Two weeks ago, a Commission within the Superior Council of Magistracy distributed a new round of apartments at preferential prices to judges and employees of the judiciary.
This time, the apartments are intended for judicial employees who work in the districts of Moldova. Thus, another 185 magistrates and workers of the judiciary will get apartments in Chișinău at a price almost twice as low as the market price, i.e. they will pay only 420 euros per square meter.
The commission, however, refuses to make the list of beneficiaries public, saying they will provide it when the beneficiaries sign the contracts with the construction company.
ZdG managed to find out the names of some magistrates who will get preferential apartments in Chișinău. We found that there are judges, whose families or even themselves, own real estate in Chișinău, even though it contradicts one of the criteria for selecting beneficiaries: not to own real estate registered in the capital city.
Over 200 magistrates and employees of the judiciary working in the districts of Moldova have applied to purchase apartments at a preferential price in residential buildings, built specifically for them. Two weeks ago, the Commission within the Superior Council of Magistracy in charge of this project selected 185 applicants for apartments at a preferential price.
Residential buildings for judges built on public land
The residential blocks intended for the workers from the judiciary are located on Mircea cel Bătrân Street in the Ciocana district of Chișinău.
Three years later, in May 2017, a working group was set up to identify the construction company to build the residential blocks and, at the same time, to assess the need to improve housing conditions for employees of the judiciary who will be selected to get apartments at a preferential price. Representatives of the Superior Council of Magistracy were members of the working group, among which Victor Micu and Dorel Musteață, as well as representatives of the courts: Petru Moraru, Valeriu Efros, and Dumitru Gherasim.
Apartments for magistrates at a price twice as low as the market price
The construction company Basconslux was selected to build the residential blocks. The representative of the company clarified that they actually built a residential complex consisting of six blocks on the allocated plot. According to the agreement between the Superior Council of Magistracy and the construction company, the judiciary share constituted 40 percent and the company received 60 percent of the project.
So far, according to the real estate agent, the residential complex has not been put into operation. However, the construction is almost finished, and currently, facade works are being done.
The company’s representative claims that the apartments have not been put up for sale yet and that the price of the apartments has not been set, however, the initial estimated price could be 750 euros per square meter.
Magistrates and employees of the judiciary, on the other hand, will get apartments at a price almost twice as low, i.e. they will pay only 420 euros per square meter.
The main criterion – not to own real estate registered in Chișinău
Victor Micu, the head of the Commission, refused the ZdG request to provide the names of beneficiaries who will get apartments at preferential prices, stating that he will provide it only after the construction company and the judiciary employees sign the contracts.
“There are problems now. I remember that last time when there was a distribution, there were many judges, well, not many, but anyway, judges and assistants refused to sign contracts. We made the list then and sent it to the press and the press made various interpretations. Therefore, you will be able to see the list as soon as all the contracts are signed,” Micu said.
When asked about the criteria used to select employees of the judiciary to receive apartments at prices twice as low as the market price, Micu claimed that the Commission considered the work experience of the applicants, the number of family members, as well as the fact that they do not own real estate registered in Chișinău. “We checked the data from the Cadastral Service to make sure they did not own real estate. We automatically excluded those who have any real estate property registered in Chișinău, regardless of whether it is a judge or an assistant,” said Micu.
As for the need to build a new residential block for the magistrates who work in the districts, the member of the Selection Commission stated that “at the moment, there are judges, assistants, and clerks who work in the districts, but have no domicile, neither in Chișinău nor in the district. They commute.” At the same time, Victor Micu pointed out that “the goal was to provide housing to the judiciary who work in the districts and do not have housing in Chișinău.”
Special apartment for magistrates with fortunes of millions
Although the Selection Commission of the Superior Council of Magistracy refused to provide the list of beneficiaries, ZdG managed to find out the names of some magistrates who will get apartments at a preferential price.
Alexandru Gheorghieș, a former member of the Superior Council of Magistracy and currently a judge at Bălți Court of Appeal, will be one of those who will get an apartment in Chișinău at a special price. The magistrate lives and works in Bălți. Until 2019, his family lived in an apartment of 74,3 square meters which he did not own.
