Chisinau accuses Russia of hindering money laundering investigations

Chisinau accuses Russia of hindering money laundering investigations
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest March 10, 2017

Moldova’s Prime Minister Pavel Filip and parliament speaker Andrian Candu summoned Russian ambassador Farid Muhametshin on March 9 over what they called “the harassment of Moldovan officials” by the Russian authorities. 

The two politicians claimed Moldovan officials were being targeted in an attempt to stop them from investigating the $22bn siphoned out of Russia and laundered through Moldinconbank, the official note submitted to Muhametshin implied.

The Moldovan authorities outlined a series of abuses including the harassment of Moldovan officials visiting Russia with the aim of investigating the money laundering, according to a parliament statement

Specifically, it said Moldovan officials were stopped and searched on their entry to Russia, and subjected to “humiliating treatment” by Russian security services. Russia also tried to put visiting Moldovans under international monitoring. 

The situation is so serious that the Moldovan authorities have officially recommended that officials avoid visits to Russia given the security risks, the statement added.

In addition, Moldova has complained about Russia’s total lack of cooperation in investigating the fraud. Several international agreements of which Russia is a member, as well as bilateral agreements between the two countries have been violated, Chisinau claimed. 

However, Filip and Candu stressed that the issue is not of a political nature but involves “a Russian intelligence service”, most likely the Federal Security Service (FSB). Chisinau has called on the Russian authorities to put an end to the abuse of Moldovan officials and take action against those responsible.

The transfer of money from 19 Russian financial institutions through Moldinconbank (currently Moldova’s second largest bank) to bank accounts held by offshore firms in Latvian banks – the so-called “Russian laundry” - was stopped after the launch of a criminal investigation into money laundering in February 2014, Moldova’s National Anticorruption Centre (CNA) confirmed in May 2016. Moldinconbank was reportedly involved in the illegal transfer of $46bn from Russia, and is currently being investigated by the Russian authorities.

St Petersburg-based businessman Alexandr Grigoriev was arrested in Moscow in November 2015 for the alleged laundering of $20bn through Moldinconbank. Moldinconbank confirmed the transfer of some MDL100bn (€4.7bn) but claimed that the operations were fully legal. The value of the transfers matches the $5bn suspected to have been transferred from Russkiy Zemelniy Bank to Moldinconbank and then to a bank in Latvia.

Reputed corporate raider Veaceslav Platon was still in control of Moldinconbank last June, according to investigations by Rise Moldova. Platon has since been arrested and is being investigated in connection to the bank frauds. His former business partner Vlad Plahotniuc, who is now leader of the ruling Democratic Party, is rumoured to be pressing him to sell his controlling stakes in key banks in the country. Investigations into Platon’s suspected connections to the frauds are still ongoing.