Judge Petru Harmaniuc sold his house in Stăuceni and a Lexus. Then, he bought a 170 square metre apartment and a Mercedes worth half a million lei. ANI checked him and found no unjustified wealth
The National Integrity Authority has checked the wealth of Judge Petru Harmaniuc of the Chisinau Court of Appeals, who owns and has made transactions with several buildings and cars worth several million lei, without identifying any substantial unjustified difference between his income and expenses. This, is despite discrepancies between the data indicated in the declarations of assets and those indicated in the act of ascertainment.
Petru Harmaniuc is the son of former Balti Court of Appeal magistrate Valeriu Harmaniuc, who issued several controversial rulings during his time as a judge at the Economic Court of Appeal. Petru Harmaniuc has made millions in transactions with his movable and immovable property in recent years.
Petru Harmaniuc entered the public system with a house of more than 96 square metres in the suburb of Stăuceni. In April 2013, he was hired as a judicial assistant at the Supreme Court of Justice. Ziarul de Gardă previously reported that, according to data from the cadastre, Petru Harmaniuc was 18 years old when he bought the plot of land in Stăuceni on which he built his house. In 2012, he made the final reception of the entire property. Subsequently, during 2013, he bought a Mercedes E 220 CDI, worth 255 000 lei, declaring two other cars: Toyota Rav 4 and BMW X5, which he would use on loan. At the same time, he did not declare bank accounts or savings to justify the purchases. He later told the Anticoruptie.md portal of the Journalistic Investigation Centre that since the age of 18 he had been supporting himself through his activities as a car dealer and representative.
After several failed attempts, Petru Harmaniuc was appointed as a judge in July 2017 by decree of former President Igor Dodon. Three other attempts to become a judge failed as his candidacy was rejected by former President Nicolae Timofti. The former head of state referred to “information presented by the competent institutions” that Petru Harmaniuc did not meet the requirements of the judge’s code of ethics. In the letter sent to the Superior Council of Magistrates by Nicolae Timofti, it was also mentioned that there was “no evidence that the rejected candidates, including Petru Harmaniuc, had an irreproachable reputation”.
ANI control initiated ex officio
The ANI control on Petru Harmaniuc was initiated on 10 August 2020, after a complaint was registered ex officio, and was terminated on 29 August 2022, with a finding that “there is no substantial unjustified difference” between the wealth acquired by Petru Harmaniuc and the income obtained during the control period: 07.07.2017 – 25.08.2020.
During this period, the judge sold his house in Stăuceni and a quarter of an apartment. Instead, he bought a 170-square-metre apartment, which he declared to be worth more than €86 thousand. He has also made several sale-purchase transactions involving luxury cars.
The value of the house – reduced in the asset declarations, increased in the deed of assessment
At the same time, the judge did not declare the real value of the assets, which is different in the act of finding, compared to the declarations of wealth submitted to ANI.
Discrepancies are noted between the data in Petru Harmaniuc’s 2019 declaration, compared to those in ANI’s act of ascertainment. This is the year in which the judge sold his two properties and bought others. Thus, according to the act of ascertainment, on 17 April 2019, Petru Harmaniuc sold his apartment, of which he owned a quarter, on which he took 161 thousand lei, out of the total amount of 644 thousand lei. On June 16, 2019, he sold the 96-square-meter house, which he declared worth 898,402 lei, for 150,000 euros or 3,078,000 lei.
In his 2019 wealth statement, the magistrate declares income from two sales transactions, from which he earned RON 1 922 642 and RON 72 583 respectively, which are lower amounts than those indicated in the statement. In total – 1 995 225 lei or one million lei less than the ANI’s statement of findings.
Subsequently, on 2 December 2019, the judge bought four properties, including a 170-square-metre apartment, with a declared value of €86 650. Two-thirds of the property belongs to him. He also bought three other small rooms (20 sq m, 19 sq m and 6 sq m) for which he claims to have paid a total of €20 000.
