Moldova Announces National Search For Fugitive Oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc

Moldova’s Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Plahotniuc’s, the country’s biggest oligarch and the former leader of the Democratic Party. He is accused of large-scale money laundering through companies explicitly set up to circulate large amounts of funds. According to the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, the money was from the three Moldovan banks involved in the “Billion Case.” 

On October 8, 2019, a representatives of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office summoned former Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc for hearings as a suspect in a money laundering case.

“Vladimir Plahotniuc is suspected of committing the offense provided by art.243 paragraph (3) letter b) of Moldova’s Criminal Code – money laundering, committed in very large proportions.

The institution uses this public notification considering that there is no other way of informing the citizen Vladimir Plahotniuc about his appointment before the prosecutor.

The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office draws attention to respecting the principle of presumption of innocence regarding the citizen Vladimir Plahotniuc,” the representative of the Prosecutor’s Office announced in the Facebook post.

The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office declared that the criminal prosecution commenced on September 23, 2019.   

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. 

In order to conceal the illicit nature of the goods, Plahotniuc set up – through intermediaries – several domestic and foreign companies including Longford Partners Ltd, Introstyle Solution Ltd, Rowallan Overseas, Nobil Air Limited, Tukumaan Limited, Srl Finp Invest, etc.

The money – about $18 million and €3.5 million in illicit funds – was circulated through those companies. 

Plahotniuc was aware that the money constituted illicit financial means, obtained through non-performing bank loans from Banca De Economii, Unibank, and Banca Socială. These three banks were involved in the 2014 “Billion Case,” which according to the Kroll 2 report involved $1 billion – or around 12 percent of Moldova’s GDP – stolen through illicit loans. 

On September 23, 2019, the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office also commenced another criminal prosecution in Plahotniuc’s name, under article 243 paragraph (3) letter b) of the Criminal Code on the laundering of money in very large proportions. 

According to the materials of the second case, during 2013-2014, Plahotniuc’s company Tukumaan Limited paid:

  • an approximately $7.2 million loan to Finpar Invest;
  • 381,344 euros for air transport services for passengers to Nobil Air;
  • €1.55 million and $1.14 million in transfers to an account opened at ABLV Bank in Plahotniuc’s wife’s name, through the company Asian Development Limited.

The Prosecutor’s Office mentioned that the two criminal cases have been linked in a single procedure. Opening the two criminal cases was possible due to the information exchange from June 2019 between the Moldovan and Swiss authorities, and also thanks to the analysis of the economic agents affiliated with Vladimir Plahotniuc done by the Office for Preventing and Fighting against Money Laundering.

Another person was preventively arrested in the criminal case and charged with complicity in the crime of money laundering, for acting as a “manager” of a domestic trading company through which some of the money was transferred.

According to ZdG’s sources, this person goes by the name of Victor Gammer and has been detained for 30 days in relation to the money laundering case.

According to the State Population Register, there is only one person named Victor Gammer registered in Moldova. At the same time, the data of the State Registration Chamber show that Victor Gammer appears as an administrator of the Gammer company, as well as a founder and administrator of Fredex, both of which were founded in the 1990s.

The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office has allegedly issued an indictment order for a second person involved in the same money laundering case. 

According to ZdG’s sources, this person is an administrator of the company Tehnomet Group, which was managed by Andrei Vartician until 2017 and is now led by Vladimir Verin. 

On October 11, Ciocana headquarters of the Chișinău court granted the prosecutors’ request and issued a 30-day arrest warrant in Plahotniuc’s name.

“We consider the prosecutors’ request unchallenged and we will challenge it in the hierarchically superior court,” Vladislav Roșca, Plahotniuc’s lawyer, insisted.

During a live TV show broadcast on TVRMoldova on August 29, 2019, Andrei Năstase, Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, declared that an international search for Plahotniuc would soon be announced. 

“I hope that the Prosecutors will move faster than Plahotniuc and his accomplices are expecting, and then we will have the same procedure to initiate an international search warrant in his name and hold him criminally liable as soon as possible,” the Minister said during the show. 

In August 2019, ACUM Bloc deputy and Vice-President of the Parliament, Alexandru Slusari, filed a request for information on Plahotniuc’s 2011 transactions – accusing the oligarch of tax evasion. This prompted Moldova’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the legality of the former Democratic Party leader’s 2011 transactions. 

Plahotniuc is also incriminated in a number of criminal cases in other countries. 

In April 2017, Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism had opened a criminal case in Plahotniuc’s name, accusing him of establishing a criminal group, blackmail, deception and money laundering.  

On August 5, 2019, Moscow’s Tverskoy court issued an arrest warrant for Vlad Plahotniuc as well, after accusing him in absentia of organizing a criminal group. The prosecutor has requested his extradition to the Russian Federation. 

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