Igor Dodon, the Russian Trojan horse

Igor Dodon, president of the Republic of Moldova, elected during the presidential election in November 2016, came to power, shielded by PD leader Vlad Plahotniuc, through a pro-Russia and anti-European campaign. The policy he promotes as head of state is still the eastern vector of development of the Republic of Moldova, his name being associated with the fiersome fight against the European integration of the state. During the presidential election campaign in 2016 Dodon promised openly that one of the first things he will do if elected would be to denounce the Association Agreement with the EU. Shortly after Igor Dodon’s appointment in office of President of Moldova, the EU flag was removed from the presidential building. On the presidency website, the page access language was transformed from RO (Romanian) into MD, that is Moldovan.  His official biography can be read here.

Since taking office, he met seven times with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The last meeting with Vladimir Putin took place in July 2018.  At the beginning of August 2nd-4th, Dodon paid a visit to Omsc city, in the Russian Federation.

For the parliamentary elections that are to be held in February 2019, Dodon requested additional polling stations – up to 150. During the presidential election in 2016 in Russia, 8 polling stations were opened. Moldovans living in Russia vote mostly with pro-Russian parties.

While in office, he insists to fulfill his campaign promises that Moldova is to become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. In May 2018, Moldova received (in Sochi) observer status in the Eurasian Economic Union, consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In April 2017, president Igor Dodon signed a memorandum of cooperation with the head of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Tigran Sarkisian, at the forum “Eurasian Economic Union – Republic of Moldova” in Chișinău. Still, Prime Minister Pavel Filip stated that the Chișinău authorities would not be able to implement the provisions of the new document, since they contradict the Association Agreement signed by the Republic of Moldova with the European Union.

Relations with Russian bankers

In 2011, in the context of local elections, Dodon had several trips to Moscow, where he met with several Kremlin representatives, including Herman Gref, President of Sberbank, an institution which is said to exert payment transactions and credit for organizations created or promoted by Russians in the post-Soviet space. Gherman Gref, formerly Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation. Dodon and Gref have known each other since 2007, when they were leading their ministries. They kept their relation after Gref concluded his term in office and switched chairs as Sherbank president. In September 2012, Dodon had a new meeting with Gref at the Sochi-2012 International Investment Forum organized by Sberbank of the Russian Federation. The event was attended by members of the Government of the Russian Federation, governors and business representatives, alongside top Russian and international top managers such as Lukoil, Rosnefti, Gazprom. Such events Sberbank organizes twice a year with the invitation of 40-50 people.

Dodon, “The Meat Mafia” and the Russian embargo

The press wrote that Igor Dodon, while being Minister of Economy, would have imposed a monopoly on meat imports by approving the Regulation “On Issuing Import Licenses”, according to which a special committee he was leading then issued authorizations for the import of meat products. Authorizations were only favoring certain businessmen, at Dodon’s decision. Among businessmen accused by the CCECC director (currently CNA) Viorel Chetraru that had been part of this “Meat Mafia” can be found Sergei Iaralov, Plahotniuc’s trusted lieutenant. CCECC investigated this monopoly import scheme for meat in 2009, but the investigations were concluded only with the fining of some of the involved companies.

Russian embargo and the wine factories

In recent years, some allegations against Igor Dodon were made, that he had facilitated with the Rospotrebnadzor and Rosselkhoznadzor Russian market presence of several companies exporting wine, cognac, and fruit, and vegetables in the context of the embargo the Russian Federation instituted for these products originating from the Republic of Moldova.

Dodon is also suspected to have provided a green corridor for “Moldavskii standart”, the only Moldovan company that had the right during the communist rule to deliver wine and loose bulk cognac overseas. This happened at the time when, at the insistence of the dignitary, the Chișinău government banned the bulk exports for the other companies. Also, with Dodon’s help, the same company was the first to escape the embargo applied by the Russian Federation in 2011.

