INVESTIGATION: The Undervalued Cars of Integrity Inspectors

INVESTIGATION: The Undervalued Cars of Integrity Inspectors
23 May 2021 | 08:30

“Declare the real value of the goods!” urged the National Integrity Authority, in October 2020, in a video about the phenomena of declaring goods at ridiculous prices, especially practiced by officials. However, Ziarul de Gardă found that even the integrity inspectors within this institution, those who verify the wealth declarations of all officials, indicate in their declarations of wealth that their cars value 200 or 500 euros or that they received them from their parents. At the same time, some inspectors declare homes with zero value.

Some integrity inspectors justify it saying that they included the price from the purchase contract, others lie about their identity when contacted by journalists to comment on the problem or hide behind the press service of their institution. The experts in the field argue that the integrity of inspectors should be beyond suspicion, and the state should change the legal framework or propose solutions that would encourage the population to declare the real value of the goods.

The National Integrity Authority (NIA) is the only institution empowered to verify the declarations of assets and personal interests of officials. Currently, the Authority has 20 integrity inspectors, 18 of them declared movable and immovable properties at ridiculous prices, like cars with zero value. Their wealth declarations have been submitted almost five months after NIA published the video urging officials to indicate the real values of their goods – “Have you noticed how children value toys? Instead, it seems that adults do it more childishly. NIA urges you: “Declare the real value of the goods”.

The inspector who lies about her identity and has a car worth 450 euros 

Inspector Cristina Ciubotaru owns a Toyota RAV4 car, manufactured in 2008 and bought in 2013, indicated its value of only 450 euros. On specialized sites, the price of such a car is almost 20 times higher, ranging between 7,000 and 9,000 euros. 

We found the inspector behind the wheel of the Toyota RAV4 car in the NIA parking lot. She avoided talking to us and told us that her name was not Cristina Ciubotaru. However, the NIA representatives confirmed to us that this is the person we were looking for. A few days later, the inspector again ran away from ZdG reporters through the back door of the NIA building.

Car of 400 euros and an apartment worth nothing

Inspector Radion Buzu declares a Pontiac Vibe car, manufactured in 2004 and bought in 2017, for 400 euros and an apartment of about 50 square meters, the price of which is not indicated. Buzu claims that he lives in the apartment of his parents, which is why he did not declare the value of the real estate, and the price of the car is declared according to the data from the sale-purchase contract. In reality, such a car is worth about 4,000 euros, ten times more than the price indicated by the inspector.

“Regarding the price, I followed the legal framework which provides that the contract price shall be indicated. I have a sale-purchase contract and the price is 400 euro. As for the property, I do not indicate the price, because the apartment does not belong to me. This one belongs to my parents, and I’m just using it. At the moment, I could say that I live in the rented apartment of my parents,” Radion Buzu told us.

Car of 250 euros – “I think it was a common practice”

Tatiana Pistrui is another inspector who declares cars at a ridiculous price. The Pistrui family owns a Dacia Logan, manufactured in 2005 and bought in 2007 for 250, and a Nissan Altima, from 2003, which would have cost only 500 euros. In 2021, however, a Dacia Logan produced in 2005 can be bought at a price of about 2,500 euros, and the value of a Nissan Altima is 6,000 euros. The inspector also declares a Jaguar XF, manufactured in 2012, close to the real value.

Tatiana Pistrui did not want to talk to us and told us through the NIA spokesperson that “the cars were purchased a long time ago and we indicated the value of the contracts they have”. A few days later, however, we managed to talk to the inspector, whom we met in the NIA parking lot behind the wheel of the Nissan Altima.

“They were bought a long time ago, when I was on maternity leave, and I don’t even know why the prices were set that way. My husband took care of it. I think it was a common practice,” she told us.

Car of 500 euros and a donated apartment

Inspector Olga Vizitiu also drives an undervalued car: a Honda Civic, manufactured in 2008, bought in 2017 for 500 euros. On the car market, such a car is sold for over 5,000 euros. The Vizitiu family also owns an apartment worth about 13,000 euros, obtained through a donation contract. The inspector, who has been verifying the officials for more than a year and a half, refused to talk to the ZdG team.

