INVESTIGATION: Forest Thefts Part III – The Socialists’ Involvement and an Unambiguous Recording

INVESTIGATION: Forest Thefts Part III – The Socialists’ Involvement and an Unambiguous Recording
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01 July 2021 | 13:30

ZdG obtained an audio recording of a meeting with the foresters from Edineț District, which shows how Dumitru Cojocaru, the head of Moldsilva Agency, instructed the foresters and the heads of forest districts under control how to avoid punishments. He advised them to contest the reports in which the detected irregularities were registered, although Moldsilva’s role is to protect forests, including from illegal logging done by employees.

“You have a lawyer, you have everything. File a contest! If you do it, all the other districts will follow you. Don’t wait for Moldsilva. Moldsilva will not… the due date is the 4th so you still have time to sue. Contest in court!” the head of Moldsilva told the employees in whose forest sectors irregularities had been found. On March 30, shortly after inspections took place in several forest sectors in the north of the country, Dumitru Cojocaru, Moldsilva’s general director, convened a meeting with the managerial staff of the Edineț Forestry Enterprise – an enterprise divided into six forest districts that manage almost 25000 hectares of wood, located on the territory of Edineţ, Briceni, Ocniţa, Donduşeni and, partially, Drochia districts.

Head of Moldsilva: “At the moment, the inspection report must be contested.”

ZdG obtained an audio recording of that meeting. After 20 minutes of discussions about the economic situation of the enterprise, general director Dumitru Cojocaru’s monologue followed, with short interventions by the other participants. In the second part of the meeting, the director’s speech focused, in particular, on the controls that were taking place in those days in the forests managed by Edineț Forest Enterprise. Initially, Cojocaru advised the heads of forest districts not to run away when the deforestation is filmed, but to explain. Subsequently, Cojocaru pressed the administration of Edineț Forest Enterprise to contest the inspection reports, saying that they “were not drawn properly”.

“There were inspections in Ocnița, right? You all went and signed everything there. Now, there will be a trial. How to defend you, if you admitted everything? And your director is no better. I can’t praise him for illegal logging, but how did you do the order? Everyone signed it. Now, I don’t know the results of the second verification yet, Grubîi will tell me. The second control recorded miracles, … tens of cubes multiplied by*** it makes about 200 000. In the other sector, there are 80 and something. And think to myself: It’s you who signed everything. I talked to the director and the forestry chief engineer, at the moment we have to contest the inspection report. They forged the report. It was not drawn properly, especially the second one…” the general director told those present.

Cojocaru: “I’ll explain you the context”

Dumitru Cojocaru, the director of the Moldsilva Agency, acknowledges the authenticity of his discourse at the meeting with the foresters from Edineț but states that his words are misinterpreted and taken out of context.

Dumitru Cojocaru, the director of the Moldsilva Agency.

“I’ll tell you the context. Following the verification done by the investigation group, I went to a meeting, because the Ecology representatives carried out verifications only in two forest cantons, No 7 in the Dondușeni Forest District and No 8, the canton where Chiriac’s son works in Ocnița. Neither I nor Mr. Constantin knew about that verification, we ordered an internal check ourselves. All the foresters from Dondușeni and from Ocnița were checked. At the meeting, I informed them of the Order we issued for each head of forest district who was reprimanded, the director of the Forest Enterprise also received a reprimand and the foresters must return the damage they caused to the fauna and flora. During these discussions, many of them raised the issue that they do not agree with the calculations made for cantons 7 and 8 and I had to explain once again. Mr. Grubii is our specialist here who deals with deforestation, guarding and protection, Mr. Grubîi and Mr. Rabii, the head of the Service were the only ones invited, I made them come there to check these things if any violations were committed. They told me that they had counted some previous stumps, a calculation was made which, in their view, is not very conclusive to sanction the people,” says Cojocaru. “In this case, we consulted with Mr. Boboc, there is only one way out left – if they do not agree with the results of the commission, they have to go to court,” explains Cojocaru.

Inspection on the forests of Edineț: Damages of 11,000 euros

The meeting of the director of Moldsilva with the heads of forest districts and the management of Edineț Forest Enterprise took place while several forest sectors managed by Edineț Forest Enterprise were under inspection.

“As a result of the planned felling in the 4C sector, operated in 2021, and in the 3T sector, operated in 2020, as well as the illegal cutting of 86 trees, a total volume of 224 cubic meters of timber was illegally stolen, and the damage caused to the environment, as well as the cost of the wood mass, constitutes 235 700 lei,” concluded the inspection report of the Inspectorate for Environmental Protection.

Director of Edineț forest enterprise: I did not hear the general director’s words.”

Veaceslav Chiriac, who, in the last 10 years, held only management positions within the Edineț Forest Enterprise and currently the head of the Enterprise, was present at the meeting with the general director of the Moldsilva Agency. However, he claims that he did not hear the accusations of his boss and that he does not know what he was referring to. However, Veaceslav Chiriac followed Moldsilva’s director’s advice and contested the verification results in court. The director of Edineț Forest Enterprise and his subordinates claim that during the checks, trees that were cut down several years ago and had already been accounted for in the past were reported as allegedly illegal logging. Veaceslav Chiriac has been working in forestry for almost 30 years.