Schemes with electrical energy

Dodon’s name was targeted in the context of schemes relating to the importation, through intermediaries – tick companies, of electricity in Ukraine in 2008. On the basis of a contract negotiated by the former Minister of Economy, Igor Dodon, starting with 2008, the Republic of Moldova started to buy electricity from Ukraine through a Hungarian intermediary company, Energo-Partner. If, initially, according to some clauses of the Moldovan-Ukrainian agreement signed by Igor Dodon, SA Energocom bought about 70 % of imported energy from Ukraine through Ukrinterenergo, and the other 30% – through the Hungarian firm, in July 2008 things were reversed. The price of energy delivered by Ukrinterenergo was 20-25% lower than that of Energo-Partner’s energy. Modification of the import scheme then led to a significant increase in domestic electricity tariffs, which were increased by 17%. The contract by which Energo-Partner, controlled by a Ukrainian millionaire of Slovak origin, became the main supplier of electricity in the Republic of Moldova, was signed on May 20th 2008 by Alexandru Gusev, the general manager of Energocom, in the presence of Secretary Dodon.

The intermediate tick took its difference in price between the provider, and the money went to those responsible.

Moldova then had two suppliers – Central Regional System Power Board (CERS) Moldovan (Cuciurgan plant, run by the regime in Tiraspol and controlled by the company “Inter RAO UES” (a subsidiary of the Russian monopoly RAO EES Rossii) which illegally privatized the Cuciurgan plant in 2005), and the Ukrainian supplier Ukrinterenergo.

In 2007, the Cuciurgan Power Station sold energy in Romania, based on a contract with Electrica. Between the Cuciurgan Plant and the Electrica Company in Romania, however, Eastern Europe Energy Ltd – a British offshore company founded on June 11th 2007 was interposed specifically for this transaction and, according to sources, was managed by influential people from Moldova and within “Inter RAO EES”.

In 2017 a group of experts has analyzed the “power business” managed by Dodon while he was Secretary of Economy, and found, according to the analysis of several official notes from ANRE, that the interposed company obtain profits in excess of 4.5 million USD from the energy price gap only within one year. Following a referral from the expert group, in November 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal trial involving Igor Dodon and Zinaida Grecianâi, a former prime minister, currently the president of the Party of Socialists. (https://www.anticoruptie.md/en/address-of-corruption/process-penal-intr-un-caz-de-corruption-signed-the-central-investigations-journalistic-in-in-2008)

Interests at Giurgiuleşti Port

In 2004, Dodon, then engaged in the Ministry of Economy, has prepared the documents package for signing the Investment Agreement Concerning the International Free Port “Giurgiulești”, a shady deal which even today continues to harm the Moldovan budget by providing facilities to investors, residents and port administrators. In 2005, Dodon took over the Ministry of Economy. In the following years Igor Dodon, then Secretary of Economy and Trade, was appointed responsible for the construction of the passenger port.

The cannery, Dodon’s “plug-in”

Even though never declared his public wealth report (for holding office), the media had written, a while back, that Igor Dodon did own, through intermediaries, a package of shares in a cannery in Călărași, the native district of the politician. According to Capital Market, the Socialist National Financial Market Commission (CNPF) would hold no less than 37% of the plant’s shares through Alina Boţoc, a trusted person of Igor Dodon, but also through Hunter Elit Club, about which the press wrote it was under the control of Gennady Merineanu, Dodon’s wife brother, as well as the majority stake in the wine factory in Onişcani, Căăraşi, owned by SA Proura-Vin, through the same persons. In the last couple of years, Hunter Elit Club has changed its owners several times.

Career and political trace

Employed since 1997, Igor Dodon held several positions at the Moldovan Bank of Values and the National Securities Commission for eight years, until he was in government. Since 2005, Dodon has entered big politics, being first appointed Deputy Minister of Economy, and within a year he moved into the chair of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. He holded the office until 2009, when he becomes deputy for the Communists, the party that promoted him during all these years. In 2011 he became candidate for the office of Mayor of Chișinău, but lost to Dorin Chirtoacă.

In 2011, Dodon leaves the Communist Party, retreating into the Party of Socialists, made available by party vice-president Veronica Abramciuc. In just one year, she is excluded from the party, declaring that Dodon took the party as the result of a raider attack. Outspoken critic of the ruling alliance from 2009 onwards, Dodon still managed to save the Alliance for European Integration 2 in a watershed, agreeing to give his vote to elect the President of the Republic, Nicolae Timofti.