500 euros instead of 10 thousand euros

Zinaida Guţu is also on the list of inspectors who declare undervalued cars. She is the owner of an Alfa Romeo Mito model car, manufactured in 2008 and bought in 2019 for 2000 euros, despite the fact that on the market the car costs between seven and eight thousand euros.

“The car is from 2008 and in 2019 it cost 2,000 euros. There is the sale-purchase contract. I don’t remember the name of the person from whom I bought it”, the integrity inspector told us.

The inspector’s husband is the owner of a 2008 Lexus LS460L car, its indicated value being 500 euros, even if, in 2021, on the car market, such a car has an average price of 10 thousand euros.

“It’s my husband’s car. He got it. Our marriage was registered in 2018 and I don’t know how he got it. The purchase of the car is before the marriage certificate and I cannot be responsible for the husband’s sale-purchase deed. That’s how he bought it, at the value of 500”, Zinaida Guţu told us.

The Guțu family also owns a Skoda Octavia, produced in 2018 and bought in leasing for 13,800 euros.

Car sold at a better price than the purchase one

Last year, inspector Ion Creţu bought for his wife a Toyota C-HR model car, manufactured in 2018, whose indicated value is only 11,000. In reality, such a car is worth about 18,000. Also last year, Crețu sold a Mitsubishi Outlander car for 8,000 euros, which was purchased in 2019 for 7,500 euros. 

He changed his mind to talk to ZdG reporters

The ZdG reporters met Crețu in the NIA halls, but he told that he will talk only through the institution’s press service. Maria Dastic, the press officer, told us that the inspector says that his fortune is justified and that he bought the Toyota C-HR car from “money provided for this, plus savings.” As for the car sold with 500 more than the purchase price, Crețu claims that he sold the car at the price at which he bought it, although it differs from the price indicated in his wealth declaration.

Other inspectors with undervalued cars

Inspector Doina Popovici drives a 2006 Skoda, purchased in 2019 at the indicated price of 1,000 euros, the real price of the car being about 7,000 euros. Inspector Sergiu Popa rides a Ford Fiesta from 2011, bought in 2019 for 3,500 euros that on the car market costs 6,000 euros.

Inspector Cristina Prisăcari declares a 2007 Volvo C70 car, purchased in 2018 for 4,000 euros, although on specialized sites it costs twice as much. Prisăcari also owns a Volvo – XC90, obtained in 2013 for 6,500 euros, although on the car market this model is worth about 10,000 euros. Inspector Prisăcari admits that the values ​​indicated in the declaration of assets do not correspond to the real value of the goods, but justifies that by completing the act she complied with the legislation, according to which one must indicate the price ​​from the sale-purchase contract. 

Zero euros cars. In 2020, his mother donated her house, in 2021 – her car

Four other National Integrity Authority inspectors drive cars listed in their wealth declarations worth nothing. One of them is Vladislav Gorceac, who sold, last year, two Toyota Corolla cars for 2.7 thousand euros and 5 thousand dollars, respectively, and since 2021 he is riding a Volvo XC 90 car, manufactured in 2011, whose indicated value is zero euros. Gorceac told us that the car he drives belongs to his mother, even though his name was listed in the “property owner” section.

“The car is in use. It’s my mother’s car and I’m driving it. The owner is my mother, that’s why I indicated that the car is in use. If there are any more questions, make an official interpellation and I will answer all your questions”, said Vladislav Gorceac.

In 2020, the inspector’s mother donated him a house.

He filed a new declaration of assets

“I received the house as a donation, in 2020. The house was purchased long before I became an inspector. It was my parents’ decision, as I am the only heir. As for the car, I indicated it at the value of zero euros, because I am not the owner,” Gorceac told us through the NIA press officer.

After the discussion with ZdG, inspector Gorceac submitted a new declaration of assets, modifying the owner of the car he is driving.

