Moldovan authorities are investigating potential cases of corruption connected to the country’s food safety agency.

In late March, the National Anticorruption Center carried out searches at the Giurgiulești Border Inspection Post (BIP) of the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSA).

Eleven people were detained for 72 hours, suspected of having taken illegal payments for facilitating the transit of goods. They included the head of the Giurgiulesti BIP and 10 other inspectors. 

According to the investigations, Giurgiulesti BIP employees allegedly accepted sums of money, in different currencies, from transporters of animal and vegetable products in order not to subject them to sanitary and veterinary checks. In exchange for these payments, officials would facilitate the introduction of various products into the country without the relevant documents.

Amounts obtained per shift amounted to 15,000 Moldovan lei ($846), collected at the Giurgiulești-Reni and Giurgiulești-Galați state border crossing points.

Searches were carried out at the Giurgiulești Border Inspection Post as well as at the homes and in the cars of suspects. This included mobile phones and computing equipment. Cash was seized in different currencies including euros, dollars, lei, British pounds, Turkish lira, and Russian rubles.

In early April, seven staff from the inspection post at Giurgiulesti were placed under house arrest, for 30 days. Four others were subjected to judicial control. In mid-April, house arrest penalties were upheld after an appeal.

Another case and food agency response
The National Anticorruption Center and the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (Procuratura) have also documented 200 cases of alleged corruption in less than a month at an inspection post on the Leușeni-Albita border.

Twenty people were subjected to searches at work and home in April. Authorities seized cash, mobile phones, and documents potentially relevant to the investigation.

According to evidence gathered by the National Anticorruption Center and prosecutors, ANSA officials are suspected of involvement in the transmission and receipt of amounts varying between 100 and 1,000 Moldovan lei ($5 and $56). Cash was collected from transporters for avoiding sanitary veterinary controls and food safety requirements while importing animals, animal products, and raw materials of animal origin and feed.

After receiving payment, staff performed a superficial control of documents and imported products or did not perform the checks, claim investigators. All 20 officials, including 15 principal inspectors and five senior ones, remain under investigation.

ANSA said it “dissociates itself” from any employees involved in corrupt practices and its management would support and collaborate with investigators.

The authority said it is committed to continue working in the spirit of legality, transparency, fairness, and accountability, adding it will take all necessary measures to combat corruption. It urged anyone with information on misconduct by ANSA employees to get in contact with the agency and promised to investigate such reports.

In early 2023, the Moldovan Government voted to reform ANSA. Ten subdivisions will be created from the existing 23 units at present. As a result, the number of leadership positions will decrease by close to 100, from 244 to 145.

Lithuanian case
Meanwhile, the Special Investigation Service (STT) in Lithuania has started a pre-trial investigation around claims of bribery at the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT).

The suspect, Aušra Stumbrienė, an advisor at the Tauragė department of VMVT, was questioned in April and has been suspended from duties for six months.

At the end of last year, STT revealed it had initiated inquiries after allegations of bribery were made against four people – the former director of VMVT and three other managers. They are accused of demanding and receiving money from businesses after threatening to stop their production in the Lithuanian market or halt the company’s activities. The ex-director of VMVT, Mantas Staškevičius, resigned from the role in November 2022.

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