An article of the Criminal Code, namely Article 190, which provides for the crime of fraud, is one of those provisions that do not have a single legal practice and law enforcement authorities apply it at will. Often, law enforcement authorities apply this article depending on their interests. Thus, people who failed to return a debt of 1000-2000 lei are criminally convicted, while others, who dispossessed victims of impressive sums, escape punishment, as the officials claim that it is a misdemeanor that should be examined by the civil court. Due to cumbersome procedures, lack of evidence, failure to pay court fees and high fees, required by lawyers, swindle victims often fail to recover damages.
According to the Criminal Code Commentary, drafted by the most famous Moldovan lawyers, the objective aspect of swindle is expressed by the illicit acquisition of assets, belonging to another person by deception or abuse of trust. According to the judgment of the Supreme Court of Justice of 28 June 2004, the courts are to consider that in the case of swindle the victim voluntarily transmits its assets to the perpetrator under the influence of deception or abuse of trust. On the other hand, the same document states that receipt of goods provided the fulfillment of a commitment can be described as a swindle, only in the case when the perpetrator at the moment of entry into the possession of such goods, primarily aimed at their embezzlement and had no intention to execute the commitment.
However, this is hard to prove, which favors those entrusted with the administration of criminal prosecution for corruption.
A 12-year friendship missed for 15 thousand euro
Musician Victor Brenici and civic activist Andrei Luchian, director of a human rights non-governmental organization, are from Orhei. Over more than a decade, the two enjoyed close friendship and often helped each other. In 2011, Victor Brenici decided to go to work in Germany.
Photo: Victor Brenici
Then he struck a deal with Luchian, who had to sell his music equipment. For two years, Andrei told Victor that he could not sell anything, that people were poor and had no money.
Photo: Andrei Luchian
When he realized he had been deceived, Victor Brenici went to the Central District Police Inspectorate of Chisinau. Initially, Nicolae Plamadeala, the criminal investigation officer who received the complaint, assured that justice would prevail. But as soon as Victor returned to Germany, the officer issued an order refusing the initiation of a criminal case, supported by prosecutor Oleg Afanasie and Brenici was not announced of this. "I guess Plamadeala was bribed, or Luchian used his personal contacts that he has as a human rights defender. I presented to Plamadeala a lot of evidence, conversations we had with Luchian via electronic networks, a list of witnesses, but almost nothing has been done. Instead, they found no corpus delicti", Victor Brenici declared.
Later, when he found that his request remained without examination, Victor Brenici through his lawyer addressed the court, which rejected his request because it was filed late. Chisinau Court of Appeal found that no limitation period has been exceeded, but it also considered that there was no offense committed.
"I'm desperate, it is a sum of 15 thousand euro, I have children. I am deeply disappointed by Moldovan justice. It is a shame, I don’t know if there are decent people in this system," the man complained.
A police informant remains unpunished for a swindle of 8000 lei
Alexei Cebotari, resident of the village of Izbiste, Criuleni, was previously convicted for car theft, however, he was released from prison in early 2014. After his release, he took the job of a taxi driver. In April 2014, Cebotari noticed an ad on the wholesale of second hand clothing at a good price by a store that was ceasing its activity. Alexei phoned the shop owner and said that he intended to purchase all the goods, as he had opened a few stores in some villages. He managed to persuade the shop owner to give him a part of the goods on credit, promising that after two weeks he would pay for the goods and take the rest. To be more convincing, he came with his wife and the newborn baby. Moreover, Alexei Cebotari signed a receipt, however, it was written on behalf of his wife Nina, who left a copy of her identity card. Thus, the shop owner gives him goods worth 8,500 lei. He took as much as fitted into his car.
Naturally, Alexei never answered the phone. Instead, Nina appeared in a report from PRO TV Chisinau, stating that her husband left her and she has to work in the Chiocana District market along with her child.
The shop owner addressed the Ciocana Police Department, but they refused to initiate a criminal case, as well as the prosecutors and the judge. The reason given by the officials was that the case was not within their competence, it belonged to civil court. "European Court of Human Rights does not allow prosecution of people for debts". The complainant addressed the civil court several times, but each time her application was rejected, either because she had not paid the court fees or because Cebotari had no permanent residence.
Afterward she learned that Alexei Cebotari was registered in Ciocana District Office of Probation Ciocana and that he was an active police informant in the sector. However, Cebotari was wanted by several claimants, who have been deceived by him.