Value of the car purchased – increased in the declaration of assets, decreased in the statement of assets
A year earlier in 2018 Petru Harmaniuc declared three cars, including a newly purchased Lexus Es 300, at 250 000 lei. In the act of ascertainment, it is stated that in the same year, Petru Harmaniuc sold a Mercedes Benz E 200 car for 250 000 lei, from which he bought the Lexus car for 115 220 lei, plus the 39 380 lei excise tax for importing the car. Thus, in the act of ascertainment, the amount paid for the Lexus is reduced from the amount indicated in the declaration of assets for 2018, of 250 000 lei.
At the same time, the Mercedes Benz car is shown as still being in the judge’s possession in 2018, although the statement of claim states that it was sold on 3 August 2018. The Lexus car was, however, purchased three months earlier, on 27 May 2018.
Mercedes worth almost half a million lei
In 2020, Judge Petru Harmaniuc sold his Lexus Es 300 car for 250 000 lei and bought another one almost twice as expensive, a Mercedes GLC 300 worth 460 000 lei, according to his wealth statement. The market value is, however, higher, at 650 000 lei, according to the declaration filed for 2021, because “the car was imported damaged and later repaired”.
These car transactions are not reflected in the ANI’s statement of findings, which carried out the control only for the period from when Petru Harmaniuc was appointed judge, in July 2017, until August 2020, when the control was initiated.
Integrity inspector: ‘Many understand differently what income means’
We asked for clarification from Judge Petru Harmaniuc about discrepancies between the data in his affidavit and those in his wealth statements and his sources of income, but he did not respond to our calls and messages.
Integrity inspector Ion Nicolaev, who carried out the control and drew up the report, explained that he based his control on the official documents of alienation of real estate, and not on the data in the declarations of wealth. “The notarised contract by which she alienated the house in Stăuceni shows a value of €150,000. In the case of the apartment as well, we took into account the data in the sale-purchase contract. If the correct income had been indicated, no control would have been initiated.”
The integrity inspector also said that the judge gave him an explanation for not declaring the real value of the properties he sold. “Many people understand differently what income means. He considered the income as a surplus to what he had, although the sale price should be indicated.” At the same time, the magistrate does not risk any penalty for indicating data that do not correspond to the truth in the declaration of assets, the integrity inspector added.
Regarding the Lexus Es 300 car, bought in 2018, whose value appears lower in the statement of assets than in the declaration of assets, the integrity inspector said he accepted Judge Petru Harmaniuc’s explanation that it had been imported from the United States in a damaged state and that he had subsequently repaired it.
“He put 250,000 lei (editor’s note: in the wealth statement) because he put the value of the repair. There are pictures of how he brought it in, cracked, dented,” Ion Nicolaev said.
The integrity inspector also explained that he did not check how the house in Stăuceni was bought, nor the transaction by which Harmaniuc bought his last car for almost half a million lei, because these actions took place outside the period under control, which was from July 2017 to August 2020.
“He was a judicial assistant, but if more than three years have passed since the date of his dismissal, we cannot initiate control for that period,” Ion Nicolaev argued. As for the period after the control, when the magistrate bought a new car worth almost half a million lei, this can be checked through a new procedure if a complaint is filed, the integrity inspector explained.
Petru Harmaniuc is a judge at the Chisinau Court of Justice, Centre seat. He is the son of a former judge, Valeriu Harmaniuc, of the Balti Court of Appeal.
In 2014, Valeriu Harmaniuc and three of his former colleagues at the Economic Court of Appeal, Aureliu Colenco, Eugeniu Clim and Ala Nogai, were suspected of knowingly passing judgments contrary to the law after they issued a decision in 2009 on a dispute between three economic agents. Initially, the SCM agreed that the magistrates should be prosecuted, but the SCM’s decision was overturned by the SCJ. The Prosecutor General has since made a similar request, but this time the SCM voted differently, refusing to prosecute the four. In April 2014, a week before prosecutors asked for consent to prosecute, Valeriu Harmaniuc submitted a request to resign as a judge of the Balti Court of Appeal, which was accepted by President Nicolae Timofti.