Renato Usatii, the popular mayor of Moldova’s second city Balti, has been asked to make a formal statement to the Anticorruption Office after he claimed in a media interview that oligarch Vlad Plahotnuic had offered him $1.5mn to leave the country in the run-up to the October 30 presidential election.
Partidul Nostru leader Usatii is one of Moldova’s two leading pro-Russian politicians, the other being Socialist Party (PSRM) lead Igor Dodon. As he is under 40, Usatii is not eligible to run in the presidential election. However, he announced on July 23 that he will support Dodon in the second round of voting, when he is likely to face a candidate from the pro-EU opposition.
This would help the PSRM leader who is already ahead in the polls and wants a general election to follow the presidential vote. Plahotnuic is the backer of Moldova’s current ruling coalition, which would almost certainly lose power if an early general election is held.
In a television interview, Usatii said Plahotniuc had promised him $1.5mn if he leaves Moldova in September and October, deschide.md reported. The vice president of Moldova’s senior ruling Democratic Party (PD), Plahotniuc reportedly offered to give Usatii even more money if he leaves Moldovan political life for good.
Usatii said the Anticorruption Office has officially requested him to come and make a statement on July 25 related to his claim that Plahotniuc has offered him bribes. “I will go to the hearings,” he announced on July 22.
Usatii said during the TV show that in June he had two meetings with Plahotniuc on June 6 and 16. A third meeting was expected to take place but it was cancelled by Plahotniuc, agora.md reported.
“He promised me that he will solve all the problems in Balti and I will not be attacked by his media outlets, but I have to leave Moldova between September and November, as he is preparing a serious attempt here at the end of October. For this, he offered me $1.5mn,” Usatii said. “He also told me that he is considering a new figure […] in order [for me] to leave for good and say I am doing it because of health problems, to leave the mayor post and that of party leader,” he added.
However, Usatii gave no proof to support his statements. He has previously made unsupported statements, including that his former political partner Dodon was serving Plahotniuc’s interests and that the two met in Cyprus in March.
Despite this, Usatii announced on July 23 he would support Dodon in the second round of the presidential election.
“I have already talked to Dodon about the second round of the presidential elections. I told him that [pro-EU opposition candidate] Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon could meet in the second round, but most probably there will be a confrontation between Plahotniuc’s candidate and Dodon, and we will surely support Dodon. I can assure you that it will be not only us who will support him, but everybody, as he will stop Plahotniuc from capturing the state,” Usatii said during a television show, according to Unimedia.info.
Dodon and Usatii teamed up in the last parliamentary elections in November 2014, when Usatii backed Dodon’s PSRM helping it to become the largest parliamentary party. However, the relationship between the two seems to have deteriorated lately as both have accused each other of serving Plahotniuc’s interests.
Plahotniuc is a controversial Moldovan businessman with links to politicians in Russia and Romania as well as Moldova. Considered to be close to former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, during whose presidency he built most of his fortune, Plahotniuc is active in energy trading, media, real estate and banking. He is also considered to have been behind the arrest of former Prime Minister Vlad Filat in connection with the theft of $1bn from Moldovan banks.
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