INVESTIGATION: Beneficiaries and Interests Behind the First Automated Multistorey Car Park in Chișinău
The project of the first automated multistorey car park in Chișinău was presented with great pomp and was to be launched on October 14, City Day. One month after the deadline announced by the authorities, the parking lot is non-functional, and the project has raised a wave of accusations of non-compliance with the rules on construction near historical monuments included in the list of national cultural heritage. It all culminated in the request of the Minister of Culture to stop the construction of the construction.
Ziarul de Gardă tried to find out the details behind this business and found that the traces of the project beneficiaries lead to public figures, two of whom were previously investigated in criminal cases for corruption. One of the beneficiaries is the godfather of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who fled the country two and a half years ago, after losing power.
The construction of the first automated multistorey car park, equipped with an elevator, in Chișinău was announced with great pomp on May 31, 2021, when the works were started. The idea was conceived a few months earlier, in September 2020, and was announced by the mayor of Chișinău, the Socialist Ion Ceban. He mentioned “the unique project, which we will implement in collaboration with the Technical University of Moldova” and which “will allow us to place ourselves directly in an innovative ecosystem, with the help of smart technology,” wrote the mayor of the capital on his Facebook page.
The Technical University comes with the land, the investors – with the money, the City Hall – with the documents
The launch event of the project featured Ion Ceban, Viorel Bostan, the rector of Technical University, and investors. Then it was announced that the car park will be built within a partnership between the Technical University, Chișinău City Hall, and the company that will do the construction works on the land offered in a university lease. According to the contract, the land has been leased for a period of five years, and the amount of rent is to be determined annually. For 2020, the beneficiary company was obliged to pay about 1,800 euros. In October 2020, the Chișinău City Hall issued an urbanism certificate for the land on 31 August 1989 Street, near the study block no. 2 of the Technical University, and in April 2021 the authorization for the construction of an easily dismantled automated car park was issued.
500,000 euros for a car park with a capacity of 40 places
According to the project sketch, the car park would have four levels and cover an area of 180 square meters. Although Ion Ceban stressed that “this project aims to solve the problem of lack of parking spaces in the center of the capital,” the parking capacity would have only 40 spaces. At the same time, according to investors, access to the parking lot will be free for a while, and then a fee will be charged. The price of the investment was estimated at 350-500 thousand euros, and the works were to be completed in about two months, so that the opening of the parking lot was scheduled for Chișinău City Day, October 14.
“This multistorey car park will work on the model of an elevator, with 3-4 cars being placed on different levels, one on top of the other. The actual parking procedure is simple: if there are places available, the platform goes down, the owner puts his car on this platform, enters the parking lot, after which, at the exit, he presses the button and the car is stored. Payment is made by phone or card, after entering the access code. In fact, it is an interesting approach, especially for students of the faculty of electric cars, electrical installations, or automation, to try their strengths. To see how such a system works, and then to contribute with improvements,” declared then the rector of Technical University, Viorel Bostan.
Beneficiaries of the multistorey car park in the center of Chișinău
On October 15, we went to see what stage the works are at. We discovered a construction site in progress, and the parking lot did not seem to be nearing completion, although the deadline promised by the authorities had expired. According to the information panel on the site, the construction works are carried out by AEP Revital company, the beneficiary of the parking lot being the Top Parking company, in partnership with Technical University. Although the rector of Technical University claims that the initiative to build this parking lot belongs to the Chișinău City Hall, in a letter of support signed by Victor Chironda, then deputy mayor of the city, it is shown that the project was proposed by Technical University, in collaboration with Top Parking company, the beneficiary company of the parking lot.
The son of the head of the company who announces that the company is the leader on the meat import and distribution market in Moldova, is among the beneficiaries of the parking lot
The Top Parking company, which has its legal address in the village of Cojușna and only one employee, was founded at the end of January 2018 by Diana Coman, Eugenia Dari, and Alexandru Triteac. Alexandru Triteac owns 35% of the company, he is also its administrator. At the same time, Triteac is connected to two other companies: Frux Snacks, a business he manages himself, and Trialtex Plus, which he manages together with Andrei Triteac, who owns and manages the company MMD Brokers. The main activity of the company is the “wholesale trade of meat and meat products” and is part of the MMD Group, which announces that it is a leader on the market of import and distribution of meat in Moldova. The group is managed by Alexandru’s father, Anatolie Triteac, president of the Association of Producers and Importers of Meat and Dairy Products in Moldova.
