Final Steps in Seizing the Moldovan Justice

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Cristian RUSSU
In an effort to tie up the loose ends, the ruling regime is getting rid of the notorious law enforcers from Vlad Plahotniuc’s entourage who did all the dirty work to re-subordinate the justice sector
On October 5, the tenure of Dumitru Robu as acting prosecutor general appointed by the president after Alexandru Stoianoglo’s dismissal expired. This was in fact a fateful date in his career, followed by a steep dive. Over the past year, Robu, while at the helm of the Prosecutor General’s Office, initiated criminal prosecutions against several opposition politicians and officials, undesirable to the government. Among them are ex-president Igor Dodon (including for the “bag” episode), SOR leaders Ilan Sor and Marina Tauber, members of the Democratic Party, PACE Gheorghe Cavcaliuc and many others. Word has it that Vasile Costiuc from Democratie acasa also came under the Prosecutor General’s attention for taking a series of liberties in assessing actions of the ruling majority. For the period of his vacation, Dumitru Robu put his deputy Eduard Bulat in charge, and obviously wasn’t thinking that he would have to part with his employers so quickly. He stated in public that he did not know yet what position he would hold once he was back in office, adding that he wished to continue as head of the prosecutor’s office and complete the cases he had launched. Alas, his fate was already a done deal. The next day, the agency’s press service said that Bulat would only stay in office until the new acting prosecutor-general was appointed by the Supreme Council of Prosecutors. Meanwhile, Igor Grosu, the speaker of the parliament, said that Robu’s wish alone was not enough. “I’m not going to discuss what Mr. Robu wants, for we all feel a bitter taste of no results on high-profile cases – some of them are shelved, others were done very poorly. We have this fair displeasure that things are not advancing as quickly as we would like,” the PAS leader explained. In this regard it’s worth recalling that the ruling party MPs once made it clear that Robu had been given the powers in advance, for example, when in May he demanded in parliament that Marina Tauber and Ilan Sor be deprived of immunity. At that point, Lilian Carp demonstratively insisted that Robu give assurances there were irrefutable evidence of Sor and Tauber’s guilt. A look at the prospects of the criminal case and Marina Tauber’s political activity five months later makes you involuntarily think that either the prosecutor failed to do his job properly, or the case was trumped up. The proceedings against Alexandru Stoianoglo hardly meet expectations either. A year after the Supreme Council of Prosecutors authorized the initiation of criminal procedure against Stoianoglo, only a few cases from the package, compiled on the basis of several media reports selected by the same PAS MP Lilian Carp, have reached the court. Nor could Robu’s prosecutors boast of progress in the billion-dollar theft case. On September 29, prosecutor Octavian Iachimovschi, who led the investigative team in the case, unexpectedly filed a self-recusal. The most finalized of all the high-profile cases, in which the trial against Stoianoglo was planned, turned out to be the dubious episodes with dismissal benefit payment to Nicolai Chitoroaga, the former chief of the prosecutor’s office for combating organized crime, and the disclosure of information from the phone calls of ex-head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office Viorel Morari with Western diplomats and NGO representatives about the plans to “discredit Stoianoglo”. On October 6, a trial on these episodes formally began. Notably, exactly one year ago, many civic activists called on the national authorities not to retaliate politically against Stoianoglo on such blatantly fabricated charges, and also demanded an immediate response from international development partners. Today, there are almost no disgruntled public representatives, no one writes to the West, while the authorities get rid of the officials who are no longer needed – those who did their dirty job and who can be accused of being both anti-democratic in their methods and generally ineffective. In the meantime, the country’s leadership itself does not need to make any decisions on its own, which could affect its already tarnished image. Igor Grosu, speaking about Dumitru Robu’s possible fate, said that it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide – the deputies merely voted on the necessary amendments to the law on the prosecutor’s office. These changes were approved at a parliamentary session the day after they were adopted by the government and entered into force on October 10, which automatically launched the next stage of purging the prosecutor’s office. On the morning of October 11, the Supreme Council of Prosecutors proposed Ion Munteanu as acting prosecutor general. The authorities did not bother about the notorious transparency this time, either. The appointment was put on the agenda already during the meeting, and after a short presentation, the SCP members approved the former deputy head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office. The next day, Maia Sandu approved it by decree. Thus, the authorities actually put an end to the issue of control over the prosecutor’s office. Dumitru Robu’s attempts to remain among the leadership of the Prosecutor’s Office were stopped by the SCP. On October 21, at the SCP meeting, acting prosecutor general Ion Munteanu requested that Dumitru Robu be appointed as his deputy, but the council did not support him. Robu’s physical presence not only was not helpful, but was seen as an act of public humiliation of the ex-head of the prosecutor general’s office in front of his former colleagues and subordinates. It was not without malicious glee that many of Robu’s “victims” in the opposition responded to the news of his dismissal. PACE leader Gheorghe Cavcaliuc said that Robu’s fate is a vivid example of how the current government treats those who decided to serve them faithfully in the hope of mercy and respect. It’s unlikely that Dumitru Robu didn’t understand that his services would no longer be needed once all the dirty work was done with his hands. After all, in front of him was a vivid example of his former boss Viorel Morari. And the justice reform, restarted by the authorities, originally envisaged a plan that would ultimately absolve the authorities of responsibility for unpopular appointments, shifting it to impersonal and renewed structures like the SCP. Judges are next in line for lustration. In the next few days, regular meetings should be held to consider judicial candidates for the position of the Superior Council of Magistrates members.