Lawmakers and members of civil society are calling for Moldova’s Prosecutor General to step down. Eduard Harunjen has served in this post since 2016, but is now facing calls for his resignation, primarily over accusations of mismanagement of high-level corruption cases. These demands are taking place in the wake of a political crisis in Moldova that saw the pro-European ACUM bloc and pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM) form a coalition government to overthrow the country’s leading oligarch.
The country’s new Prime Minister, Maia Sandu, has asked for Harunjen to leave his post and said that she holds him personally responsible for the country’s failure to recover some of the funds stolen during a multi-billion dollar bank scam. Going forward, she is pushing for the country’s next Prosecutor General to be brought in from abroad. But on July 1, the country’s President, Igor Dodon, backpedaled on this idea and declared that the Prosecutor’s office should be occupied by a person with Moldovan citizenship.
Under Harunjen, the Prosecutor General’s office has not only failed to carry out reforms, but also faced accusations from civil society of conducting politically motivated cases, instrumentalizing investigations and carrying out unjustified surveillance of the ex-government’s political opponents. Most importantly, Harunjen is being blamed for failing to adequately investigate a major bank fraud case that robbed the country of approximately $2.9 billion, according to the Kroll-2 report released July 4.
In June, Moldova saw a string of resignations from dozens of judges and prosecutors, while over 8,000 people signed a public petition calling for Harunjen to step down as well. But the General Prosecutor refuses to admit any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the new government of Moldova is working to pass legislation that would allow for his replacement to come from another country.
The government passed amendments to the Law on the Prosecutor General’s Office during a first hearing on June 11. The Venice Commission also endorsed the draft law. And while this should have allowed for a prosecutor of foreign citizenship to take up the role, ahead of the second approval hearing there is dissent among the ruling coalition over the possibility of a European Prosecutor General.
Now Prime Minister Sandu is for a foreign Prosecutor General and President Dodon is against. But what does this mean for Moldova? To answer why President Dodon doesn’t want an outsider taking the job and explain which option is better, we asked the experts what they have to say about whether Moldova’s next Prosecutor General should be foreign or local.
Natalia Molosag, Lawyer
It is strange, there is an Agreement signed between PSRM and the ACUM Bloc and one of the points of the Agreement was that the Prosecutor General should be someone from abroad. Something has happened in the meantime: either the Socialists began to backtrack after securing what they wanted from the ACUM Bloc, or they have some concerns given that, as we know, there are people among the Socialists who could fall under criminal investigations – including the case of the stolen billion – and a foreign prosecutor could be very harsh with them. On the other hand, they may have received some indication from the Kremlin to avoid disclosing some irregularities involving Russia. The truth is somewhere in the middle. But I think given that Maia Sandu was entrusted with the government and she intends to “clean up” Moldova, she should be allowed to do what she promised and what they agreed. That said, I do not exclude that we could find a good prosecutor from here, from among us. How do you know we do not have a Codruta Kovesi (ed. – Romania’s former Prosecutor General)? But it will be more complicated because our system is rotten and everyone sticks together in it.
Vlad Gribincea, Center for Legal Resources
Why? Because Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu are different, they have different opinions, they see things completely different. In the end, decisions are made not in the Government, but in Parliament. What more to tell you? Both opinions are correct. This is not a question of legality and illegality. It’s a matter of vision… In the end, “the person sanctifies the place.” It matters who the prosecutor will be, and not what nationality he has.
Alexei Busuioc, Mayor of Capaclia, Cantemir
I believe that there are very good prosecutors in Moldova too. The problem does not lie in how professional they are, but in their integrity and resistance to the temptations of the job. We had good guys everywhere, but not all of them resisted, and today we have what we have: corruption at the highest levels in the state, both vertically and horizontally. I understand Maia Sandu and her reasons for asking for a European prosecutor. In her first press statement as prime minister, what did she say? That the regime has fallen and we should start cleaning up. Well, this clean-up, without a clean and courageous Prosecutor General, is virtually impossible. That’s why he wants this prosecutor to be an outsider, not to be dependent on anything or anyone. Why doesn’t Dodon want the same? It may be that with the appearance of a foreign Prosecutor General, a new age will begin in the Republic of Moldova, with arrests and serious dossiers on former and current dignitaries and bosses… Dodon and the Socialists are also stained. If anything turns up against them, it will be easier to negotiate with your own kind than with foreigners.
Fiodor Ghelici, Moldova Mea Association
Dodon is part of the criminal system created in Moldova after 2009. We know that this new PSRM-ACUM alliance is a forced one, because of the lack of a better alternative. That is why we should not be surprised that Dodon is not, and will not be on other issues, on the same page with Sandu and Năstase. We remember how Dodon became president. We know that this was done with the support of PDM. Between Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon, Plahotniuc chose Dodon because he is compromised, working hand in hand with those who have stolen and criminalized this state. This is why Dodon does not want and will not want a prosecutor from abroad – independent, politically uncontrolled – who will be guided in his activity by law and only by law. I do not agree with Dodon that we have good professionals in Moldova too. Actually, no, we have them. But they are only good for their own interests and the interests of those who control them. If the Socialists do not vote for the bill in the second reading, it means that they are afraid. Not voting for this bill will be the first break in the PSRM-ACUM coalition.
/Introduction by Eilish Hart. Courtesy of the Russian Language News Exchange using materials by Ziarul de Gardă.