The “business” of unfinished constructions thrives in the capital, depriving of money and housing hundreds of Chisinau residents. This is the situation of the investors, who signed contracts with Vis Construct Group, Ultra Construct, as well as with other construction companies, led by a group of businesspersons, some of them with criminal records.
Those who have set up the real estate business are described as "dodgers from Balti," mostly connected by kinship relations. Several sources claim that they enjoy the protection of prosecutors.
The scheme implemented by the dodgers from Balti, set in motion in 2011, seems to be a simple one: they begin the construction, identify the potential investors, who pay in advance for the apartments, after which the construction site is dropped and the company enters the process of insolvency. Thus, this group founded about 40 companies, most of them registered at two addresses in Balti.
Lawyers, prosecutors and police chiefs are among the victims of the dodgers from Balti. The victims believe that the dodgers enjoy protection of the highest level, which explains the lack of reaction on behalf of the authorities. Moreover, the most persistent victims seeking justice are threatened and some have even been beaten.
The attic business
Dodgers from Balti launched their attic "business" in Chisinau. When in late 2010, the Capital City Hall gave the green light to the attic construction, numerous companies involved in this kind of business. Entrepreneurs were attracted by the simple procedure of obtaining a building permit, which was mainly based on an agreement between the owners and builders association. The tenants agreed to have an attic built on their block of flats in exchange for the isolation of their blocks and other construction work.
The companies managed by the entrepreneurs from Balti started to build attics in Chisinau, leaving them unfinished. The team of CrimeMoldova has identified some of them, located at the following addresses: Dumitru Rascanu Street, 41 Sucevita Street, 36/1 Sucevita Street, 9/2 Vasile Cheltuiala Street, 12/1 Independence Street, 5/5 Zelinschi Street and Belgrade Street, for which the City Hall of Chisinau issued building permits in 2011. The apartments had been sold before being built, and once the entrepreneurs took money from the investors, they never finished the construction.
One of the victims of the Vis Construct Group, Tatiana Graniceru, says she signed on November 5, 2012, an investment contract for purchasing an apartment in the attic on 41 Sucevita Street, with the company, registered at 3 Chekhov Street in Balti.
According to a clause of the contract, the woman had to pay the entire amount of 22,950 euros within five days after the installation of the roof and in November 2013, she was supposed to receive the keys from a two-room apartment with a surface area of nearly 46 square meters.
As soon as the roof was installed, all the attic construction work on 41 Sucevita Street stopped. Tatiana Graniceru turned to the law enforcement authorities, who started criminal proceedings with respect to the case.
The Prosecutor's Office of Rascani District of Chisinau finally classified the criminal case on the grounds that there was “no rational element of criminal activities”.
Tatiana Graniceru sued the Chisinau City Hall and asked the court to sequestrate the apartment she paid for, but her claim was rejected.
In April 2016, the Balti Court of Appeal ordered to start insolvency proceedings with regard to Vis Construct Group and Graniceru was advised to file a claim.
On May 10, 2017, the administration of the company that undergoes the insolvency process tried to get Graniceru pay another 1960 euros, otherwise the contract could be terminated.
Liliana Gonta found herself in a similar situation. She made a full payment to the same company for an apartment in the attic of a block of flats on Belgrade Street.
Block of flats business
Dodgers from Balti did not limit their business just to the attics and successfully implemented the same scheme in the affair with several multi-storied blocks of flats. Similarly, having taken the money from credulous investors, they left the buildings unfinished without fulfilling their contract obligations to the creditors.
The team of CrimeMoldova identified four such blocks in Chisinau: two on Braniste Street, one on Sakharov Street and one on Miorita Street. The dodgers did not even invest money in purchasing or at least leasing land from the municipality. All the four blocks were built on the premises of old two-storied houses, which accommodated 8-10 family apartments, most of whom were third-age people. The businessmen persuaded the tenants to agree to the construction under the pretext of renovating the house, promising them to extend and repair their dwellings. As a result, the tenants found themselves in damaged homes, being disconnected from the aqueduct, gas pipeline and high voltage networks. Some of the tenants abandoned their homes and moved to their relatives or rented other apartments. Others, who had no alternatives, remained there, living in the dark, waiting for the state institutions to do justice to them after they filed dozens of complaints.
One of the blocks is located on 1 Andrei Sakharov Street. The building was to be commissioned in 2014.
While some of the investors sought explanations and tried to find out why the construction was not finished and when they could enter into the possession of the apartments, the dodgers continued to collect money from other credulous investors, concluding contracts with them in the period of 2015 -2016.
Every Thursday evening people, who paid for the construction of the apartments in the block of flats on 1 Sakharov Street gather near the unfinished building. Forty-nine families were to receive apartments in this building, each of them paid at least 500 euros per a square meter.
