It has been more than five months since the Democratic Party is no longer in government, and during this time Vladimir Plahotniuc, former leader of the Democratic Party and fugitive oligarch, did not appear in the public space. Moldova’s authorities announced Plahotniuc in national and international search, with a 30-day arrest warrant issued in his name.
Plahotniuc is suspected of money laundering in particularly large proportions. With his disappearance from the public space, his close friends also disappeared, his charitable foundation became silent, and the site bearing his name is no longer active.
ZdG analyses how the money laundering case in which Plahotniuc is suspected evolves and takes a closer look at the activity of Plahotniuc’s charitable foundation.
How the money laundering case evolves
At the beginning of October, representatives of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office informed that the former leader of the Democratic Party, Vladimir Plahotniuc, is suspected of committing the offense provided by art. 243 of the Criminal Code – money laundering, in very large proportions.
Two other persons are targeted in this money laundering case, one of whom has already been detained for 30 days, and in the name of another, the authorities issued an order for indictment and searches for the person.
In this time, although he was announced in international search, the authorities were unable to obtain information about Vladimir Plahotniuc’s whereabouts, nor about the second person involved in the case.
At the same time, Plahotniuc’s accomplices, who were detained for 30 days, were released by the court.
About the other person detained in the money laundering case, ZdG wrote earlier that he goes by the name of Victor Gammer. The authorities accused Gammer of complicity in the crime of money laundering, as he fictively managed a resident commercial company through which some of the money was transferred.
The chief prosecutor of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, Viorel Morari, informed us that six persons were heard in the file, five as suspects, and only one as a witness. At the same time, according to Morari, during this period searches were carried out in five locations.
“Special investigative measures have been ordered and the international legal aid rogatory commission has been issued in Latvia, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This is what I can offer you, “ Viorel Morari said.
Previously Viorel Morari, the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, admitted that a criminal case in the name of Vladimir Plahotniuc could have been opened earlier; however, if certain actions had been taken during the Democratic Party government, he would have been removed from office through disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges.
According to the prosecutors during the years 2013-2015, Vladimir Plahotniuc created a criminal scheme with the purpose of converting, transferring, acquiring, owning and using some goods that he definitely knew constituted illicit income.
Prosecutors claim that in order to conceal the illicit nature of the goods, Plahotniuc set up – through intermediaries – several domestic and foreign companies, through which he organized the circulation of money means in very large proportions – about $18 million and €3.5 million. The materials of the case demonstrate that Plahotniuc was aware that the money constituted illicit financial means, obtained through non-performing bank loans from Banca De Economii, Unibank, and Banca Socială.
Vlad Plahotniuc’s “Edelweiss” Foundation – under restructuring
Vladimir Plahotniuc’s departure from Moldova led to the cessation of the activity of the foundation that bears his name.
If during the period when the Democratic Party was in government the Edelweiss site was full of press releases about donations, repairs, aids, donations, medical consulting services, and photos with Plahotniuc together with citizens, now, the site seems abandoned, the latest news being published on June 17.
The Facebook page also seems abandoned, however, no information about a possible cessation of activity is present on the website.
“We’re in a restructuring period and for a period the activity was stopped. I cannot go into details and I don’t know certain aspects. I can’t give you more details,” ” Edelweiss executive director, Lilia Cucoș told ZdG.
According to Ion Tăbârță, political analyst at IDIS Viitorul, Vladimir Plahotniuc used the Edelweiss foundation to promote the image of the party he led.
“This foundation is named after him. It is obvious that as a result of the activity of this foundation some people enjoyed some support, but it was an indirect way to promote the image of the Democratic Party and, in particular, to promote the image of the former leader of the Democratic Party.” the political analyst mentions.
The Promo-LEX Association qualifies the activity of charitable foundations as a practice of using image transfer through promotional activities, in the context where in several elections the charitable foundations make indirect political promotion.
“For the parliamentary elections of February 24, 2019, in reports, we mentioned this element of presence of the activity of the foundations, including the Edelweiss foundation. I mentioned in the report that this may be at least an exercise in image transfer through charitable activities.
There is also the moment of financial reporting, or this money was not reported during the election campaign, although they certainly had an impact during the election period. Comparatively, for the general local elections of October 20, in our reports, the observers didn’t observe and didn’t find that this foundation was involved in the election campaign,” Igor Bucataru, Head of the Promo-LEX mission analysis team told ZdG.
According to Edelweiss’s financial reports, in 2016, Vladimir Plahotniuc contributed with around €1.8 million (35 million lei), and in 2017 – around €1.4 million (27 million lei) for foundation’s activity.
With Plahotniuc’s departure, the site that bears his name (www.plahotniuc.md), where communications about the Democratic Party activity were published, became inactive.