In October 2017, the anticorupție.md portal published an investigation, revealing that in 2015 Alexandru Gheorghieș came to the attention of the press following a scandal related to the intention to privatize the 74.3 square meter apartment which the local authorities in Bălți allowed him to use in 2012. According to Renato Usatîi, the mayor of Bălți, in order to avoid paying about 20,000 euros for the privatization of the flat, Gheorghieș allegedly registered his in-laws in the apartment, taking them for maintenance, and thus the cost of privatization decreased to 1,000 euros. The magistrate stated then that he did not violate any legal norm, the documents being verified by the National Anticorruption Center.
In 2019, the family inherited the apartment, along with a 23.9 square meter garage. The magistrate indicates in his declaration of wealth and personal interests a total value of approximately 12,000 euros for these real estates. In 2020, through an exchange contract, the judge’s family got in exchange for these goods a house of 153.7 square meters, for which they indicated the cost of about 60,000 euros, as well as two other real estates of 17.2 square meters and 63.9 square meters respectively. The magistrate also declares eight agricultural plots, five of them with a total area of 3.4578 hectares and shares of the other three, whose total area is 2.4952 hectares.
Asked by ZdG, the judge confirmed the information that he will get an apartment in the Ciocana sector of Chișinău. He claims that, even though he works and owns real estate in Bălți, he needs housing in Chișinău in the event of being promoted.
“I am appointed as a judge until I reach the age of 65 and, if you followed the decisions of the Superior Council of Magistracy, I participated in the competition for the position of judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. Thus, if I am appointed as a judge, then I will need an apartment to live in so that I do not have to rent. I think I will be nominated, I am positive about it,” Gheorghieș declared for ZdG.
“I have had a small apartment in Chișinău since I was a student, which is already for sale”
Dmitrii Fujenco, former interim president of Comrat Court of Appeal and currently a judge in the same court, is also one of the beneficiaries of apartments in Chișinău. The magistrate’s family owns a 50.2 square meter apartment, as well as ½ from another apartment with an area of 70 square meters in Cahul and another ¼ from a 95.1 square meter apartment. The family also owns 0.054 hectares of urban land.
Asked by ZdG, Fujenco confirmed that he intends to purchase an apartment at a preferential price in the residential blocks built at the initiative of the Superior Council of Magistracy for district judges. Although according to the Commission, one of the criteria was for magistrates not to own real estate in Chișinău, Fujenco claims that “I have already sold an apartment in Cahul and I have had a small apartment in Chișinău as a student, which is already for sale and will be sold soon, namely because I need money to buy this apartment in Chișinău.” The magistrate states that he needs housing in Chișinău as he intends to become a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. “I have submitted the application, I have already run for the position of judge at the Supreme Court of Justice, so far without success, but that does not mean that I intend to give up,” Fujenco said.
Housing for a magistrate suspected in a bribery case in Orhei
Eugen Popovici, judge at Orhei District Court, is also on the list to get an apartment at a price of 420 euros per square meter in the Ciocana district of Chișinău. In his declarațions of wealth, the magistrate does not indicate that he owns real estate. He declares only the family’s official salaries and debts of almost 4,000 euros. ZdG tried to contact him, but the judge could not be found to explain why he needs an apartment in Chișinău if he works in Orhei.
Popovici is the judge detained in October 2018 by the National Anticorruption Center, on suspicion of having claimed a bribe of 2,000 euros for “mitigating the accusation brought and releasing from custody” a person accused of drug trafficking. In May 2020, the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office ordered the judge to be removed from criminal prosecution, and Popovici was reinstated.
In the event of a “possible job promotion”
Eugeniu Pșenița, interim vice-president of the Edineț Court, will also get an apartment in Chișinău at a preferential price. According to his declaration of wealth, the Pșenița family owns a 99.3 square meter apartment, a 29.4 square meter garage, and another real estate property with an area of 26 square meters. The magistrate also declares an urban plot of 0.166 hectares. The family keeps almost 1,000 euros in bank accounts, and its debts reach 14,000 euros. Contacted by ZdG, Pșenița confirmed that he submitted an application to purchase an apartment in Chișinău at a preferential price, but claims that he does not know if he has been selected. At the same time, the judge states that he needs housing in Chișinău in the event of a “possible promotion.”
