The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has decided to open and extend criminal proceedings in the corruption case involving funds from the Agency for Payments and Intervention for Agriculture (APIA).
“Opening and extending criminal proceedings in rem has been ordered in this case on the following counts: unlawful granting of subsidies, or unlawful failure to verify the destination of subsidies; malfeasance in office against public interests, if the civil servant obtained material or immaterial benefits for himself or for a third party; active bribery; passive bribery; money laundering; use or submittal of forged documents or false declarations resulting in the unjustified obtainment of European funds,” a DNA press release informed on Wednesday.
The document mentions that veterinarians from the National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) office in Suceava County acted in complicity with veterinarians under concession contracts in order to establish fictitious cattle farms on behalf of several farmers; they registered these farms in ANSVSA’s National Database in order to unlawfully obtain subsidies due to farmers by APIA Suceava under the complementary national direct payments for animal breeding (PNDC). The aforementioned veterinarians modified the dates of establishment of farms or of animal transfers in the database of ANSVSA’s National Animal Identification and Registration System (SNIIA), sometimes using virtual farms, to attain eligibility for European funds. The criminal activity of these veterinarians under concession contracts had the protection of the Suceava County branch of ANSVSA, which omitted to carry out verifications and controls on many notifications filed in 2013. DNA prosecutors have taken into custody Suceava County Council member Ioan Piticari (PNL) in this corruption case. APIA General Manager Dorel Gheorghe Benu and other 20 were taken to DNA Suceava for hearings in this case. According to judicial sources quoted by Agepres, besides Benu, the manager of APIA Suceava, several other civil servants of the Agency, veterinarians, police officers – including the head of the Suceava County Police Inspectorate, a priest, a lawyer and farmers are also involved.
Investigative sources stated for Mediafax that Ioan Crap, head of the Suceava County Police, was heard in the same case, the DNA suspecting him of malfeasance in office because he allegedly intervened in order for a person having a leadership position within APIA Suceava not to lose her driving license and not to be fined.
Judicial sources stated for Mediafax that Ioan Piticari, owner of the Piatra Soimului Association of Cattle Farmers and Producers, allegedly illegally received European Commission and state budget funds, being supported by APIA employees and by former Campulung Moldovenesc Mayor Constantin Gabriel Serban. Contacted yesterday, Serban stated that he was not involved in supporting Ioan Piticari. The former mayor (from 2008 to 2012) stated that as far as he remembers Piticari’s association had a pasture lease contract but the contract expired toward the end of his term in office and Piticari was sent a notice to vacate the location. In his turn, current Campulung Moldovenesc Mayor Mihaita Negura (PNL) stated that as far as he knows this case is about a pasture lease contract and that for a period of time the association headed by Piticari did not have a contract with the mayoralty.
The investigators’ documents show that the representatives of the Piatra Soimului Cattle Farmers and Producers Association, I.F. Piticari Ioan and the Horodnic Association of Cattle Farmers asked for and unjustly obtained European Commission and state budget funds for the agricultural campaigns of 2010-2013 (the SAPS, ZMD, AMP1 and AMP2 programs), by drafting, signing and filing documents containing false data. Thus, with the support of APIA Suceava employees, these associations illegally obtained subsidies surpassing RON 785,000.
According to DNA Suceava Chief Prosecutor Mihaela Mihai, a group of employers with prerogatives in verifying and approving the subsidy requests was formed within APIA Suceava and admitted subsidy requests by breaking legal provisions, the requests coming from physical and juridical persons that had failed to meet the eligibility criteria, committing forgery by accessing the databases and introducing false data.
Judicial sources stated that 59 fictitious farms were set up by a doctor in order to illegally obtain financial support from APIA Suceava. The process of verification, management and approval of payments for the 59 files, for which APIA Suceava has estimated damages of more than RON 483,000, was stopped as a result of the verifications initiated and requested by DNA Suceava, not as a result of APIA Suceava employees’ own findings. The investigation concerns subsidies offered in 2012-2014, the estimated damages surpassing RON 5 M.