu, Livicu, Dinu) – one of the landowners of interest to you. (Note: the Presidency was asked to specify whether the president is in a relationship of affinity with the Secrieru family, not of kinship).

    We would also like to inform you that the President of the country knows about the fact that Mr. Petru Merineanu owns a plot of land in Molovata, but he emphasizes that this plot of land has no exit to the bank of the Nistru River. 

    In the context of those presented, we assure you that the President does not know and is not involved in building the wharf”

    AUTHOR MAIL

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