The “bargain” wealth

Even though he was only employed by the government throughout all his career, the politician officially owns properties in excess of 2.5 million lei.

Employed of the state, Dodon held modest properties for many years. Owners of a small, two-room apartment located in the Poşta Veche neighborhood, the Dodon spouses, parents of two children, lived for a year with an average monthly income of about 13,000 lei. The only thing that the current candidate for president of the Republic of Moldova afforded was to change cars and make generous donations to the parties he was participating in during the electoral campaigns. In 2013, Dodon manages to sell his small apartment, estimated at 180,000, then 230,000 lei, at a price three times higher (735,000 lei), and immediately buys a luxury house, which it evaluates, together with the related land, at the price of about 2.5 million lei. Real estate experts appreciated the value of the house at the price of at least 4 million lei. According to Cadastre data, the socialist sold his apartment to his colleague, Corneliu Furculiţă, who is among the main sponsors of the Socialist Party, but also the founder of Exclusive Media. In order to cover the rest of the amount needed to buy the house, Igor Dodon also contracted a credit of 1,477 million lei from Victoriabank, an institution that is said to be controlled by Vlad Plahotniuc.

Electoral donations higher than three years’ earnings

From 2010 until 2015, the politician donated 464,000 lei in the four electoral campaigns for local parliamentary elections and local elections. For the parliamentary elections in 2010, Igor Dodon contributed 150,000 lei, which is the total income of his family for 2009 (154,000 lei), for the 2011 localities – with 200,000 lei, which is 48,000 lei more than all the family’s income for 2010 (152,000 lei), in the Parliamentary committees in 2014 donated 89,300 lei, and for the localities in 2015 he offered 25,000 lei.

Igor Dodon’s electoral donations exceed the politician’s three-year income.

Here are the details about how and by whom was financed the 2016 electoral campaign.

The 2009 Scandal

In April 2009, the Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (CCECC) found, after a revision for 2007-2008 at the Institute of Economics, Finances and Statistics from the Academy of Sciences that Igor Dodon had been draining by at least 3.5 million lei the public budget of this institute. Even though he did not have any scientific activity at the institute, Dodon received a salary of 6,000-7,000 lei per month, plus consistent supplements. The Institute was led by the current Competition Council chief, Viorica Cărare.

As a result of these checks, the General Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal case which, however, was lost in three months through the drawers of the institution. The only success is that Igor Dodon, along with five fictitious employees of the institute, returned salaries. Dodon returned to the state 72,657 lei, thus acknowledging his blame for misappropriation of money.

Foundations

Igor Dodon is the founder of the “Soluţia” Foundation and the “Iubesc Moldova” Public Benefit Foundation. Not known is what were the financial contributions of the socialist for these institution activities. Contrary to legal requirements, organizations have not made their financial reports public for the past years. His wife, Galina Dodon, is the president of the “Din suflet” Foundation.

“Blacklist”

In 2009, Igor Dodon was also featured in the “blacklist”, compiled by investigative journalists as part of the “Clean Parliament” project. The candidate for the post of deputy from the Communist Party was accused of using the office in the interest of the party by exerting pressure on the members of the Association of Moldovan Producers of Goods, whom he convened at a meeting within the Government, in order to obtain the dismissal of its president. In other news, according to the Court of Auditors, based on Dodon’s order of May 30th 2007, four employees from the central office of the ministry would have received excessive salary bonuses.

Those who compiled the list of candidates who did not meet the integrity criteria also noted that during 2007 and 2008 Igor Dodon held other remunerated positions, such as the chairman of the Moldtelecom Board of Directors, which is contrary to the Law on the Government. The law forbids ministers to hold other remunerated positions. Moreover, during his time in office as Secretary of Economy and Commerce in the Greceanâi Government, Igor Dodon supported and countered some of the Executive’s decisions, illegally classified, regarding the allocation of money from the Reserve Funds of the State.

Money in the Bahamas

Many doubts are provoked by the financing of the Party of Socialists led by Igor Dodon. Investigative journalists have lately unveiled several schemes by which the party was making money from offshore areas or from dubious people.