In November 2009, Viorel Chetraru, then director of the Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption, included Triteac in a list of people who would have contributed to the monopolization of the meat market in Moldova. However, the criminal cases opened at that time did not have a finality that would lead to the punishment of the guilty. Several companies registered at the same address – 5/1 Valea Bâcului Street, where Alexandru Triteac’s company, Trialtex Plus, had its legal address, were sanctioned with a fine. Until 2014, Anatolie Triteac was a member of the Board of Directors of Victoriabank, during the time when the bank was managed by the runaway oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.
The second beneficiary: the criminal case for influence peddling
Eugenia Dari holds 35% of the share capital of the company that invests in parking. Her husband, Valentin Dari, was present at the launch event of the project. He came to public attention after he was apprehended in 2015, in flagrante delicto, while allegedly extorting money. Then, a criminal case was opened on Dari’s name for influence peddling. According to the authorities, as a victim in a case, Dari allegedly requested about 30,000 euros from a person, claiming that he could influence the police employees who were investigating a criminal case in order to adopt a favorable decision.
Elena Cazacov, the interim head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, specified that the criminal case on his behalf was filed a few months later, in June 2015, and that he was charged with a fine.
“He was removed from criminal prosecution and the criminal case was closed, given that it was found his actions wouldn’t meet the elements of crime, the moment of extortion in order to influence some public persons was not found. He was only charged with a fine in a case of violating the Contraventional Code,” declared the interim head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office.
The third beneficiary: the wife of the former head of the Medicines Agency, also – Plahotniuc’s godfather
Diana Coman, who owns 30% of the share capital of the Top Parking company is the wife of Alexandru Coman, the former director of the Medicines Agency, detained in the case of fraud in medical auctions. Six years after the detentions, in this case, the criminal case is currently at the stage of judicial investigations in the court of the first instance. Over time, it has been rumored in the public space that Alexandru Coman is the godfather of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who left the country in June 2019, after losing power.
The rector of Technical University also talks about the involvement of Alexandru Coman in the parking project, claiming that Coman represented the company in the discussion with the university: ”The company is represented by Mr. Triteac, but it was Mr. Triteac and Mr. Coman that came to discussions.”
Representatives of Top Parking denied any political affiliation.
“Zero (political affiliation ed.n.). On the contrary, if we were affiliated, it would destroy us. Zero, no, below zero. We have nothing with politics, I swear that we have nothing to do with politics. If someone proves to me that I have a connection with politics, I will give this parking lot to Chișinău. Also, Mr. Alexandru Coman has nothing to do with the parking project, it is Mrs. Diana who participated […] I personally invested money. I have all the necessary documents and I can show fiscal documents to demonstrate,” Valentin Dari, one of the beneficiaries, declared for ZdG.
“About the fact that I studied at the Technical University”
Valentin Dari claims that the initiative to build this car park came from the Top Parking company and was proposed to the university “in connection with the fact that I studied at the Technical Univesity.”
“We also talked to the mayor, we talked to everyone. Coincidentally, I met the rector of the Technical University. They became more interested than us.”
Viorel Bostan, the rector of Technical University, denied that he knew about the affiliations of the company that will benefit from the parking project and insisted that the company was not selected by the university.
“We have nothing to do with this entrepreneur. We haven’t done any business with them and this is the first time I’ve heard of such an affiliation. The address was from the town hall. […] There was a convergence of ideas that, in our opinion, are beneficial to the city, to the faculty, and to our students,” Bostan stated.
The mayor of the capital also stated that he would not know anything about the beneficiaries and the interests behind the company.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about and I have no idea and, at this stage, I’m not interested. The interest of Chișinău is to have parking lots. If someone comes and invests in such projects, we exempt the Chișinău City Hall from such things. So, we invite others as well,” Ceban pointed out.
