• INVESTIGATION: (In)Justice with Suspicious Interests

    INVESTIGATION: (In)Justice with Suspicious Interests
    13 December 2021 | 07:53

    Tatiana Avasiloaie, the magistrate of the Chișinău Court, Râșcani headquarters, who appears in a National Integrity Authority conclusion as well as in a criminal case for illicit enrichment, continues to do justice.

    Tatiana Avasiloaie, who owns a penthouse in the center of Chișinău, about which ZdG has already written, was not suspended from office despite the fact that the National Integrity Authority identified a substantial difference of about 1,33 million lei between the judge’s fortune and income. She continues to examine and issue judgments, including in cases concerning acts of the National Integrity Authority, which established that she has infringed the law.

    Since the drafting of the act in her name, the judge has annulled at least seven judgments issued by the National Integrity Authority regarding the unjustified fortune of several former or current officials. Two former deputies of the Democratic Party of Moldova, as well as a former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are among those who benefited from favorable decisions issued by Judge Avasiloaie in their fight with the National Integrity Authority.

    National Integrity Authority officials consider that Judge Avasiloaie is setting “a legal precedent for her case,” while the magistrate claims that “her recusal and abstention are not prescribed by law.”

    On July 9, 2021, the National Integrity Authority found a substantial difference of about 1,33 million lei between the property and the income of Judge Tatiana Avasiloaie, a magistrate from the Chișinău Court, Râșcani, who owns a penthouse located in the center of the city. The National Integrity Authority initiated an investigation following a ZdG investigation, published in February 2020: The penthouse in the center of Chișinău in which a judge checks DAILY that “the water and heating are in order.”

    ZdG wrote then that the magistrate could be seen, daily, entering an over 150-square-meter penthouse, located in a block of flats in the center of Chișinău. Tatiana Avasiloaie stated that the apartment belonged to a family friend, who lived on the left bank of the Nistru river, and she only came in to “check” that the water and heat were OK.

    The real estate, however, was not included in the declaration of wealth and personal interests submitted by the judge, where she indicated a house in Chișinău, built by her parents, and a car registered in the name of her father, also a civil servant.

    After the National Integrity Authority act reached the General Prosecutor’s Office, a criminal case on illicit enrichment was initiated against the judge, and on November 9, the prosecutors searched the magistrate’s home. However, Judge Tatiana Avasiloaie was not suspended from office neither after the National Integrity Authority act nor after criminal proceedings were started against her, so she continues to do justice.

    The judge annuls the documents issued by the National Integrity Authority in the name of two former deputies

    The National Integrity Authority issued an act that reveals the magistrate’s unjustified assets. Nonetheless, she continues to examine and issue decisions in cases involving similar acts of the Authority, in which other persons are concerned.

    ZdG found that, in the last two months alone, the judge annulled the National Integrity Authority acts concerning the unjustified fortune, issued in the name of two former deputies of the Democratic Party of Moldova, as well as in the name of an ex-head of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Police Inspectorate, Center district.

    Diacov case: Reasons for annulling the National Integrity Authority statement in the name of the former deputy of the Democratic Party

    The National Integrity Authority found in the name of ex-deputy Dumitru Diacov “substantial differences, in the amount of about 30,000 euros, between the acquired wealth and the income received by his family during 2016-2019, the period when he had to submit his declaration of wealth and personal interests, as well as the unwarranted possession of this property.” Following a decision issued by JudgeAvasiloaie, the ex-deputy was acquitted.

    Based on the findings of its integrity inspector, the National Integrity Authority filed a lawsuit for the confiscation of unjustified property. However, the court of the first instance rejected the Authority’s request as unfounded. The case is currently pending at the Court of Appeal Chișinău.