The victims made some estimates, which show that the alleged entrepreneurs obtained an income of about 1.5 million euros. Once the entrepreneurs laid hands on the money, they started to hide and stopped communicating with their investors.
People are also disappointed with the quality of work performed, as the builders used poor quality materials, and in some places, the walls seem to be collapsing. "They hired young men from villages without any qualification in construction. As far as we know, they did not pay them for their work", the deceived investors told us.
People also say they are disappointed by the state institutions that remain inert to their complaints. "I filed a complaint with the Rascani District Prosecutor's Office, which refused to initiate a criminal case on the pretext of lack of evidence of offense. It is defiant, when we filed the complaint, the prosecutor asked who the director of the firm was and put down his name. I challenged the court order. A criminal case was started and referred to the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office. I don’t know anything about the case. I appealed to the Prosecutor's Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases, but they did not receive us and referred us to the Prosecutor's Office of Chisinau. Igor Popa, the head of the institution, refused to initiate a criminal case. Then I turned to the General Prosecutor, Eduard Harunjen, who basically obliged Popa to start a criminal case. At the beginning, the case seemed to be investigated, but eventually it seems to have been shelved. Even if some investigations have begun, prosecutors targeted some simple clerks. No one inquired into the problem to find out where the embezzlement starts," the lawyer Ghenadie Danciuc, one of the investors cheated by the businessmen of Balti, said.
Roman Rusov, who invested 17,000 euros into a studio in 7/1 Braniste Street, fed up with promises, tried to speak to Ivan Cernioglo, one of the founders of Ultra Construct, with whom he concluded a contract. However, he was cruelly beaten in the presence of his wife and child.
The case was widely publicized and the police, based on the complaint, submitted by Roman, filed a criminal case for hooliganism. Ivan Cernioglo pleads not guilty and claims that he was actually attacked by Rusov and that the latter would have staged everything to file a criminal case.
Several of the dodgers’ victims told us that this is not the first case when the businesspersons beat their deceived investors and threat them.
It should be also mentioned that the block of flats at 7/1 Braniste Street was built illegally with deviations from the construction norms, as ascertained by both the State Inspection of Constructions and the court.
However, the businessmen were not punished due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Lawyers question the correctness of such limitations, given that the block of flats is not finished, making reference to Article 11 of the Contravention Code.
Who are the "dodgers from Balti"
The investigations show that the scheme was set up by a group of 18 people, most of them relatives, who since 2010 have opened at least 40 companies, most of which have legal address on 3 Chekhov Street and 18 Mihai Viteazul Street in Balti. The group also owns a currency exchange shop and a real estate investment lending company.
Ruslan Pulbere seems to be the head of the group. He had been previously convicted of large-scale theft.
Ruslan Pulbere appears as the administrator or founder of nine companies, including Ultra Construct, the entrepreneur that built the block on 7/1 Braniste Street.
Ruslan Pulbere's wife, Ecaterina, born Tihanskaia, makes part of the criminal group.
Ecaterina Pulbere is the co-founder of two firms, a construction company and a currency exchange shop. She is also the manager of an agricultural enterprise, founded by her husband.
Igor Grossu is a friend of Ruslan Pulbere since they were teenagers.
Grossu is the founder of five companies, including Norelit Invest group, the company, involved in the building of the block of flats on 1 Sakharov St. in Chisinau. Previously, Grossu was the co-founder of Strada Verde LLC, but in 2016, he ceded his shares to Andriuschevicius Norbertas.
We have not managed to track all the connections that exist among Andriuschevicius Norbertas, Ruslan Pulbere and Igor Grossu.
It is known that Andriuschevicius Norbertas was the co-founder of the Norelit Invest Group and even signed some contracts with investors. On March 12, 2015, he sold his stake in Norelit Invest Group to Ruslan Pulbere and Serghei Molceanov, who later sold 99 percent of the shares to Igor Grossu and the rest to Petru Visnevschi.
Sergei Molceanov, 31, is Igor Grossu’s son-in-law. Molceanov, who is a Bachelor of law, is said to be the one, who generates ideas for the group, led by Ruslan Pulbere. He is the co-founder of 12 companies and the manager of one of the companies, involved in the criminal schemes.
Ivan Cernioglo, the person accused of physical aggression against Roman Rusov, is Ruslan Pulbere's brother-in-law, married to Ecaterina Tihanskaia’s sister.
Cernioglo figurează în calitate de co-fondator şi administrator la două din întreprinderile grupării, cu afaceri în Cernioglo is a co-founder and manager of two of the group's construction companies.
The cousins of Ruslan Pulbere, Dumitru and Oxana Bors, have also been involved in the scheme.
