After serving four years, a month and two weeks out of the previously applied nine-years sentence, the law enforcement authorities released the former Prime Minister Vlad Filat. And his release caused a swapping of accusations between the opposing political parties. The Socialist Party blames the former government led by Maia Sandu, while representatives of the former Government hold the President’s justice responsible for this.
ZdG investigated all the circumstances that led to the former politician’s release on parole, tracing the people who participated in this process.
Vladimir Filat came to politics in 1997 on the Democratic Party lists. In 2007 he launched the Liberal Democratic Party, becoming the president of the Party.
After the 2009 parliamentary elections, Filat acceded to the prime minister position, holding for a short period of time also the interim for the head of the state.
In 2013, the government headed by him is dismissed, and in 2015 Filat is arrested and sentenced to nine years of prison.
In 2016, the Chișinău Court found Filat guilty of passive corruption and influence peddling. A second criminal case against him is also pending at the Chișinău Court, in which, the former Prime Minister is accused of large-scale money laundering, but Filat is pleading innocent.
In September 2019, the Chișinău District Court has decided to reduce the nine-year prison sentence of Moldova’s former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat by 682 days, arguing that the difficulties Filat had faced during his three years and nine months of detention in Chișinău’s Prison No. 13 had reached the established severity threshold and thereby violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Why Filat was release?
Vlad Filat wasn’t allowed to serve his sentence in the Lipcani Penitentiary, where the convicts who previously held public positions are detained, because the National Anticorruption Center and the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office were investigating other cases in his name. He remained in Chișinău, confined in the Prison No. 13.
While in prison, Filat addressed the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), claiming the inhuman conditions of detention in Prison No. 13, as well as violation of the right to freedom and security due to the lack of grounds for being preventively arrested during the trial of his case or the violation of the right to privacy.
ECtHR recommendation and amendments to legislation
In recent years, ECtHR repeatedly condemned Moldova mainly for the poor conditions of detention in Prison No. 13. ZdG previously wrote that a final alarm signal was sounded by the Court on December 15, 2015, when it issued an unprecedented ruling in the case of Șișanov vs. Moldova.
“The national authorities must promptly implement an appeal or a combination of preventive or compensatory remedies and to guarantee effective means for violations of the Human Rights Convention, resulting from improper detention conditions in the Republic of Moldova,” the Court stated, and this only meant that, if Chișinău didn’t identify a solution to the problem within six months, there existed a risk that other 70 similar requests, pending before the Court, would be combined and transmitted to Moldova. In other words, the state was to pay moral damages to all 70 people concurrently, more than 518,000 euros.
The Ministry of Justice and Anatolie Munteanu, former deputy of the Minister of Justice, and former State Secretary developed a draft law in 2016. One of the authors of the mechanism declared for ZdG that the remedy was inspired by international models, such as the legislation in Romania and Italy, and adapted to Moldova’s particularities.
In July and October 2019, Filat received compensation for the days spent in Prison No.13
The document was voted in its first reading only in December 2016, and then in a final reading in July 2017. It provided money and compensatory days for those held in inhuman and degrading conditions. The mechanism was implemented immediately beginning with January 1, 2019.
The fact that Filat was confined in Prison No. 13 for the duration of the sentence, made him one of the beneficiaries of the 2016-2017 legislative changes concerning the inhuman conditions of detention.
Shortly after the mechanism entered into force, the ECtHR declared Filat’s request, concerning the inhuman conditions of detention, inadmissible, on the grounds that, at the national level, from January 1, 2019, a new remedy entered into force – the compensatory appeal. Based on this decision, Filat’s lawyers went to court, and on July 30, 2019, the Chișinău Court pronounced a ruling finding that, between October 23, 2015 and July 30, 2019, Vladimir Filat was held in inhuman and degrading conditions, and compensated these damages by reducing the prison sentence by 682 days.
In eight months, 72 persons were released from detention
Accordingly, the former prime minister, who was to serve five years and two months in prison, was reduced to a term of detention by one year and ten months.
“The difficulties faced by former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat during his detention for three years and nine months in Prison No. 13 exceeded the inevitable level of suffering inherent in detention and reached the severity threshold contrary to Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),” judge Constantin Damaschin from the Chișinău Court justified his decision.