    In turn, Dumitru Diacov appealed the National Integrity Authority act in court, and Tatiana Avasiloaie examined his request. Thus, by a decision of September 23, the magistrate admitted the request of the former deputy and annulled the National Integrity Authority act of finding it as illegal. The judge motivates her decision by the fact that “the official measure undertaken by the integrity inspector disrupts the discretionary right with the violation of the provisions of Article 137 of the Administrative Code” and that the control procedure lasted 603 days, i.e. with clear exceeding of the 30-day term, without justifying the extension of the term.

    Dumitru Diacov, former deputy of the Democratic Party

    Pleșca case: Cancellation of the National Integrity Authority act of finding regarding the unjustified fortune of about 41,000 euros

    Nae-Simion Pleşca, former deputy of the Democratic Party, also defeated the National Integrity Authority in the first instance, following a ruling by Judge Avasiloaie. The case reached the court after the integrity inspector found unjustified property in the amount of about 41,000 euros. The Authority requested the confiscation of the property, and Pleşca, in a separate lawsuit, requested the annulment of the document issued in his name.

    Nae-Simion Pleşca, former deputy of the Democratic Party

    After the Chișinău Court of Appeal magistrates decided in July to apply seizure on some real estate belonging to the ex-deputy’s family, the court of first instance ordered the suspension of the confiscation process until the date of the irrevocable decision of the court on the request of annulment of the act, submitted by the former deputy. Meanwhile, on October 26, magistrate Tatiana Avasiloaie issues a decision by which the National Integrity Authority act regarding the unjustified fortune of Nae-Simion Pleşca was annulled.

    Ciobănaș case: the same magistrate annuls the National Integrity Authority act of finding

    In the case of Alexandru Ciobănaș, former head of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Central Police Inspectorate, the National Integrity Authority found a violation of the legal regime for declaring wealth and personal interests, including the unjustified nature of 130,000 euros owned by his family.

    After Ciobănaș appealed in court the act of the Authority, on October 12, the magistrate Avasiloaie ruled to annul it. The court did not publish its reasoned decision.

    Alexandru Ciobănaș, former head of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Central Police Inspectorate

    Currently, the Authority’s request to confiscate his unjustified assets is still pending in the court of the first instance. Meanwhile, after the court of first instance ruled to seize the property belonging to the Ciobănaș family, the judges of the Court of Appeal overturned the decision and, by an irrevocable decision, declared the Authority’s request inadmissible.

    The National Integrity Authority: „She is setting a precedent for her case.”

    The National Integrity Authority officials say they have filed several requests in recent months to exclude Tatiana Avasiloaie from examining cases that contain documents of the institution; all of them, however, were rejected.

    Maria Dastic, National Integrity Authority spokesperson

    “We consider it unfair that she should rule and annul decisions of the Authority, given that she herself appears in a case of confiscation of property, unjustified wealth and illicit enrichment […] In general, judges should be impartial and fair in their decisions. However, we doubt she is impartial, considering her decisions on our acts. […] She thus is setting a precedent. So she makes somehow subjective decisions, considering that she herself is targeted in a confiscation case. We may not be right, but considering the way in which she annuls all our documents, at least, the latest documents, we can think so,” said Maria Dastic, National Integrity Authority spokesperson.

    Currently, according to the National Integrity Authority officials, Tatiana Avasiloaie has under management about 30 cases with documents issued by the Authority, and she has already canceled seven acts concerning civil servants since the Authority found unjustified property in her name.

    My recusal or abstention from examining integrity inspectors’ acts is not prescribed by law.”

    Tatiana Avasiloaie, who hesitantly agreed to talk to ZdG, claims that all National Integrity Authority allegations against her were rejected and that, in fact, my recusal or abstention from examining integrity inspectors’ acts is excessive and not prescribed by law.”

    Tatiana Avasiloaie, magistrate at the Chișinău Court, Râșcani headquarters.

