It’s been already two weeks since Moldova was shaken by “a hunting scandal”. Top businessmen and government officials from the judicial department are involved in an accident that took place during a hunt. Yet the main issue here is not the death but an attempt to sweep the whole incident under the rug. As the most important people in the country knew about the tragedy, it raises a serious question about the condition of Moldovan state as well as its ability to prosecute top officials.
The scandal came to light on January 6 this year, two weeks after the ill-fated hunting in the Falesti district – the eastern part of the country – right after Sergiu Mocanu, the leader of the anti-corruption movement “Anti-Mafia”, accused Prosecutor General Valeriu Zubko of mortally wounding Sorin Paciu, a 34-year-old businessman from Chisinau. Mocanu also accused leaders of the ruling parties of intentional hiding the incident and banning the Interior Ministry from investigating the case. Within two weeks after the accident, no action was taken. Pachuev was quietly buried and prosecutor Zubko went abroad.
Moldovan media also preferred to remain silent about the incident. Natalia Morar, a popular journalist who actively participated in the Twitter-revolution in 2009, left the channel “Publica TV” – which has the highest public confidence rating – in protest against the silence. The reason for her leaving was indignation at the attitude of her colleagues, who, after learning about the incident, wanted to suppress it. “I’m terribly ashamed of the fact that on the day when there is such an important issue to cover in this country, they bring out some old and useless headlines out of the box covered in dust, just to talk about something else. As it is better to pretend that nothing is happening. Ashamed of it. And hurt. When next time we will be accused of corruption or bias, we can’t point fingers at politicians. We did it ourselves”, she wrote on her blog.
After the scandal has been revealed, Prime Minister Vlad Filat asked the Prosecutor General to resign. In response, Valeriu Zubko issued a special statement in which he strongly denied that he had mortally wounded Paciu, and stated that the press reports on the case had been a smear campaign against him and the entire prosecution department. Also the Falesti district prosecutor’s office took the floor and reported that the prime suspect in the manslaughter is vice-chairman of the Appeals Chamber of Chisinau Gheorghe Cretu. He, however, quickly denied the prosecution in a television interview and assured that he had not participated in the hunt. Forced to backtrack later, as the Moldovan forest management published a list of 36 people involved in hunting (including, among others, director of the State Forestry Agency “Moldsilva”, head of Tirex Petrol – the owner of the gas station network, chairman of the Appeals Chamber and the director of the reserve, where the hunting was held). In response, Cretu apologised and resigned. A few days later, he, not Zubko, was officially declared a suspect in the case. Finally, Zubko also tendered his resignation. For its adoption he needs approval of the parliament, which on January 21 convened for a special session to create an investigation commission for the case.
Undoubtedly, the scandal hit the Alliance for European Integration, currently ruling in Moldova, especially the Democratic Party and its leader, Marian Lupu, with whom Zubko was connected, and – according to the coalition agreement – prosecutors. Moldova has already said that the Democratic Party will leave no stone unturned. Somebody already heralded the beginning of a political war – the prosecutor’s office has already prepared materials which compromise the Prime Minister and his party, highlighting in particular questionable privatization in 2009. Moldova should expect a very difficult period. The hunting accident and the response of senior government officials – or, more precisely, the lack of it – raises serious questions about the need for in-depth reform of the judiciary and prosecution departments. This has not been done in Ukraine, which resulted later in cases of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. It would be nice if Moldovan authorities were able to learn from this lesson and make proper conclusions. That could be fundamental to a sustainable democracy.
Translated by MA