The hidden family business of the Judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, Oleg Sternioala // INVESTIGATION

The Judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, Oleg Sternioala, has hidden a business founded by his wife, Elena Sternioala, along with a person involved in bank fraud, indicated in the Kroll report. Interposed to Ilan Sor, Nani Abashidze and Elena Sternioala have been partners in a company that the magistrate avoided to indicate it in his wealth statements. After a foray into the banking system with serious consequenses, the mediatrix of the accuser Sor, Nani Abashidze, reinvented in organizing parties. And here he has collaborations including a company of Chiril Gaburici, a former prime minister, giving of guarantees by the state for the banks defrauded.

The Magistrate Oleg Sternioala has been promoted from the first instance in 2014, directly to the Supreme Court of Justice. And this after a competition in which the accumulated score placed him among the last. In the same year he married a former subordinate of his, Elena Tudoran, who was a court clerk at the Buiucani Court, while the court was led by Sternioala. Their wedding took place in a luxury restaurant in Chisinau with many guests from the elite of the judges, including the chairman of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Victor Micu and the current president of the Supreme Court, Ion Druţă. The event was attended by representatives of the Government, the then Minister of Justice Oleg Efrim and the former Customs boss, Tudor Balitchi, an old friend of the mayor of Orhei Ilan Şor present at his wedding in 2011. To the wedding of Sterniola was invited one of the wedding godson of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, Dorin Damir. Oleg Sternioala's wedding godparent is the lawyer Iurie Tabarcea, who represents in court another figurehead in a bank fraud case, Shor's predecessor to BEM - Grigore Gacichevici. We mention that Tabarcea was a fellow student with one of the new owners of "Air Moldova" Sergei Melnik who candidate in 2016 for the position of Governor of the National Bank.

Nani Abashidze, a Georgia-born young woman, is one of 21 new shareholders in the "Sor Group" who bought Unibank on August 17, 2012 with money borrowed from offshore companies. In 2012, Abashidze was only 24 years old. The event was described by financial investigators at the Kroll International Agency as a primary stage in the billion theft, followed by the takeover the control by Sor over the Banca Sociala and the Banca de Economii. Nani Abashidze is listed as a shareholder with a 4.6 percent package. The company who would have lent the money for this acquisition is the same, who also credited Reghina Apostolova, the party colleague of Ilan Sor. This offshore, Harwood United LLP, was created in 2011 and dissolved in 2013, and among the trustees who signed the legal procedures instead of the real beneficiary are Marios Papantoniou, an accountant from Cyprus, who has been managing for at least 14 years business in offshore of the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. Nani Abashidze drive a luxury SUV with the license plates numbers of the series KKL, the same as most of the cars used by Ilan Şor and the people in his companies and his party.

In June 2016, a new company called "Kids Show" was established in the Republic of Moldova - an agency specializing in the organization of children's parties.

The services of this company are frequently used by the mayor of Orhei, Ilan Şor, convicted in first instance in the bank fraud case. Agency animators, disguised in various characters, are present at numerous events organized by Şor and his party. He is applauded for various inaugurations.

The ‘Kids Show’ Entertainment Agency was founded on 8 June 2016 by Nani Abashidze, mentioned in the Kroll Report, as a person affiliated to Ilan Sor and the wife of Judge Oleg Sternioala, Elena, former Tudoran. The latter is also the manager of the business. According to data from the State Registration Chamber, the women owned half of each the company. The magistrate's wife from the CSJ was initially named Tudoran, and later with the name Sternioala. Simultaneously with the entering the data on changing the name of one of the owners, the legal address of the business was registered also. The business moves into an apartment on the Bogdan Voievod Street in Râşcani distreect. According to information from the Cadastre, half of this property belongs to Judge Oleg Sternioală and his wife, and another half - to the magistrate's father-in-law. Elena Sternioala was officially featured in company papers until February 28, 2017. The Day in which Nani Abashidze was appointed administrator and sole associate. The change remains valid until now. Abashidze is a sole owner, but the firm remains registered with a legal address in the judge's apartment.