    “The National Integrity Authority’s judgment, that I create, through the pronounced decisions, a favorable practice for me, is neither logical nor legal. Because a court decision is issued in the name of law and the legality of this decision is verified in the hierarchically superior courts. I am saying that any ruling is in the name of law, because the legal system of Moldova does not provide the judicial precedent as a source of law. The Supreme Court of Justice, through plenary decisions, is the only court in Moldova that has the right to unify judicial practice. The Court may also issue decisions in principle on the application of certain rules,” said the magistrate.

    When asked whether the situation created raised doubts on her impartiality in cases in which she ruled in favor of former deputies who were in a similar situation to her own, the judge considered that there was no reason to believe that she had not acted objectively.

    “Doubts must be proved objectively; the mere fact that I appear in a National Integrity Authority act cannot in any way speak of impartiality or bias in examining my actions against the Authority. Likewise, we can question the impartiality of the National Integrity Authority, when they issued the finding and stressed the fact that I am the judge who annulled the Authority acts and an inconvenient judge because I highlighted several shortcomings in the managerial activity of the National Integrity Authority regarding the non-publication of the methodology and the lack of random distribution,” the judge defends herself.

    Power of attorney in the name of the judge’s mother, the declarations of the woman from the left bank of the Nistru River and the “real” beneficiary of the property

    During the control procedure of Tatiana Avasiloaie, National Integrity Authority officials mentioned that several people were heard, including the woman from the left bank of the Nistru River, who, according to the documents, is the owner of the real estate.

    “Thus, it follows from accumulated evidence, that due to the friendly relations between the judge’s mother and a person from the breakaway Transnistrian region, the latter was used as an intermediary, since she lived in an area not controlled by the Moldovan authorities to disguise the transaction in favour of the judge. This conclusion was made on the basis of the evidence and information revealed in the journalistic investigation, “where the car can be seen practically daily around the block,” including photographic materials, the allegations of the witness heard, who declared that the judge was seen with her mother and staff at the indicated address, as well as the payments for the regularly rendered services made from the judge’s salary card,” Authority officials say.

    At the same time, the woman from the left bank of the Nistru river informed the Authority officials that she had no income to buy such real estate and specified that, in fact, the final beneficiary of the apartment was the judge’s mother. On the other hand, the magistrate’s father, who is also a civil servant, did not declare this property.

    However, Tatiana Avasiloaie and her mother claimed that, in fact, the final owner of the property and the financial sources for its purchase belong to a family friend of the judge’s parents. Although the integrity inspector mentions that he requested that the person come to the Authority’s headquarters to establish identity and to collect evidence, he refused to appear, invoking a lack of time.

    Penthouse sold three days after the publication of the ZdG investigation

    Meanwhile, according to the finding act, just three days after the publication of the ZdG article about the magistrate’s fortune, the penthouse was alienated for about 65,000 euros, which is at least twice cheaper than the market price. However, the integrity inspectors found that, in this transaction, it was the judge’s mother who, based on a 2017 power of attorney, acted on behalf of the person from the left bank of the Nistru river, in whose name the property was initially registered. According to the document, the judge’s mother was entrusted “to have access to and manage the property, including the right to sell, donate, exchange the property, at the price and conditions set by her.” The five-room penthouse, located on the seventh floor of a block of flats, put into operation in 2015, came into the possession of Victor and Silvia Carare.

    The block in the center of the capital, where the penthouse is located, where Judge Avasiloaie could be seen entering daily.

    Having analyzed the income officially obtained by Tatiana Avasiloaie, the integrity inspector identified that the magistrate did not have the necessary amount to purchase the real estate, and therefore found the existence of a substantial unjustified difference between the acquired asset and the net income obtained by the judge, in the amount of about 65,000 euros.

    The criminal case against the judge for illicit enrichment

    The authority notified the General Prosecutor’s Office and initiated the procedure for confiscating the unjustified property. However, the trial has not come to an end, the next hearing is scheduled for February 15, 2022. Oxana Parfeni, a magistrate at the Chișinău Court, Centru headquarters, examines the case.