Subsequently, on October 28, 2019, the court issued another ruling by which Filat’s sentence was reduced by another 27 days on the same grounds. Thus, in total, from the initial penalty applied to Filat, 709 days were reduced, considered as having been served. Thus, by November 6, 2019, Vlad Filat had already served two-thirds of the sentence, and according to the Criminal Code, he could claim early release on parole.
The National Administration of the Penitentiaries data show that, in the first eight months of the current year, 72 persons were granted release from detention based on the compensatory appeal, of which Vladimir Filat benefited as well.
The decision of the Penitentiary Commission, two days after the deadline
On November 8, 2019, the Commission of Penitentiary No. 13 decided that Vladimir Filat had served two thirds from the initially applied sentence and completed the individual program in accordance with the planned criminal punishment serving.
On November 12, 2019, Andrei Saracuța, who was then interim director of the Prison No. 13, filed a request to Ghenadie Pavliuc, the Vice-President of the Ciocana Court, Chișinău, to examine the possibility of applying Art. 91 of the Criminal Code, early release on parole, and free the convict Filat Vladimir Vasile from the penitentiary.
The request remained in Chișinău Court until December 2, 2019, when the first court hearing was scheduled in this case. Neither the hearing on December 2, nor the day, on which the court ordered Filat’s release from prison, were announced by the parties involved in examining the application.
The judge who released Filat is the same who had arrested him in 2015
The ruling by which Filat was released from prison was pronounced on December 3, by the judge, Victor Rățoi, who had the first applied, in 2015, an arrest warrant in Filat’s name.
Previously serving as prosecutor, Rățoi has been a judge since 2011. The magistrate issued the decision regarding the release on parole of the former prime minister after the second court hearing. The first meeting had been held a day earlier but it was interrupted, and then the final ruling was pronounced on December 3. Shortly after, Filat was released.
The authorities cancel the complimentary punishments
The judge Victor Rățoi took note of the request of the Prison No. 13 authorities and ordered the release of Vladimir Filat from prison.
At the same time, the complementary penalties were canceled – the interdiction to hold public office for a term of five years and the withdrawal of the Order of the Republic. According to the ruling, preventing the person from the possibility to work in the field in the situation where it was found that the purpose of the partially served punishment seems to be achieved will not be a fair measure in relation to the person convicted in this case.
The court also stated that, so far, for unknown reasons, Filat has not been withdrawn the Order of the Republic and stated that since it was established that the legal conditions of conditional release from serving other penalties have been met, taking into consideration the information indicating the high appreciation given to the convicted person by national and international public and private institutions, the merits for which this distinction was granted, the court considers that the execution of this sanction is devoid of legal rationality, and the release on parole is appropriate at its execution.
The ruling issued by Victor Rățoi can be challenged at the Chișinău Court of Appeal within 15 days.
The people who participated in Filat’s release
Andrei Saracuța, interim director of the Prison No. 13, formerly specialist of the institution’s logistics, was appointed to the position in 2009. Subsequently, he was promoted to the position of deputy director of the penitentiary, and, from July 2019, after the resignation of Igor Pântea, he became interim director.
In the anteroom of the prison administration, we were informed that we cannot talk to Andrei Saracuța and that all questions should be addressed to the National Prison Administration.
Cristina Bancu and Viorel Berliba are the lawyers targeted in the ruling, issued by the judge Victor Rățoi by which Vladimir Filat was released. The same lawyers represent him in the second case, on money laundering.
Bancu first represented Filat in the case in which he had been convicted and subsequently released on parole. Viorel Berliba has become Filat’s lawyer recently. According to some public information, he has been in a friendly relationship for over 25 years with Adrian Lebedinschi, Socialist Party deputy, whose brother, Maxim, also represents the Socialist Party.
Vlad Filat, as well as Viorel Berliba mentioned that there is no connection between these aspects and his release.
“I have represented the interests of Vladimir Filat in all the court meetings. As for Lebedinschi, there are distortions. I do not know how to interpret them,” said Viorel Berliba.
Alexandru Roibu was the representative of the Prison No. 13 in the process in which Vladimir Filat got early release on parole. Also, Roibu was the one who represented the Penitentiary in the process in which Filat was compensated for the detention days in Prison No. 13.
According to some sources, Alexandru Roibu is a relative with Alexei Roibu, former Minister of Internal Affairs of the Liberal Democratic Party Government.