House and zero euros car

Alexandru Stavinschi is also on the list of inspectors with zero euros cars. He drives a Seat car, manufactured in 2001 and bought in 2019, and lives in an apartment obtained in 2015 through habitation rights, to which he does not indicate the value.

Through the NIA press officer, Stavinschi informed us that “both goods do not belong to me with property rights. The car is not bought but transferred in possession by warrant. I don’t know the price of the car, and in such cases, zero euros is indicated.”

Inspector Ion Nicolaev drives a Nissan Almera since 2006, and Sergiu Pleşca rides an Audi TT car from 2000, which is worth zero euros in their wealth declarations. 

They live in the parents ‘or relatives’ houses

ZdG also found that seven of the 20 integrity inspectors indicate in the wealth declarations that they either received apartments for free use or that they inherited the apartments in which they live. In addition, the integrity inspectors do not indicate the value of housing. This is the case of Alina Munteanu, who since 2015 has obtained a house for use from her parents.

Radion Buzu also lives in his parents’ apartment. Inspector Rodion Rusnac also received for use, last year, an apartment of 50 square meters, the owner of the property being the godson of his parents.

“I do not own any real estate… At the moment, I use the apartment of a relative of my parents, my parents’ godson, with the right to use it. According to the regulation on how to complete the declaration of assets and personal interests, in case of possession of an asset with the right of use, the value of the asset is indicated zero, because only the owner knows the value of the asset. I do not own any apartment with the right of ownership, given that the salary of a civil servant with a special status does not allow me,” Rodion Rusnac told us.

Although inspector Andrian Fetescu states that in 2009 he obtained an apartment with an indicated value of zero euros through the habitation rights, he writes that the origin of the good is confirmed by a sale-purchase contract. Inspectors Alexandru Stavinschi, Serghei Pleşca and Virgiliu Bardă also live in apartments with habitation rights.

NIA spokesperson: Inspectors were the first to see the spot

Maria Dastic, the NIA spokesperson, claims that the integrity inspectors were the first that saw the video in which the officials were urged to declare the real value of goods, but says they “comply with tax law” when declaring undervalued goods.

“The spot was seen, first of all, by the NIA team, which includes the integrity inspectors. In addition to the proposals we are promoting at the Ministry of Justice, from 2019, I said that it is appropriate to come up with an awareness spot about how embarrassing is the situation in which you declare your goods at a very low price. Through this spot, we urge people to indicate the real price of that good when sale-purchase contracts or other documents of origin of the goods are concluded. Everyone writes in their declaration the prices from the purchase contracts according to the legislation in force, that is why the goods have such values ​​in declarations,” claims Maria Dastic. 

Deputy Director of the Association for Participatory Democracy “ADEPT”: The integrity of inspectors should be beyond suspicion

Elena Prohnițchi, deputy director of the Association for Participatory Democracy “ADEPT”, claims that in the wealth declarations goods are put a ridiculous price because the legal framework allows it. However, the expert believes that integrity inspectors should be an example of fairness and indicate the real value of the goods they own.

“According to the tax legislation, the owner of the goods must declare the value of them. If the owner is not a civil servant, he is not obliged to submit a declaration of wealth and personal interests. Thus, for a person that holds a public office is very convenient to declare on loan a car that costs tens of thousands of dollars when the owner being a third party. Inspectors act within the legal field, but, indisputably, they should be an example of fairness, and their integrity should be beyond suspicion. We wonder what is the role of all information and awareness campaigns for civil servants to submit their statements in time and indicate all the goods they have in use, if the integrity inspectors, by their example, prove otherwise,” says Elena Prohnițchi.

The expert argues that the practice of indicating ridiculous prices in sales contracts is applied very often, as the seller pays, in this case, a lower income tax, and the buyer, if he holds public office, thus hides the goods and acquisitions which he could not afford based on salary. 

“It is a kind of practice tacitly accepted by all. We need solutions to prevent these practices and encourage the population to include in the sale-purchase contracts the real price of the goods. The legislators could include certain fiscal facilities for those who indicate the real value,” Elena Prohnițchi, the deputy director of the” ADEPT “Association, also told us.

AUTHOR MAIL

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