A failed business, five thousand euros and enmity between two brothers
Two brothers, Anatol and Tatiana from Nisporeni, decided to establish a business together - a walnut grove. Tatiana, who was then working illegally in Italy, had to provide the funds for the business, while Anatol was to organize everything, including the work. The two had not signed any document, as they trusted each other. To start the business, they purchased 20 hectares of land, which were divided in parcels of 10-20 acres; each lot had its owner. It took Anatol almost a year to find all the owners and consolidate the land. To cultivate the land, Anatol purchased an old tractor on the four thousand euros, offered by Tatiana, he repaired it on his money, spending one thousand euros.
The second challenge was the deforestation of the area of 20 hectares, which had once been an orchard of plum trees. Tatiana promised her brother to send the money a bit later, asking him to borrow some and start the work. Anatol hired workers and worked side by side with them for nearly two months. Anatol paid the workers five thousand euros from his savings.
The man had big plans. He found in the Czech Republic a chopper and intended to buy it to produce pellets for heating. However, his plans were doomed. In the spring of 2015, Tatiana, who had married in the meanwhile, returned for a permanent stay in Moldova and told her brother that he had nothing to do with the land and she would continue the business with her husband. The two took the tractor, without paying the repair costs.
Anatol asked Tatiana to return him at least five thousand euros that he had invested, but his sister replied that she would not see any money.
Anatol asked the police for help, but they recommended hem to appeal to the civil court, despite the fact that the man had not signed any official document with his sister. So did the prosecutors. Finally, the man learned that the deputy chief of Nisporeni Police Department is brother of one of Tatiana’s godparents.
Five years and a half of imprisonment for failure to return the loans on time
Victoria Prutean from Chisinau was sentenced to five years and six months of imprisonment for swindle in especially large amounts. Although, she is a Master of Law, she was handcuffed and taken to prison together with her two-month- old baby. The court refused to postpone the execution of the sentence until the child reaches the age of 8, as law requires.
According to the sentence, Victoria Prutean was found guilty for failure to repay several debts, despite the fact that the woman signed receipts and promised to return the money later.
Victoria is former wife of Vadim Ceban, the traffic police officer, who arrested the former Minister of Culture Boris Focsa for drunk driving and the magistrate Ion Turcan, former chairman of the Central District Court, who was driving with unfastened seat belt.
The woman pleads not guilty: "It is a case fabricated by the police officers. They followed certain interests. All the problems began when my husband had caught Focsa drunk driving. I divorced because I did not want to ruin Vadim’s career. If I paid money, I would not get here. But I am not guilty t and will go to any lengths to restore my good name."
Fine of ten thousand lei for failure to timely fulfill an order
Rascani District Court of Chisinau sentenced Leonid Maneacov from Chisinau for swindling, ruling out a punishment in the form of a fine of ten thousand lei.
The criminal case was initiated based on the denunciation of a woman who made an advance payment of 1,800 lei so that he made a wooden cot for children, but he failed to execute the order in time. Annoyed, the woman said she refused the order and asked Maneacov to return the money. Maneacov said he could return only a thousand lei, as he had bought materials on the rest of money.
Prosecutors did not agree to the fact that Maneacov was punished only with a fine and appealed the sentence to the superior court, demanding his conviction to four years of imprisonment. The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal of the defendant, and acquitted Maneacov, noting that the problem should be examined by the civil court.
Three years of imprisonment for 3,700 leiGenadie Bocancea from the village of Elizaveta, Balti, was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for having borrowed money from several people (from 600 to 900 lei) amounting to 3,700 lei. Bocancea explained to those who lent him money that traffic agents had blocked his truck loaded with wood and required money from him.
As he failed to return the debt on time, the lenders went to the police. Meanwhile, Bocancea repaid the debts and concluded reconciliation transactions with injured parties.
Balti Court sentenced Bocancea and the Court of Appeal upheld the sentence.
Vitalie Taulean, lawyer and university professor, claims that the law enforcement agencies often erroneously apply Article 190 of the Criminal Code.
Photo: Vitalie Ţaulean
"We commit a lot of illegalities. This article is a source of corruption. People end up in prison because they have not been able to repay a debt. Often, those who lend money ask their contacts in police to help them recover their debts. However, when someone is fraudulently deprived of large sums, they never recover their money. Erroneous classification of swindle has become a very serious problem for Moldovan law system", Taulean declared.