“Yes. And he is upset that he was later dismissed. It has nothing to do with me. If we look around, we’re all relatives. It has no connection with each other,” Filat said.
What has President Igor Dodon, former Prime Sandu and Minister of Justice Fadei Nagacevschi to say about Filat’s release
Moldova’s President Igor Dodon: “This release was arranged by the former government. There are two aspects to consider. First, the reduction of the term was made through two court rulings. These rulings had not been challenged by the former Government. The sentence was reduced by 709 days with the tacit approval of the former Government and the Minister of Justice, who did not challenge the decisions of the courts.
The second aspect relates to who initiated the Filat’s release. The initiative came from an institution subordinated to the Ministry of Justice on the day the Government headed by Maia Sandu left office. It was initiated on the basis of the unanimous decision of a commission made of 11 persons, subordinated to the Ministry of Justice.”
Maia Sandu, former Prime Minister, co-leader of the ACUM Bloc: “Dodon’s justice released Filat from prison. Let me put it very clearly – the government I have run has nothing to do with this decision.
The decision of the famous Ciocana court to release Filat raises a number of questions, just as many as other decisions adopted by the Moldovan justice. Dodon’s accusations against my team are aberrant, and the complicity of Prison No. 13, which shows a paper dated the day of the government’s dismissal, is a gross misdemeanor.
Dodon is the one who controls the judges and protects corruption. The government I led fought vehemently with corruption and the corrupted. Dodon knows who he is afraid of and does everything to discredit his opponents. But anyway, he is a caricature compared to Plahotniuc, of whom he was afraid and got rid of only due to the ACUM Bloc. His time will come soon enough.”
Fadei Nagacevschi, Minister of Justice: „Filat was released on the basis of the minutes issued by a Commission. We analyzed the composition of the Commission, made of 11 persons. The composition of this Commission has been modified several times … Once, on August 19, then on August 21 and on September 13 it was changed again for the third time.
We’ll see how it all happened. We have many questions. Nothing was made public. The request was made based on the minutes drawn up by the Commission made up of 11 persons. Why was the conclusion taken? The person didn’t serve two-thirds of the term of the punishment.
There will be dismissals. Certain staff are to be replaced. I have doubts about their good intentions. I learned from the press yesterday that the Filat case is in the courts.”
On December 4, a new interim director was appointed at the National Penitentiary Administration, and Minister Fadei Nagacevschi announced that, most likely, the administration of the Prison No. 13, which requested the release of Filat, in the next days, will challenge his release.
On December 5, the Penitentiary Administration no. 13 challenged the decision of the Chișinău Court, requesting the suspension of the decision by which Filat was released.
After being released from prison Filat spent his first hours talking with Metropolitan Vladimir, after which he went to his parents’ house in Lăpușna, Hâncești district, center of Moldova, where he met with his family. Then he returned to Chișinău, and the next day he held the first press conference.
Vladimir Filat and his lawyers held a press conference in which they talked about the conditions under which the former prime minister was released from prison. They answered the journalists’ questions. Filat said that he was released neither by Maia Sandu nor by Igor Dodon, but in accordance with the law.
Vladimir Filat: “No injury was established in my sentence. A special seizure was applied. They seized everything I earned during my lifetime. And the market price of these goods far exceeds the illicit remuneration for which I was convicted … The procedure by which I was released continued during the three governments. It started during the Government led by the Democratic Party, then it was the Government led by Maia Sandu, and now it is the Government led by Ion Chicu.”
About the changes in the commission’s composition that ordered his release: “Commissions are formed of persons who hold certain positions. If a new person enters a position, he/she also enters the commission. The Commission, in my case, took the decision by unanimous vote.”
About the fact that the request for his release on parole was made on November 12, the day when the Sandu Government fell: “On November 6, 2019, two-thirds of my sentence serving was completed. On November 8, there came the decision of the prison commission, taken unanimously.
According to the law, after the decision is taken, the Commission has five days to submit the request to the court. Thus, November 12 was the last but one day when the authorities of Prison No.13 could go to court for my release on parole. The fact that the Government fell on November 12 is a coincidence.”
Lawyer Ion Vâzdoagă, about the possibility of challenging the ruling of the first court: “If it is challenged, we will admit that there are pressures on justice. It’s a test for our justice.”