The first sentence in the “Laundromat” case: a former judge was found guilty

The Chisinau Court of Appeal has delivered the first sentence in the “Laundromat” case. Former judge Gheorghe Marchitan was found guilty of committing the crime of knowingly passing a judgment against the law, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office announced.

The criminal case was initiated in September 2016 by the Prosecutor General’s Office, based on a self-representation by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (PA). The PA also represented the state prosecution.

According to the materials, in 2011, Gheorghe Marchitan, in the exercise of his office as a judge, issued a judgment contrary to the law in a civil case at the request of a UK-based company on the collection of debt for $200 million, jointly and severally, from another UK company and its guarantors – a natural person domiciled in the Republic of Moldova and two companies from the Russian Federation.

The judge issued and released the court order ordering the debt collection for $200 million for the benefit of the creditor – a foreign/non-resident company based in the UK, despite the lack of valid legal documents evidencing the creditor’s powers of attorney. The judge also ignored the fact that the rest of the documents attached to the file were not properly authenticated or legalized. The defendant rendering the judgment ignored legal procedures.

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That court order issued by the defendant on 11 March 2011 in the civil case had considerable financial consequences ($200,000,000). A bailiff forcibly collected large sums of money from bank accounts in the Russian Federation for the “creditor” benefit, damaging the image of justice in the Republic of Moldova and undermining confidence in the courts, domestically and internationally.

The prosecution lasted about four months, and the trial lasted more than five years in the first instance. During this time, the court examined the case in general procedure, and the defendant did not admit guilt of committing the crime. The appeal to the Court of Appeal lasted 1.5 years.

As a result of the examination of the appeal lodged by the defendant’s lawyer against the sentence of the Chisinau Court of Appeal, Center seat, of 23 September 2022, the judges of the criminal panel of the Chisinau Court of Appeal, on 15 May 2024, even though they admitted the appeal, found Gheorghe Marchitan guilty of knowingly pronouncing a decision contrary to the law in the “Laundromat” case. However, the statute of limitations for criminal liability led to his release from criminal responsibility.

“This is the first decision of the Court of Appeal in the ‘Laundromat’ case, in which we see a trend towards uniformity of practice in the criminal cases adjudication, thereby promoting consistency and equality in the application of the law. The finding of a criminal offense is an important decision for the investigation in the “Laundromat” case, thus establishing potential predicate offenses for money laundering. It was a result of these contrary rulings. The courts’ decisions to convict the defendants have significant consequences both in the national case and in international investigations into this complex scheme, which laundered more than US$22 billion through the banking and judicial system in the Republic of Moldova,” the AP reports.

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