In 2016, Rise Moldova published an investigation in which the Socialists Party would have benefited from a sponsorship of several million lei, originating in a veiled business with a Bahamas offshore, connected to the Russian Federation. The company had made a transfer of over 30 million lei, and the money went to Moldova a few months before the presidential elections, through the “Exclusive Media” company, which is owned today by deputy (MP) Corneliu Furculiță and operated by Peter Burduja, municipal adviser from PSRM (Party) in Chișinău. Based on loan agreements, millions of lei came from this company to several people close to the party and its sponsors.

Though originating in the Bahamas, the loan contract signed by the offshore and Furculiță’s company, was written in Russian and English and all disputes arising from the contract are governed by the material and procedural law of the Russian Federation, to be examined by the International Commercial Arbitration Court of the Chamber of Commerce from Moscow.

In July 2018 RISE lost its trial started by Exclusive Media company, owned by deputy MP Corneliu Furculiță.

Sponsorships from Shor and Platon?

In March 2015, when Igor Dodon launched several accusations against Ilan Shor in the context of the theft of the Moldovan banking system, the current mayor of Orhei missed a curious disclosure. He said at a press conference that he financed Dodon’s campaign for the 2011 local elections, when he ran for Mayor of the Capital.

“Dear Igor Nicolaevici, we know each other very well. When we were close souls and shared the same visions, we had the same plans for the future. That was at the beginning of your political career. Then we met very often. You asked for my help, which I gave you. It was before the 2011 local elections. We were very close then. I supported you, including financially, in order to be able to carry out your electoral campaign”, said Ilan Shor. In response, the President of PSRM replied that he received no funding from the businessman whatsoever. “With regard to financing – maybe the PCRM funded, I do not know, I did not get funding from him”, wrote Igor Dodon on a social networking website.

The subject of Dodon’s party financing returned to public eye in the presidential elections from 2016, after the former head of the Public Acquisitions Agency, Igor Grigoriev, appointed by Dodon, revealed in an interview with the Deschide.md portal that at a moment of sincerity, Ilan Shor would have admitted that he had financed Igor Dodon’s campaign in 2011, alongside Veaceslav Platon. Grigoriev also said that Dodon is lying when he says he resisted the sale of certain state goods and that he was in a good relationship with Vlad Plahotniuc. After the interview was published, Grigoriev revealed to the press that he received a message of threat from Dodon.

Double standards

In a document signed by the politician in 2007, while he was Secretary of Economy and Commerce, Dodon pleaded for the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, which he considered to be a very advantageous one for the Republic of Moldova. Dodon, who in the 2016 electoral campaign advocated for the Customs Union, in 2011, in a TV interview, said that Moldova’s accession to the Customs Union is impossible as long as the state has no common borders with countries belonging this union. “It is unprofessional to speak as if we can be members of the Customs Union through the Giurgiuleşti port. It is utopian to talk that we will become members of this Union as long as we do not have a common border. And to those who say we are doing a referendum in this sense ask them: How will you do that?” Dodon said in 2013, in order to ask in 2016 to hold a referendum on the matter.

PD-PSRM conjuncture alliance

Though he declares themselves fierce opponents of the current ruling coalition, the socialists led by Dodon collaborate quite efficiently with the current democratic government. PD alongside Dodon’s socialists voted in Parliament the controversial mixed system of Parliamentary elections. After the local elections in June 2015, the Democratic Party succeeded in obtaining the lead in several district councils in the country, thanks to the casting vote of the district councilors. So it was in Ungheni, Drochia, Șoldănești, Fălești, Nisporeni, Briceni, Hâncești. After the election to the leadership of these districts of representatives from the Socialist Party, Dodon announced in a press conference that he will exclude from the party all of the regional councilors that are to vote for the election of the “oligarho-unionist parties” to the leadership of those districts.

With the help of the votes of the Socialists, Democrats managed to dismiss the Filat Government, and Government Streleț, and, in October 2015, the socialists supported Attorney General Corneliu Gurin’s request for the waiver of Vlad Filat’s immunity. In his last speech from the central platform of the Parliament, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that this was done at the direction of Vlad Plahotniuc. On October 22th 2015, also with the socialists’ vote, the Parliament decided to pass the CNA subordinated to the Government in Parliament. The Democrats initiative came in the context in which Premier Valeriu Streleţ expressed his intention to dismiss Viorel Chetraru for his modest results in the fight against corruption.