The law obliges magistrate Oleg Setrenioala to declare all his properties. His and his wife’s properties. The Kids Show business is not found in the wealth statements submitted by the judge for 2016 and 2017, years in which Elena Sternioala ruled and owned the company, along with the person involved in the "theft of the billion" Nani Abashidze. Sternioala did not indicate either the company, in the business chapter, any salary that his wife would have received as a manager or any gain from the alienation of 50 percent of the company's income. Instead, the magistrate does not hide that he owns half of the 71-square-meter apartment where the business has its legal address. Oleg Sternioala refused to answer any questions on this subject.

It is not the first time that the controversial magistrate with influential friends in the top of the power in Chisinau avoids declaring its properties. Previously, he was involved in an Investigation of the Ziarul de Garda about the house, where he was still leaving, did not indicate it in the wealth report. The luxury building was enrolled on behalf of the judge's parents who lived in an apartment in Floreşti. The Sternioala said he did not declare this house because it would have been purchased on his parents' money. But later, the judge's mother said that the parents contributed only with a part of the amount needed for the luxury dwelling in Chisinau. In the case of undeclared business, however, suspicions arise not only as regards the concealment of property. There is also a reasonable suspicion that Sternioala might be in conflict of interest when examining certain causes with the direct or indirect involvement of his wife's business partner, Nani Abashidze, or even Ilan Sor, whom the young woman represents, according to detectives financials from Kroll. Oleg Sternioala was part of the judges' panel at the CSJ, which on November 27, 2014 adopted the controversial decision by which the Banca de Economii, where there was no money but just an enormous hole, was taken back under the control of the state. An order "at the expense of public interest", as many independent experts have qualified it.

I have also formally sent questions to Oleg Sternioala through the Press Service of the Supreme Court of Justice. However, I did not get any answer. We managed to call Nani Abashidze on the phone. The young woman responded partially but categorically refused to answer all of Jurnal TV's questions.

When asked if she knew Elena Sternioala, Abashidze replied that they were friends, without specifying how they met. And the assumption that Ilan Sor would have made them acquainted, put her on guard.

Oleg Sternioala is not the only employee of the state, whose wife has business with the person in the "Sor group" Nani Abashidze. The Kids Show organizes some of the private events for children in collaboration with Crazy Kart - a carting company founded by the wife of former Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici, the current Minister of Economy. The company was registered on June 15, 2015, three days after Gaburici announced his resignation as prime minister. And in two and a half months after the Government of Gaburici granted the second state guarantee, after the Leanca government, because the hole left by the theft of the billion, the BEM, the Banca Sociala and Unibank, could be covered from the reserves of the National Bank. Unlike the Sternioala, the former Prime minister declares his wife's business in reports of wealth. Kids Show and Crazy Kart publish social events on social networks. Where children can enjoy the presence of both the Nani Abashidze agency's and the Gaburici's wife's company.

Also on social networks, the companies advertise each other. I went to the government before an executive meeting to discuss this with Minister Gaburici.

Although he told the reporter that it was worthwhile to wait for him, after the meeting, Gaburici went out on another door avoiding the press. Thus, the Jurnal TV team had to "catch" him at other events. After all, the minister replied that he had not heard of Kids Show and did not know Nani Abashidze.

The involvement of Nani Abashidze in the robbery of the century is not limited to the takeover of Unibank by the 21 people and entities from the Republic of Moldova and abroad affiliated to the mayor of Orhei. And evidence that behind the actions of the young woman stand, namely the intersts of Ilan Sor are not only in the report of the investigators at Kroll.

Nani Abashidze's name also featured in another important episode in the "theft of the bilion" scheme, without which in the November 2014 it would not have been possible. Abashidze was the first shareholder in Unibank to acquire in court the suspension of a decision by the National Bank, which limits the possibilities for lending and inter-bank operations- two of the most important tools used by the authors of the bank fraud.

