Former Moldovan PM Filat goes on hunger strike, demands public trial

By bne IntelliNews June 1, 2016

Former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat has gone on hunger strike, reported on May 31. Filat wants his trial to held publicly and he claims to have been a victim of abuse by prosecutors and members of the court. Judges have rejected his requests for public hearings.

Filat was arrested in 2015 and accused of involvement in the $1bn frauds in the country’s banking system. He has denied the accusations and has repeatedly accused his rival, influential oligarch and politician Vlad Plahotniuc - recently appointed as coordinator of the ruling coalition - of manipulating the judicial system against him. Filat is the only official to have been arrested for a scheme that needed backing across the board from law enforcement and financial market regulators. By contrast Ilan Shor, the main suspect indicated by the Kroll report on the frauds in the banking sector, ran in and won the local election in Orhei last year.

The functioning of Moldova’s judicial system is at core of the talks not only with the European Commission, but also with the International Monetary Fund. Corruption is widely believed to run rampant in the judiciary. In Transparency International’s 2015 Global Corruption Perceptions survey on Moldova, 80% of respondents described Moldova’s judicial system as corrupt, the highest percentage for any public institution.

Filat is protesting against repeated abuses by prosecutors and judges, his lawyer Igor Popa said. All Filat’s lawyers’ requests have also been rejected, Popa complained.

Popa also commented on witnesses called by the defence and endorsed by the judges as relevant for the case, but who have been reluctant to show up in court. It is not the defence’s duty to convince them to testify, Popa commented.

Filat was arrested in October and his arrest has been extended several times since then. The former prime minister was arrested for alleged corruption and influence peddling.

Filat allegedly received a $260mn bribe related to the massive banking fraud in which $1bn was siphoned off from three Moldovan banks. His arrest was based on statements from Ilan Shor, the main suspect in the fraud, as revealed by the investigations of Kroll consultancy company.

Filat’s lawyer said the repeated extension of his arrest warrant is abusive and illegal, adding that the prosecutors have not brought any new evidence. “We believe that Vlad Filat’s continuous arrest is an attempt to isolate him, to keep him silent, with the aim of not making public either the procedure for the arrest request or the substance of the file,” Popa said.

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