Parking in the center of Chisinau: “We consider it a serious violation”
The construction of the parking lot raised a wave of reactions and accusations. As the parking lot is built on the land near the monument Building of the former Theological Seminary, today shared by the National Library and the Technical University, the Library came with notifications to the responsible authorities, signaling that building the parking lot damages the building with protected status. Elena Pintilei, the director of the Library, claims that the responsible authorities were not receptive and did not support the position of the library.
“We consider that Chișinău needs modern, multistorey car parks, with really modern equipment, but not near a historical monument, which is unique for Moldova and our history. […] We consider that there are serious violations because if we talk to architects who know the legislation in force, the land itself belongs to a monument because the headquarters of the first Theological Seminary is a historical and architectural monument of Chișinău. […] As a result of the works for the construction of this parking lot, cracks appeared in block nr. 2 of the National Library. Everything that will happen around block nr. 2 will be somehow gradual, physical destruction of this block,” pointed out the director of the National Library.
The request of the Minister of Culture: “Stop the construction”
In an official letter from the Minister of Culture, Sergiu Prodan, dated September 17, addressed to Mayor Ion Ceban, it was requested to stop the construction of the multistory car park, stating that it “seriously harms the integrity and authenticity of this national cultural heritage without historical-architectural arguments, destroying the green space adjacent to the monument, closing the visual access to the south facade of the heritage building, creating a source of vibrations and gas emanation harmful to the integrity of the historic building, but also for the heritage book collections kept in the Library, while considerably increasing the traffic pressure on the entire area,” is shown in the letter signed by the Minister of Culture, in which he warns that the City Hall would not have developed urban documentation based on international standards for protecting cultural heritage and on preserving the cultural identity of the city.
Ion Ștefăniță, director of the Agency for Inspection and Restoration of Monuments in Moldova disagreed with the position of the Ministry of Culture, stating that he remains an “advocate of historical monuments, but at the same time supports the development of the balanced city, with perfect integration of new urban projects with the necessary functionalities at the beginning of the 21st century.”
“It’s an unexpected situation.”
Viorel Bostan, the rector of Technical University, is puzzled by the evolution of the situation created around the parking project and insists that “absolutely everything went according to all legal provisions,” referring to the authorized construction documents. At the same time, referring to the request of the Minister of Culture, Viorel Bostan believes that he was misled.
“I don’t know why it happened, because we discussed it with the library. It’s an unexpected situation. The Ministry of Culture didn’t ask us any questions. We could explain everything to him. Instead, he came out in the public space, having behind him several so-called organizations that deal with saving the heritage. I am not against the historical heritage, but it seems to me that they do not pay attention to other major problems, which they seem to not notice, and react to temporary a parking lot which in a few years can be dismantled. […] So, it seemed to me somehow, in a deliberate, intentional, manipulative way, this is how they try to stop this project, and I don’t fully understand where it comes from and what the basic arguments are,” pointed out the rector of Technical University, Viorel Bostan.
The same position is shared by the mayor of the capital Ion Ceban, who claims that all the documentation was coordinated with all the relevant institutions, “so I don’t see what the problem could be in this regard.”
“There is a very clear methodology, the minister probably knows it. I don’t know why we have to write letters to each other. There is a methodology provided by law. The project was coordinated absolutely with everyone. As far as I know, and with the National Library too,” said Ion Ceban, specifying that the parking lot will be completed and launched “in a short time,” and that the delays are explained by the “coordination of documents and organizing the site so as not to be problems there.”
The representatives of the Top Parking company refused to comment on the misunderstandings that appeared around the construction of the parking lot, specifying that all the documents are elaborated in accordance with the legislation in force. Valentin Dari, one of the beneficiaries of the project, specified that the price for an hour of parking will be around 2 euros.
“For us, it is not a priority to do business on this place, but to do business later, but obviously if we have invested this money in this parking lot, we also want to recover it. How much will the parking lot cost, I can’t say now because the parking lot has to be finished. But obviously, we want it to be as convenient as possible for our customers. We have a parking lot in the city center, which has a cost of 2.5 euros per hour, but we promise you that it will not be 2.5 per hour, but much, much cheaper,” says Dari specifying that the parking lot will be launched in two months.