Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
While the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government failed to implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Despite some improvement, corruption remained a serious problem. Corruption in the judiciary and other state structures was widespread. The government made progress in investigating corruption cases involving public officials and the judiciary, which resulted in several high-profile detentions.
The law provides the National Anticorruption Center (NAC) the authority to verify wealth and address “political integrity, public integrity, institutional integrity, and favoritism.” The National Integrity Authority (NIA), which was formed to check assets, personal interests, and conflicts of interest of officials, was not fully operational due to delays in selecting the 30 integrity inspectors required by law. The former ruling coalition harshly criticized both the NAC and the NIA for lack of action in investigating corrupt officials.
Corruption: The two key anticorruption institutions, the NIA and the Criminal Assets Recovery Agency, were not fully functional and there was no monitoring of the implementation of the National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy. According to a May survey, 26 percent of citizens admitted to having paid bribes to those working in the public sector in the previous year.
Reports noted that authorities’ attempts to compromise anticorruption processes, including by legalizing possibly illegally acquired assets, remained high during the first half of the year. A much-contested law on capital amnesty expired; it had been adopted in 2018, and could allow the legalization of unreported assets, tax liabilities, and cash. Observers noted that there were few safeguards to prevent the legalization of criminally acquired assets, although the amnesty law nominally prohibited it.
A 2018 report by Transparency International noted that the government hindered anticorruption efforts by: suppressing civic activists, whistleblowers, lawyers, and judges; initiating new criminal cases against political opponents at the local level; using the law on the protection of personal data to impede access to information of public interest; and amending election laws to benefit the largest, most organized political parties. The report concluded that these practices were indicative of high-level corruption and political corruption, which led to what it labelled “state capture” (i.e., private interests significantly influencing a state’s decision-making processes).
In 2018 the NAC detained 10 persons on corruption charges, including three judges from the Court of Appeals, two judges from the Chisinau Central Court, and a prosecutor from the Chisinau prosecutor’s office. During preliminary hearings in April, only seven out of the 10 suspects showed up in court. The cases were ongoing at year’s end.
In September the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) refused to endorse a request from the interim prosecutor general to criminally investigate five judges suspected of involvement in laundering more than 352 billion lei (20 billion) from Russia through the country’s banking system. The SCM postponed the request examination. On September 24 the SCM accepted the interim prosecutor general’s request to lift the immunity of Supreme Court of Justice head Ion Druta, who was being investigated on charges of illicit enrichment. On October 30 anticorruption prosecutors seized several assets (real estate and cars worth 12.9 million lei ($735,000)) belonging to Druta.
In a separate case, anticorruption prosecutors detained and then released on bail Oleg Sternioala, judge at the Supreme Court of Justice, on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. Sternioala tendered his resignation in December.
Financial Disclosure: Laws require financial disclosure by public officials, including state officials, judges, prosecutors, civil servants, and officials holding leadership positions. The NIA has the legal power to apply sanctions. The law provides that officials who fail to declare their assets may be dismissed from office and barred from holding public office. NIA integrity inspectors have authority to alert relevant authorities (Tax Office and Prosecutor’s Office) and request seizure of illegally acquired assets by a court decision. The law requires the heads of state enterprises and local councilors to submit income statements and provides for an online system for wealth and interest statement submissions. By law officials must make public income statements within 30 days of their appointment and before March 31 of each year for the duration of their term in office. The NIA was not fully functional, and the government enforced these requirements inconsistently.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.
Authorities in Chisinau did not have full access to or control over the Transnistrian region. According to local and international experts, authorities in Transnistria continued to monitor and restrict activities of human rights NGOs. There were credible reports that no human rights NGO in the region investigated serious human rights violations due to fear of repression and harassment from authorities.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman was fully operational and active in reporting on human rights issues. The law provides for the independence of the ombudsman from political influence and for his or her appointment to a seven-year, nonrenewable term. The Office of the Ombudsman may initiate an investigation based on complaints or on its own authority. Although the Office of the Ombudsman lacked the power to enforce decisions, it acted as a monitor of human rights violations, including monitoring conditions in prisons and other places of detention. A separate ombudsman for children’s rights operates under the same framework within the Office of the Ombudsman.
Parliament also had a separate standing committee for human rights and interethnic relations.