Grenade thrown at home of Moldova’s central bank chief

Grenade thrown at home of Moldova’s central bank chief
By bne IntelliNews February 2, 2016

A criminal investigation has been launched after a grenade was thrown at the home of Moldova’s central bank governor, Dorin Dragutanu, early on February 1, prosecutors announced.

Around $1bn – equivalent to around 10% of the country’s GDP – was siphoned off from three Moldovan banks in a massive fraud discovered in November 2014, with much of the money disappearing. Dragutanu, who resigned in September, has been the target of public anger over the central bank’s failure to prevent the fraud.

The attack took place at 2:40am on February 1 when Dragutanu and his family were in the house, Moldova’s prosecutor general said in a statement. The building was damaged, but no injuries were reported.

The incident is being investigated as a terrorist act, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years, the statement added.

The perpetrators have not been identified, and the attack appears to have been intended to intimidate, possibly with the aim of creating the impression that the country is heading toward violence. While there have been several mass protests in Moldova in the last six months, these have been largely peaceful.

Dragutanu said at the time of his resignation that he had been made a scapegoat for the fraud in which funds were siphoned off from Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank. He also claimed that unnamed politicians had put pressure on the central bank to block an intervention at Banca de Economii, and interfered with the investigation into the fraud.

However, he remains the bank’s acting head, as a replacement has not yet been appointed. As a result, Moldova has been unable to secure a much-needed new stand-by arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has told the government that talks cannot take place until a new governor has been appointed. The IMF announced the day after Dragutanu resigned that talks on a new SBA were out of question.

Fallout from the banking scandal continues to dominate Moldovan politics. On October 29, former prime minister Vlad Filat was arrested and accused of accepting bribes worth $260mn to facilitate the fraud. While Filat denies the accusations, his arrest precipitated the fall of prime minister Valeriu Strelet’s government as members of Filat’s Liberal Democratic Party accused oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, backer of its coalition partner the Democratic Party, of being behind the arrest.