Limiting the the volume of credits granted to a group of affiliated persons was disputed and suspended with the participation of Nani Abashidze. Without this suspension, a theft of such proportions as bank robbery in November 2014 would not have been possible. Or, at least, the state institutions would not have had excuses not to interfere in stopping the criminal intentions of the authors. Eventually, through non-performing loans, a group of affiliated persons could have stolen at most 15 percent of the banks' regulatory capital. And that would have been the problem of the institutions that granted those loans, not of all the citizens. Of the remaining money, banks would have been able to honor their obligations to honest clients and would not have reached the state's reserves under the pretext of worrying about depositors. Those regulations dictated by the National Bank were not canceled but suspended over several months in 2014, including November, which allowed the money to be removed with the BEM, Social Bank and Unibank.

We will describe how this process was conducted to show how malleable was the justice and how it folded to Sor's interests, represented in this case by Nani Abashidze and others in his group. On February 5, 2014, the young woman, as a shareholder of Unibank, filed a lawsuit against the National Bank. She asked for the limitations to be cancelled, and until a final decision is taken - their suspension. It was said and done. Rascani district judge Lilia Lupasco paused the restrictions imposed by the banking authority. The "" portal has previously published an investigation about the estate of this magistrate, in which they pointed out that the judge had diminished the value of her property indicated in the wealth statements and hid the fact that her husband was the owner of the business. Once at the Court of Appeal, the case took a very different turn. On March 13, 2014, the Court of Appeal overturned the Riscani District Court's closure, and the restrictions on banks entered into force again. It is worth nothing that in this case, the panel of judges was led by Domnica Manole, who later claimed to be a magistrate who went against the system. Domnica Manole lost her job and ended up with a criminal file, when in April 2016 she considered that 400,000 signatures of the Moldovan citizens were enough to hold a referendum, contrary to the opinion of the government. In fact, Oleg Sternioala was part of the panel of judges, who described Mannole's decision as illegal, which later served as a reason for making a criminal case. By the way, unlike the Sternioala, Domnica Manole was not accepted for the position of judge in the Supreme Court, even though she obtained the best score in the copetition. In her place was Mariana Pitic, a judge driving a Porsche of 10,000 lei in her wealth statement. Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, Unibank representatives didn’t give up. At the end of March, Reghina Apostolova addressed the same request in the courtroom. The Judge Steliana Iorgov suspended the restrictions of the NBM again, even though there was a decision to finish such a conclusion. It is worth mentioning that last year, this magistrate enjoyed a promotion at the Court of Appeal. The National Bank has also filed an appeal and again obtained the suspensions on July 3, 2014. Until the end of the month, another request with the same content was already filed by Unibank's shareholder, Veaceslav Lupov, who on July 31 received the suspension of restrictions to the controversial magistrate in Râşcani sector, Serghei Papuha. And he ignored the fact that a higher court had earlier canceled a similar conclusion. This judge was featured in various journalistic materials that questioned his integrity, and the latest controversial decision he took was the conviction of former deputy Iurie Bolboceanu, who, three years after he left the party Democrat, was detained with the accusation of "homeland betrayal". According to Bolboceanu's lawyer, quoted by Ziarul de Gardă, Papuha sentenced Bolboceanu to 14 years in jail without giving him the last word, with numerous procedural violations. The lawyer described the file, saying that no defense witness was heard as a political one, in the interest of the Democratic Party. And this time, the Central Bank attacked the court's decision to suspend the restrictions at the Court of Appeal. It’s just that until the case came to the Court of Appeal and untill it was issued a new decision passed four months! On December 1, 2014, the panel of judges Victor Pruteanu, Iulia Cimpoi and Anatolie Liu overturned the suspension issued by Papuha on July 31 of the same year. It happened when BEM, the Social Bank and Unibank no longer had any money. In the end, the legality of the restrictions imposed by the NBM did not come to be examined in substance. The plaintiffs and their representatives did not go to hearings, Unibank dropped claims, and Judge Lilia Lupasco, who in February 2014 gave the right to Nani Abashidze, in March 2015 already took out the petition. The purpose of those who asked for it was already attained. And now the wind blows in the three banks. About the fact that it was the interest of Sor, it is shawed in another detail. Throughout this process, Unibank shareholders were represented by lawyers around Sor's entourage. Denis Ulanov, who today defends the former banker in the criminal case in which he was sentenced in the first instance, represented Reghina Apostolova. Abashidze, in turn, and Lupov, were represented by Maxim Sidorenco, who later represented Ilan Sor in a case this time against the State Tax Service. Recently, Sidorenco was employed by the Municipal Council of Orhei as his representative in the courts, in all civil cases.

