Fugitive former Moldovan leader Plahotniuc banned from the US for “significant corruption”

By bne IntelliNews January 14, 2020

Moldovan businessman and the former head of the Democratic Party (PDM) Vlad Plahotniuc has been banned from entering the US "due to his involvement in significant corruption," the US State Department said in a statement on January 13. Arrest warrants have been issued for Plahotniuc by Moldova and Russia.

Plahotnuic was Moldova’s most powerful man until the PDM was ousted from office by a short-lived alliance between President Igor Dodon’s Socialists and the pro-EU ACUM bloc. He fled the country immediately after the new government took office. 

In his official capacity, Plahotniuc was involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova, the US State Department statement reads.

“Today’s action sends a strong signal the United States does not tolerate corruption and stands with the people of Moldova in their fight against it,” it commented.

Dodon and pro-EU former prime minister Maia Sandu both praised the decision.

"The sanctions applied to the oligarch who fled the country represent a positive and expected signal from our Western partners, for which we are grateful," Dodon told Tass news agency.

Sandu thanked the US government as well for taking the decision not to extend travel visas to Plahotniuc and his family.

"We thank the US government for responding to our request to punish him, thus doing justice to the citizens of our country. Igor Dodon, who is trying to take over Plahotniuc's corrupt system, must remember — sooner or later, those who commit crimes against their own people will be punished,” said Sandu.

Moldova’s anti-corruption prosecutors requested preventive arrest for 30 days for Plahotniuc and the issue of a warrant in this regard, after the former head of the Democratic Party failed to show up on October 9 when he was invited by prosecutors for hearings in connection to his involvement in a money laundering case.

Prosecutors have been examining Plahotnuic’s activities after the government headed by his Democratic Party lost power earlier this year. The case is connected to the three Moldovan banks, Banca de Economii, Unibank and Banca Sociala, that were liquidated after $1bn bank frauds were revealed in 2014.

According to documents consulted by prosecutors, in 2013-2015, Plahotniuc created a criminal scheme with the purpose of converting, transferring, acquiring, owning and using assets that he knew were derived from illegal sources.

Separately, a court in Tveri, Moscow issued an arrest warrant for Plahotniuc on August 5. 

He is targeted in a criminal case centred on the alleged establishment of a criminal group and drug trafficking, according to RIA Novosti and Deschide.md, referring to the court spokesman, Svetlana Skacikova.

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