The magistrate was investigated by the Center for Journalistic Investigations, conducted jointly with ZdG, which showed that controversial magistrates were promoted despite the then head of state’s refusal to advance them to office. Vladimir Voronin rejected his candidacy for the judge position until reaching the age limit, the refusal actually meaning the dismissal of the judge from the system. “As a judge, Mr. Pșenița manifested himself as a person who commits actions that discredit justice, compromise the honor and dignity of a judge,” wrote the former president, referring to a real estate scheme in which the judge was involved. Even so, the magistrate remained in the system.
Apartment at a preferential price for the magistrate who lives in his wife’s house in Durlești
Corneliu Guzun, vice-president of Râșcani District Court in Chișinău, is among the beneficiaries of apartments at a price almost twice as low as the market price. Although one of the criteria was that the selected magistrates should not own real estate in Chișinău and despite the fact that the Guzun family lives in Durlești, the suburbs of Chișinău, the Commission considered him eligible to get a promotional apartment. The magistrate’s family purchased the house in Durlești in 2007; it covers an area of 168.6 square meters, and its indicated value is about 14,000 euros. In addition, Guzun declares that his family owns a 60.2 square meter house and five other real estate properties, obtained by donation, as well as ¼ from a 71.2 square meter apartment in Chișinău.
Contacted by ZdG, the vice-president of the Chișinău Court specified that he submitted the request to purchase an apartment in the block built for the judiciary employees in 2015-2016. Asked why he decided to apply if his family owns real estate, he replied: “Well, I have a family and I have two children. What I now own is only a share of a parents’ apartment that is being privatized.”
At the same time, Guzun claims that the goods indicated in his declaration of wealth belong to his wife, and “for this reason, I considered that I could also claim an apartment at a preferential price.”
Guzun: My wife owns by donation or inheritance other property in her grandparents’ village; she inherited it before marriage, including the house in Durlești.
ZdG: Why do you need an apartment in Chișinău then?
Guzun: Well, to live there, to have something for my children. You know how life is, we may divorce one day, and so where am I to go? And I have got two children.
An investigation by the Center for Journalistic Investigations shows that Judge Corneliu Guzun became vice president of the Chișinău Court after only three years of work, being the only candidate for the position. Guzun was recommended for the position of judge by Oleg Sternioală, his wedding godfather, who was then vice-president of the Civil, Commercial and Administrative Litigation College within the Supreme Court of Justice and member of the Judges’ Performance Evaluation College within the Superior Council of Magistracy, and is currently under criminal investigation for illicit enrichment. With the promotion to office, donations from his mother-in-law, who works abroad, began to flow into the judge’s budget.
They own real estate, but not in Chișinău
We asked Victor Micu, member of the Superior Council of Magistracy and chairman of the Selection Commission, to comment on the fact that judges who own real estate in the localities where they work are included in the list of beneficiaries. Micu said that “if they own any real estate, they will not have any in case they transfer to Chișinău, especially the youth. Now there is about 30 percent of young judges and assistants in the judiciary and it is clear that they go to districts or wherever there are vacancies, they go for a maximum of five years. In five years they all want to move to Chișinău, to the place where they were born, in case they have a family. Most of them want to be in Chișinău or in Bălți.”
Asked if, in relation to other categories of civil servants, it seems fair for magistrates to benefit from the fourth project of this kind, Victor Micu said that any institution has the right to request such projects for its employees. “Any institution has the right to request, the fact that the institution did not request that is already their problem. I can’t say whether it is fair or not, everyone will interpret it in their own way.”
Previously, in 2017, the judiciary benefited from three residential complexes in the Râșcani and Botanica sectors in Chișinău. The same company Basconslux, selected by the Superior Council of Magistracy following a tender, built two of the residential complexes in Ceucari Street and Vasile Alecsandri Street. Exfactor-Grup built the third residential complex in Hristo Botev Street. According to an investigation by the Center for Journalistic Investigations, the magistrates and other employees of the system selected to obtain housing at a preferential price paid between 300 and 360 euros for a square meter. The press wrote then that many of the magistrates benefiting from cheaper apartments sold them immediately after receiving the keys, and others left the system shortly after expanding their housing.