    At the same time, the judge also appealed the finding issued by the National integrity Authority, yet, even in this case, the trial has no outcome. In the finding act, the Authority requested that the Superior Council of Magistracy be notified within five days from the moment when the finding act on her name will remain final, in order to initiate the procedure for dismissing Tatiana Avasiloaie from the position of judge.

    In turn, the Prosecutor’s Office initiated criminal proceedings against the judge. Thus, after the Superior Council of Magistracy consented to the search of the judge, after satisfying the request of the General Prosecutor, on November 9, the anti-corruption prosecutors searched the home, car, workplace, and another real estate of Tatiana Avasiloaie. However, the prosecutors did not ask the Superior Council of Magistracy to suspend the judge from office.

    “A simple or trivial revenge of the National Integrity Authority president”

    Tatiana Avasiloaie refused to talk to ZdG about the details of the finding act, citing the secrecy of the investigation and reiterated that she has never been the beneficiary of the real estate. However, the magistrate considers that the issuance of the document in her name is “a simple or trivial revenge of the National Integrity Authority president.”

    “Before the start of the control procedure, I was assigned a case that was of major interest to the National Integrity Authority president; it was a dispute between the National Integrity Authority president and the Integrity Council. I also qualified the action of the Authority president inadmissible; my decision was upheld by the superior courts. Finally, after several disputes, the National Integrity Authority president was forced to comply with this decision of the Integrity Council. So, I am aware of her dissatisfaction with the act that I issued. Given the chronology of the decisions that were pronounced against the Authority and the chronology of events during the examination of these cases, very sensitive subjects were touched related to the National Integrity Authority president, on the grounds that during these meetings I am the first judge to find that, contrary to the law, they did not publish the control methodology, a normative act which regulates the Authority control of the assets or compatibilities […] The finding act was issued in a hurry and they refused to accept the evidence which proved the contrary to what was found in the finding act, including the final beneficiary,” the judge said.

    National Integrity Authority: We will make public the names of the people who put pressure on the National Integrity Authority President

    On the other hand, Rodica Antoci, president of the National Integrity Authority, denies the judge’s accusations and requests to publicly withdraw them.

    Rodica Antoci, president of the National Integrity Authority

    “All those dissatisfied find faults with everyone, yet, they don’t want to prove that they gathered their fortune through honest means. The president of the National Integrity Authority has no prerogatives and they should understand this. The problem seems to be different – they cannot negotiate with the National Integrity Authority president to put pressure on the integrity inspectors, hence the upset. Persons found with violations by integrity inspectors have always made accusations against the Authority. We request that the judge publicly withdraw these allegations. Otherwise, we will make public the names of the intermediaries who put pressure in various forms on the National integrity Authority president and the integrity inspectors so as not to issue the finding act,” said the Authority president.

    Expert: „We are in the land of the possible when it is not possible”

    Lilia Ioniță, an anti-corruption expert, considers that the judge should have refrained from further examining the cases concerning acts issued by the National Integrity Authority, and the prosecutors who initiated the criminal case against her should have asked the Superior Council of Magistracy to suspend her from office.

    Lilia Ioniță, an anti-corruption expert

    “I believe that such situations relate to morality and, in fact, if all these rules of abstention are applied in legal proceedings, including administrative proceedings, it is obvious that the judge should not examine appeals against the National Integrity Authority findings; however, we are in the land of the possible, when it is not possible. In case, however, I see that there is a certain personal interest, although the personal interest of the woman cannot be measured exactly, there is a certain interest anyway… because when we talk about conflicts of interest that eventually can lead to abstention from making a decision, they always come with certain animosities, misunderstandings. So, these situations are not very strictly delimited, as I said, the issue relates rather to the area of morality, not legality. I also think that the prosecutors had to request the Superior Council of Magistracy to remove her from office,” the expert clarified.

    AUTHOR MAIL

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