Buried in the Woods

The three assassinations that Robert Gîrleanu is charged with were committed in 2000 in the Ialoveni region in the Republic of Moldova. The victims were three Moldovan luxury car thiefs: Ilie Buruiană, Mihai Guzun and Andrei Plămădeală. They were kidnapped, tortured, and then executed with a semi-automatic pistol. Their bodies were burnt and buried in the woods. It took 9 years, until 2009, before their charred corpses were found and identified. Moldovan investigators believe Gîrleanu, who had three accomplices, led the execution squad. One of the accomplices, Dumitru Nicolae Catruc was detained soon after the murders by the Moldovan police and he confessed describing, in great detail, the murders. Catruc identified the others and pointed out that the assassination was ordered by Ion Anton Druță, alias "Vanea the Writer"- a Moldovan underworld figure. However, the videotaped confession went missing from the police file allowing Druță and Gîrleanu to remain free for years. It was only in 2010 that the video tape resurfaced allowing the Moldovan prosecutors to charge Druță, Gîrleanu and the others with murder.

“Vanea the Writer” and Gîrleanu hid in Romania, mostly in the capital Bucharest and in the city of Iași in north Romania, where they obtained Romanian citizenship. According to the Moldovan authorities, both are lieutenants of Ion Gușan, a feared Moldovan vor-v-zakone- thief in the code, a term in the former Soviet Union that was an equivalent of a top organized crime figure.

A Romanian prosecution indictment that charges Ion Druță with cigarettes smuggling portrays him as a highly dangerous person. "The Writer managed to corrupt policemen and prosecutors after he established himself in the city of Iași. He managed to control part of the Corduneni clan, a powerful organized crime group in Iași and he humiliated members of the clan by forcing them to kneel in front of him in the street" say Romanian prosecutors who also add that The Writer and his group operate four or five clandestine cigarettes factories in Romania.

In 2010, Gîrleanu was arrested in Romania for cigarette smuggling unrelated to the murders. The Romanian prosecutors say that Gîrleanu was the leader of a smuggling ring after they discovered over 650,000 packs of cigarettes hidden in a warehouse in Urziceni, Romania. Romanian authorities said that the unpaid tax for these cigarettes was about €1 million. Gîrleanu was freed on bail pending trial in the smuggling case. He was arrested again in June 2011 in the triple murder case and is still behind bars.

Druță, according to Moldovan authorities, ordered the triple assassination that was carried out by Gîrleanu but he has many other criminal business ties to Gîrleanu. Druță is currently charged with providing protection to Gîrleanu's cigarettes smuggling network. Romanian prosecutors mention in documents obtained by OCCRP of an instance where a competitor in the cigarette smuggling industry, Ion Mesina, was kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint. Mesina was, according to an indictment, smuggling in the same region with Gîrleanu and the latter wanted him out. The Writer's younger brothers, Grigore and Tudor Druță, were arrested earlier this year for the 2011 murder of Valeriu Damian, a controversial businessman from Bacău Romania. Romanian authorities believed they ordered the torturing and killing of the businessman.