ZdG analyzed a series of official emails between the former Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and the former Ambassador of Moldova to Japan. The correspondence reveals interests of more than half a million euros on the consultancy contract for the Japanese loan worth $18.7 million, signed by authorities in mid-February 2021.
Discussions between the two officials show that the Ministry’s representative was against appointing the ambassador’s son-in-law as a local adviser for the loan implementation, which dissatisfied the ambassador. The stakes of these discussions were enormous – over half a million euros.
The Agency for Agricultural Development and Modernization manages the Japanese loan that caused the tough exchanges of emails between the two officials. Moreover, the former ambassador of Moldova to Japan held, off and on, the position of director in the last two decades in this public institution.
On February 15, the Ministry of Agriculture and Japan International Cooperation System (JICS) signed a consultancy contract to assist in the implementation of the loan granted to Moldova by the Government of Japan for the modernization of agricultural machinery and equipment. Consulting services will be provided to the Agency for Agricultural Development and Modernization (AADM), in order to capitalize on and effectively implement the preferential credit granted by the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation (JICA) to the Government of Moldova in the project “Modernization of agricultural machinery and equipment from Moldova”(MAME project). The preferential credit agreement was signed in June 2020, in Tokyo, by Vasile Bumacov, the Ambassador of Moldova to Japan, and Yamada Junichi, the First Vice President of JICA. The agreement stipulates that the Japanese government will provide a loan of about $18,7 million through JICA to facilitate farmers’ access to the purchase of agricultural machinery and post-harvest equipment. The loan will be granted for a period of 40 years, with an interest rate of 0.1% and a grace period of 12 years.
Ambassador Bumacov’s son-in-law is proposed as the local expert. The Ministry of Agriculture signals a potential conflict of interest.
According to the initial version of the consultancy contract from April 2020, sent by JICS to the Ministry of Agriculture, Dan Prisacaru, the son-in-law of the Moldovan ambassador to Japan, was selected as the specialist for this project. According to the document, the monthly contractual expenses related to Dan Prisacaru constituted 8,500 euros. In total, over six years of the contract, JICS costs for contracting Dan Prisacaru were to amount to 611,000 euros.
After JICS submitted the offer in which Dan Prisacaru appeared as a local consultant, the Ministry of Agriculture representatives signaled a possible conflict of interests, given that Prisacaru’s father-in-law, Ambassador Vasile Bumacov, was involved in this project from the beginning. After Minister Maxim Popov complained about a potential conflict of interest, Vasile Bumacov wrote him several emails in which he informed him about possible “legal problems” and accused him of “sabotaging the interests of the country and the farmers.”
In an email dated April 7, 2020, Bumacov wrote to Popov: “And now I’m wondering where the problem with the conflict of interest came from? What am I to do if a Japanese company decides to hire a specialist with whom they have worked for many years and whom they trust, even if he is my kin? (…) You shouldn’t forget that Dan wrote this project and prepared the funding application, not the Ministry of Agriculture. Do you think it doesn’t matter? How would you feel if it were you? I hope you can explain to me what happened. Maybe I really don’t know. So far I’ve only had words of praise for you. But I noticed that you didn’t answer my last message and I thought there was something in between.“
On the same day, Secretary of State Popov replied to Ambassador Bumacov: “At the opening of the auction, Dan was the second expert with whom the company came from Japan. Isn’t this a conflict of interest, considering that Dan is your daughter’s husband, and you are the Ambassador to Tokyo, and you were directly involved in this project, including signing it? This suspicion is not only mine but of the entire working group within the Ministry of Agriculture.“
Other exchanges of emails followed between Bumacov and Popov. In one of the messages, also dated April 7, 2020, the former ambassador told the Secretary of State that he had discussed with “well-known lawyers” who recommended him to request from the Ministry of Agriculture the articles of the Moldovan legislation that would prove the existence of a conflict of interests in selecting his son-in-law as a local expert.
Bumacov: “JICA recommended Dan.”
JICA: “We are not in a position to recommend anyone.“
Later, in another email, Bumacov informs Popov that he just found out that his son-in-law was proposed by the Japanese agency JICA.
“I discussed the issue with JICA. They assured me there was no problem. Moreover, I did not know that it was their idea to recommend Dan, because he worked with them for so many years and they were very satisfied. That’s the whole story. I hope you will clarify and will not make us a laughing stock! ” the Ambassador wrote to the Secretary of State from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The next day, Maxim Popov wrote an email to Yoko Takebayashi, deputy head of JICA’s Europe and Middle East Europe Directorate, informing her that Ambassador Bumacov claimed that Dan Prisacaru had been nominated as a local expert by JICA, given the good previous cooperation. In response, Yoko Takebayashi tells Maxim Popov that she was surprised to learn that Dan Prisacaru had been nominated for the position of local consultant and refutes Bumacov’s claims that his son-in-law was nominated by JICA.
“JICA and I are not in a position to recommend anyone, including the local expert, to the bidder (JICS). The bidder (and the evaluation team) should check if Dan’s experience indicates a conflict of interest,” Yoko Takebayashi wrote to Maxim Popov.
Other exchanges of messages between the two followed. In some of them, Bumacov invoked possible “legal problems”.
The former Ambassador and the former Secretary of State meet again at the Agency for Agricultural Development and Modernization
The paths of Vasile Bumacov and Maxim Popov crossed again half a year after their email exchange. In the autumn of 2020, after Vasile Bumacov was recalled as Moldova’s ambassador to Japan on August 11, he returned to the position of technical director of the Agency for Agricultural Development and Modernization, which he held since 2016. During his term as Ambassador, Bumacov suspended his work at the agency. Maxim Popov, on the other hand, shortly after leaving the position of Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, was appointed as interim director of Agency for Agricultural Development and Modernization, and later won the competition for this position.
Asked by ZdG, Popov confirmed the authenticity of the emails. He specified that “after the technical and financial proposal was made, I received a series of intimidation emails from the ambassador. There were about eight emails, if I’m not mistaken, that somehow tried to induce or impose a certain decision. It’s just that I didn’t react the way he wanted to and he couldn’t influence me. I defended my opinion to the end, insisting that it is a conflict of interest. A relative of first degree with the person who signs the loan agreement cannot be the expert who implements the loan. In the end, Mr. Bumacov’s son-in-law was replaced by another person,” Popov states.
“I did not threaten him. I just told him not to ruin his reputation with the Japanese.”
Vasile Bumacov also admitted the correspondence with Popov but states that it was not intimidation. “I just tried to explain to him not to waste time on nonsense. He began to collect these letters to prove I attempted to intimidate him, but I didn’t. I told him not to ruin his reputation with the Japanese. I have worked with the Japanese for 20 years and I know them very well,” says Bumacov.
At the same time, the former ambassador claims that he was not involved in hiring his son-in-law as a local consultant.
“JICA proposed a contest for four companies from which to select the consulting company. One of the companies, JICS, which worked with my son-in-law for so many years, proposed him as a local consultant. I swear I didn’t know. There could be no conflict of interest because I did not work in the Ministry of Agriculture or elsewhere. I was an ambassador, meaning I wrote a project for them, but I was not in a conflict of interest. The fact that I signed the loan agreement has nothing to do with it. I was authorized to sign it because the minister could not come,” Bumacov told us.
The full Romanian version of the investigation can be read HERE: https://www.zdg.md/investigatii/ancheta/in-culisele-investiiilor-japoneze-din-agricultura-e-mailuri-interese-i-companii-afiliate/