In March 2016, at the proposal of a Socialist deputy, the Parliament passed in an urgent manner a draft law amending the Broadcasting Code, which, experts say, will provide controversial businessman Vlad Plahotniuc the means to remain the only media mogul in the Republic of Moldova. Initially, the bill was designed to eliminate the accumulation of media holdings in the hands of a few people, the document was, however, ammended in the last minute, by socialist deputy Andrian Lebedinschi proposal, so that in the coming years no other media holdings can appear.

The project was voted a few months after, at the end of 2015, Exclusiv Media LLC obtained the broadcasting license for the NTV Moldova television station, which uses the same trademark as the Russian NTV station, where Gazprom’s majority group is associated.

Supporter of the separatist regime in Tiraspol

The presidential office was obtained with the vote of thousands of citizens from the left side of the Dniester, carried by bus to polling stations in the right side. The regime from Tiraspol refused to open polling stations in the areas it controls. Dodon met several times with Tiraspol leader Krasnoselskii. He officially pronounced favourably for the Russian troops to remain in the Transnistrian region and offered distinctions to church officials from the Transnistrian region.

In 2017, he announced that he would decorate a number of troops from the Transnistrian region, but at the pressure of public opinion did not fulfill these promises. “Order of Honor” was awarded to Mikhail Krotov, head of the Office of the Federal State Duma Committee from the Russian Federation, a promoter of Moldova’s integration into the Eurasian Union.

Here is an analysis made by the Russian propaganda agency Sputnik about Dodon’s activity in his first year in office.

The team of counselors

Most of his counselors have been part of the Communist government. Political counselor and spokesman for the head of state is the current president of the Socialist faction of the Chişinău Municipal Council, Ion Ceban. During 2007-2008, he held the post of Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sport. Like Igor Dodon, Ceban was formerly a member of the Communist Party, leaving his team in 2012, along with his current presidency chief. Ceban was the PRSM candidate in the June 2018 elections for the mayor of Chisinau, losing to Andrei Năstase.

In the presidential campaign , Ion Ceban and his mother, Eugenia Ceban, were among the most important donors, contributing over 100,000 lei to the electoral budget of the candidate for president, Igor Dodon.

Vasile Şova, appointed as a presidential counselor in the field of reintegration, was former Minister of Reintegration. Șova was the longest-serving minister in the Communist rule, holding office from 2002 until 2009. At that time, relations between Chişinău and Tiraspol were tense. From 2009 until November 2014, Șova was deputy of the Communist faction. At the elections of 30 November 2014, he again ran for the PCRM list, but did not obtain access to Parliament.

Andrei Neguță, appointed presidential advisor in foreign policy, has a diplomatic career built during communist rule. Neguță was Ambassador of Moldova in France and Spain in 2003-2006, and Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova in the Russian Federation in 2009-2012. Also, Neguță was the opponent to Zinaida Greceanii in the second failed attempt to elect the head of state, in June 2009. Currently, Neguță is deputy from the PSRM fraction. While being an ambassador to Moscow, Neguță was involved in the diplomatic numbers vehicles scandal.

Ion Perju, the new presidential advisor in agri-industrial and public administration, was previously Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry in the Greceanîi Government (2008-2009). Perju comes to office from the position of an agri-industrial expert at the World Bank, within the Competitiveness Enhancement Project.

Ruslan Flocea, secretary of the President of the Republic of Moldova, was previously a member of Zinaida Greceanîi’s government team. In 2008-2009 he held the position of adviser to the prime minister. In the last years, Flocea has worked in the National Anticorruption Center.

Maxim Lebedinschi, Legal Advisor and Institutional Relations, representative of the President of the Republic of Moldova in the relations with the Parliament and the Government, is also a member of the Central Electoral Commission.

Elena Gorilova, an economic advisor, comes from civil society. She is Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic Investigation and Reform. Corneliu Popovici, appointed adviser in the field of education, culture and research, was formerly a vice-rector of the Academy of Public Administration to the President of the Republic of Moldova.