At the stage of suspending the restrictions imposed by the NBM, Abashidze, and Ilan Sor, would have been well placed to have access to people at the top of Moldovan justice, who also played a role in the theft of the century, only in the episode described above. There is a suspicion that a machine like the state, with instruments such as the NBM and the NAC, has been prevented by some court sentences that have been canceled later. "They faked impotence" - as some experts qualify the attitude of the authorities. It is doubtful that the suspension of healthy regulations takes place on the second or third day after the application, and the cancellation of suspensions takes up to four months. And the conclusion is more and more outlined that the circle of those who have put the shoulder as this theft to be taken up at the end is a vast one and includes people from all three powers in the state.

The young shareholder of Unibank refused to answer the questions about her role in the bank theft scheme. Because Nani Abashidze has cancelled the conversation, the reporter of Jurnal TV has failed to ask her another episode in which her name was used. Nani Abashidze has managed for many years, until August 2015, the interests of Ilan Şor in the Moldovan Company Grand Imobiliare SRL. According to a document on the history of this company, previously published by Rise Moldova, Abashidze administrated and managed the SRL, between July 2012 and August 2015. However, these data from the state registry are fictitious. Ilan Şor admitted that Grand Imobiliare SRL belongs to him at the court hearing in the trial against Veaceslav Platon.

Ilan Şor's SRL, Grand Imobiliare, is included in the criminal file, in which Veaceslav Platon was sentenced to 18 years in prison for scam and money laundering. Interposed to Sor, in this firm, Nani Abashidze, signed a contract with Victoriabank in November 2014, committing to redeploy $ 7.3 million in debt instead of a Platon company that contracted the loan in the year 2011. Subsequently, this debt, and also others, also contracted by Plato's companies in 2011, were taken over by a fresh offshore Zenit Management LP. A company with its real owners hidden, which benefited from transfers of tens of millions of euros of non-performing loans, contracted through companies of the Group Sor. Around 23 million euro from the famous "billion" were used to extinguish Platon's credit at Victoriabank, including the repayment of the debt taken over by Grand Imobiliare, then managed by Nani Abashidze. Platon and Sor have different versions of the purpose of those transactions. The first says that in this way he sold to Vladimir Plahotniuc, through Şor, shares to Victoriabank and that he had no idea that money would be stolen from BEM for the purchase. And the mayor of Orhei claims that Platon persuaded him by deceit to take over those debts in return for a promised profit.

The company of Sor, Grand Imobiliare, benefited from transfers of fraudulent loans from Banca de Economii and on other occasions than the episode of taking over Platon's debts. For example, one of Sor's company, more often mentioned in the context of the theft investigation, compared to other less known ones, is Caritas-Group SRL, which now in debt to Banca de Economii over 3.6 billion lei. This debt also includes a credit of two million euros, equivalent to over 37 million lei, contracted on October 15, 2014. According to bank statements, Caritas-Group has sent out the entire amount borrowed on the same day on the Bannyster LLP account, one of the offshors involved in the "billion" scheme. Of the two million euros, the non-resident has made numerous transfers, including one to Grand Imobiliare on October 20, 2014, worth 80,000 euros. Examples to show that Grand Imobiliare benefited from certain amounts of billions of dollars taken from the three banks controlled by Ilan Sor, while administered by Nani Abashidze, are still many. They are found in the operations performed with the banking of companies involved in the scheme, documents that can restore the entire money flow. I sent a request for information to the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, in which I asked what investigations had been conducted by the investigators regarding Grand Imobiliare's involvement in the robbery scheme and whether any criminal file had been filed on behalf of the company's administrators or administrator’s name, on the transfers from the "billion" that the company benefited from. Until the material was edited, I did not get any answer.

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