Veaceslav Chiriac, Director of Edineț forest enterprise.

From 1992 to 2011 he was a forester, and in the last 10 years, he occupied about seven managerial positions and in October 2018 he became again head of Dondușeni Forest District within Edineț Forest Enterprise. In 2020, Veaceslav Chiriac was re-elected director of Edineț Forest Enterprise, following a competition in which four candidates participated. In recent years, while holding various leadership positions in forestry, Veaceslav Chiriac has been investigated in several criminal or misdemeanor cases. In June 2016, Chiriac was found guilty of illegal possession of weapons. At the court hearing, Chiriac admitted the deed, mentioning that he found the weapon and that he was going to hand it over to the law enforcement agencies the next day. Although he was found guilty, the contravention procedure was terminated due to the intervention of the limitation period.

Judged for allegedly claiming a bribe of 3,000 euros for the job of a forester

Veaceslav Chiriac’s name could be found in a criminal case in which he was accused of passive corruption and carrying, storing, and procuring ammunition, without appropriate authorization. According to the case, while he was in the position of director of Edineț Forest Enterprise, Chiriac claimed a bribe of 3,000 euros from Serghei Burcovschi, to hire his son, Marius Burcovschi, as foreman-forester at Edineț Forest Enterprise.

Punished with a fine if 800 euros

The court reclassified Chiriac’s actions, from passive corruption to abuse of office, a crime that is punishable by a milder sanction. At the same time, in order to establish a lesser punishment, the court set some mitigating circumstances: “first time offender, two minor children to take care of, he is the only family member who provides for the whole family.” In the end, Chiriac was found guilty of abuse of office but was punished only with a fine of 800 euros, with the possibility to pay half of the fee within 72 hours.

“The trial finally answered all the questions. You know how some things are done in Moldova. The man to whose order the case was started has been in search for years now. He himself was investigated in criminal cases at the time. And even during this time, he collaborated with the National Anticorruption Center. This is a fabricated case,” says Chiriac.

Political affiliation and relatives working in forestry

In recent years, the director of Edineț Forest Enterprise has also been involved in politics. In 2019, he became a district councilor in Ocnița on the lists of the Socialist Party, and in 2019 he maintained his mandate and is currently a councilor from the same party. Also in 2019, he was elected local councilor in Gârbova village, Ocnița district. Chiriac displays his political affiliation on social networks, where he publishes photos with the insignia of the Socialist Party. Last fall, in the presidential election campaign, Chiriac supported Igor Dodon. Several of Chiriac’s relatives have been employed within Edineț Forest Enterprise. His son, Ion Chiriac, is a forester in canton No. 14 within Ocnița forest district. At the same time, several of his godsons are foresters too. Chiriac’s wife also managed, until recently, a forest sector within Edineț Forest Enterprise. Gheorghe Dumitraș, a local councilor in Gârbova from the Socialist Party and former candidate for mayor, secured himself the job of a forester as well.

“I can tell you one thing: when you live in a city, let’s say in Chișinău, you have lots of friends. Likewise, when you work in the given system all your life, it is inevitable. They are not first-degree or second-degree relatives. They have been living here not for a year or two, but for a lifetime,” says Chiriac.

ZdG: Are you a member of the Socialist Party? Did it help you advance in your career, as in the 2020 contest you won, for example?

Veaceslav Chiriac: I’m a forester. I work in this field since 1992. I was born into a family of foresters and I am a forester in the third generation. I finished college in Russia, it was the Soviet Union then. Later, I got a higher education degree. The contest lasted for three months; I went through all the steps, like everyone. It turned out I scored higher there, that’s it.

ZdG: Wasn’t there any political help? -Veaceslav Chiriac: It was not political.

Socialist district councilor with no experience in the field appointed head of the forest district

Ion Zloi, a district councilor from the Socialist Party in Dondușeni, also came into forestry promoted by the Socialist Party. From 2003 to 2019, Zloi was mayor of Dondușeni commune in the district of the same name. For 14 years he represented the Communist Party, and in 2017 he joined the Democratic Party.

Ion Zloi and his son, Vladislav.

After two years, in 2019, he left the Democrats and joined the Socialist Party. In the 2019 local elections, Ion Zloi ran for the position of mayor of Dondușeni, and his son Vladislav Zloi ran for mayor in the village of Dondușeni, both on the lists of the Socialist Party. Vladislav Zloi won the mayoral seat in the village while his father lost the city elections. However, Ion Zloi became a district councilor in Dondușeni. After a few months, he was appointed head of Dondușeni Forest District within Edineț Forest Enterprise. Previously, Veaceslav Chiriac held this position before he became director of Edinet Forest Enterprise.

AUTHOR MAIL eng.zdg@gmail.com

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