Moldova: Ex-Tax Chief Still at Large after Six-Year Sentence Announced

Published: 30 June 2015

Nicolae Vicol. Photo: Interpol

By Beth Lacy

The former chief of Moldova's highest tax authority, Nicolae Vicol, remains at large after being sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for corruption. 

Vicol was convicted earlier this month for abuse of power and illegally wiretapping his colleagues. His sentence was decided by the First Court in Chisinau on June 18 in the culmination of a court case that stretched over two years.

The court also banned Vicol from holding public office for five years and ordered him to pay a fine of 10,000 Moldovan lei (about US$ 533).

The court pronounced the sentence in Vicol's absence. His lawyer, Vasile Nicoară, said Vicol was in Romania for medical treatment and his planned date of return was unknown.

Vicol is now wanted nationally and internationally. His picture and details are on Interpol's website.

Deputy secretary-general of the government, Eduard Banaruc, was found guilty of helping Vicol in the same case. He, too, was not present in the courtroom to hear he had been fined 10 thousand lei (about US$ 533).

In 2013, officers of the National Anticorruption Center found about US$ 43,750 worth of currency in Banaruc's office, including US dollars, Euros and Moldovan lei. Banaruc could not explain where the money came from.

Vicol is the third person this year to have been sentenced to jail in Moldova in absentia. On Jan. 19, 2015, former Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc was sentenced to four years over his involvement in the April 7th 2009 affair (also called the Twitter Revolution).

In April 2009, huge protests erupted across the country the day before Parliamentary election results were announced, and police arrested and reportedly tortured more than 200 demonstrators.

Several months later, in the same case, policeman Ion Perju was handed a ten-year prison term.

Both men are thought to be abroad. Papuc is wanted within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, and Perju is wanted by Interpol.

Vicol's case was heard by the court about two years after his house was raided in February 2013 by the National Anticorruption Center and Anticorruption Prosecutors.

At that time, several tapes had been published on the Internet appearing to show Nicolae Vicol receiving instructions from former Prime Minister Vlad Filat not to tax particular businessmen, and to overtax others. Vicol has denied involvement in the case.

Vicol's lawyer denounced the sentence as illegal, and vowed to appeal.

By Olga Ceaglei, RISE Moldova