Dumitru Bors is the co-founder of five companies and the manager of two of them. In some of the businesses, his name appears alongside that of his cousin Ruslan.
Oxana is the co-founder of Nordinvest - construct, a company involved in the construction of an unfinished attic on Dumitru Rascanu St. Previously, Sergei Molceanov was also a co-founder of the company. Nadejda Golovaciuc, Sergei Molceanov’s wife and former wife of Igor Grossu, is the co-founder and official manager of another enterprise of the group.
Four companies belonging to Ruslan Pulbere’s group are registered into the name of Nadejda Golovaciuc.
In addition to the relatives, the affair of the "dodgers from Balti" attracted entrepreneurs with small businesses in construction, as well as employees loyal to the clan.
Andrei Placinti has registered three companies into his name, all of them having direct links with Ruslan Pulbere.
Placinti had spent two months in custody, being investigated for embezzlement in the case of attic construction on Sucevita Street. Placinti was rescued by the prosecutors of Rascani District, following Pulbere's intervention through the former lawyer, Valerian Manzat, who is currently serving a 9-year prison term for embezzlement.
The persons involved in the scheme are Sergiu Zaim, Alexandr Mocealov, Ion Maliga, Maxim Melintii, Petru Visnevschi.
Photo collage source: Facebook.com: Zaim Sergiu, Visnevschi Petru and Ion Maliga
At least 11 of the firms headed by Ruslan Pulbere have the legal address at 3 Chekhov St. in Balti. Previously, other firms belonging to the clan had been registered at that address, but subsequently the addresses were changed.
The real estate facility located at that address belongs to Boris Tihanski, Ecaterina Pulbere’s father and Ruslan Pulbere’s father-in- law.
In October 2016, Boris Tihanski's house was a wretch.
In less than a year, by July 2017, the building on 3 Chekhov St. in Balti was completely renovated.
The building on 18 Mihai Viteazul St. in Balti is the legal address of six companies controlled by Pulbere. Previously, this was the legal address of at least another four of the clan’s firms. Subsequently, the legal address of these four companies was changed to 11, ap. 32 A Braniste St. Chisinau, an address not included in the Real Estate Registry.
The Elit Mansarda Company, founded in 2011 by Igor Grossu, Ruslan Pulbere and Maxim Melintii, changed its legal address in June 2016 to 12 Miorita Street in Chisinau, where one of the company's construction sites is actually located. At the same time, they changed the company founders. According to the pictures posted on the rinok.md portal in June 2016, the site looked like this:
Please note that on 18 Mihai Viteazul Street, in Balti, there is a 3-storied building. The property owners are a commercial bank, a joint-stock company and two enterprises.
None of them interconnects with Pulbere's firms. Likewise, inside the building, we did not find any office leased by the firms controlled by Pulbere.
Dodgers from Balti also have their notary. All the transactions, proxies, contracts and other documents are executed by the notary Tatiana Bistritkaia, whose office is located on 12 Miron Costin Street in Chisinau. Bistritkaia is the wife of Vladimir Dilan, former chief prosecutor of Buiucani District, who retired in 2011.
Alina Rusov, Roman Rusov's wife, Bachelor of Law, said she drew Tatiana Bistritkaia's attention to some legal mistakes, when she was authenticating her investment contract for the purchase of the apartment. "She apologized and said she didn’t notice them. I asked her to correct the mistakes. Later, I learned that at the time of signing the contract, Ultra Construct LLC no longer had a building permit. The notary had no right to authenticate the investment contract in this case and was obliged to check whether the entrepreneur holds this authorization", Alina Rusov said.
According to several deceived investors, in addition to the official taxes Tatiana Bistritkaia had been remunerated for the services provided with two apartments in the unfinished block of flats on 1 Sakharov Street. She managed to sell one of the apartments. Several complaints have been filed against Tatiana Bistritkaia.
The star-lawyer, Valerian Manzat, was rewarded by at least two unfinished apartments for providing legal assistance to the companies owned by the "dodgers from Balti".
Who protects the "dodgers from Balti?"
Deceived investors believe that some high officials protect Pulbere’s group, which explains the law enforcers’ lack of reaction to their complaints. Some, according to the existing trend, think that the dodgers’ patrons are people from Plahotniuc's entourage. Others believe the protection comes from the Chisinau City Hall, especially from Dorin Chirtoaca and Nistor Grozavu, who signed the building permits. Others think protectors are prosecutors. These assumptions are fueled by the fact that the Rascani District Prosecutor's Office refused to react to several complaints and exempted from responsibility some founders of the companies, such as Placinti, as well as by the refusal of the prosecutors from Chisinau Prosecutor's Office to investigate the case.