Four years have passed since the 16 judges’ detainment accused of willful issuance of judgments contrary to the law in the infamous Laundromat Case – which saw $20 billion laundered through Moldova’s courts. However, their cases have been transferred from one court to another, and no final sentence has been issued so far.
In 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled off a phrase’s legality in the article under which the magistrates are being tried. The Court has declared unconstitutional the phrase that aggravates the punishments for judges who rule against the law. Now, the investigated magistrates are waiting for the Supreme Court of Justice’s decision, where they appealed their request to annul the 2016 decisions of the Superior Council of Magistracy, based on which prosecutors were allowed to initiate criminal proceedings and detain judges.
In September 2016, 16 magistrates received 30-day arrest warrants for their involvement in the Laundromat Case, which saw approximately US$20 billion laundered through Moldova’s court system. Initially, the case included 17 judges, two of them died, and the third managed to leave Moldova. The other 14 cases were sent to the court at the beginning of February 2017, and the criminal case is still pending.
Constitutional Court: The “severe consequences” of the prosecutors declared unconstitutional.
At the end of 2018, the detained judges and their lawyers decided to address the Constitutional Court, thus interrupting the case examination. The judges and their lawyers argued that the phrase “knowingly pronouncing judgments contrary to the law, resulting in serious consequences,” which prosecutors used when formulating accusations against them, would be unclear and unconstitutional.
In November 2019, the High Court magistrates declared the considerable phrase unconstitutional, as there is no normative text that would mention the used notion.
Ilie Chirtoaca, a legal adviser at the Center for Legal Resources of Moldova, claims that the Constitutional Court’s decision does not change the matter dramatically. The magistrates reconfirmed an older decision stating that the phrase “resulted in serious consequences” is “vague”.
“I think things should go much faster in this case.”
After the Constitutional Court’s decision, the cases’ examination was again postponed, due to the pandemic, even though the institution continues to activate. For the past few days, ZdG tried to participate in a few hearings; however, only one has taken place this month.
Ilie Chirtoacă, the legal advisor, points out that they repeatedly defer court hearings to make society forget about these cases. A few more years afterward, they can invoke that the limitation period expires, and no judge will be sanctioned again. Chirtoacă underlines that these crimes have a limited period of 15 years.
The judges claim that the Superior Council of Magistracy issued the agreement to carry out the criminal investigation actions formally.
The judges’ request regarding the annulment of the Superior Council of Magistracy’s decisions by which the prosecutors could initiate criminal proceedings also remains unanswered. After examining the applications for two and a half years, the Supreme Court of Justice sent the case to the Chișinău Court of Appeal. In November 2019, a panel of judges decided to dismiss the judges’ action as unfounded. However, the magistrates filed an appeal, and the Supreme Court of Justice will examine its validity this month.
Prosecutor General: “The case simply got stuck.”
Recently, during a television show, Alexandr Stoianoglo, the Prosecutor General, declared that “the case simply got stuck” because of the dozens of people implicated in the Laundromat file. Stoianoglo announced that a Prosecutor’s Office special group currently deals with the documentation on the Laundromat case.
Last year’s ZdG’s investigation on this case: No Sentence for the Judges in the Laundromat Case Three Years Later