Moldovan court authorises seizure of Victoriabank assets worth €120mn

Moldovan court authorises seizure of Victoriabank assets worth €120mn
By bne IntelliNews August 11, 2020

Moldova’s third-largest bank by assets, Victoriabank, said on August 10 it is ready to cooperate in an investigation launched by prosecutors. 

The statement was issued following media reports that a court had approved prosecutors’ request to seize around MDL2.3bn (€120mn) of the bank’s assets. 

The seizure was reportedly requested by prosecutors as part of their investigations related to the frauds in the banking system — the notorious “$1bn frauds” — that surfaced in 2014-2015.

The court approved the request to seize assets including cars, real estate and state securities, “in order to cover the prejudice caused by the criminal deeds”, reported.

Since 2018, the bank has been controlled by a consortium formed by Romania’s Banca Transilvania and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). 

The bank's management expressed surprise about the investigations related to actions supposed to have taken place six years ago. The bank also implied that it had not been informed by prosecutors or the court about the seizure of its assets before the information surfaced in the media.

“In our opinion, Victoriabank, in its current form [controlled by Banca Transilvania and the EBRD] and after the transformation started in 2018, has nothing to do with the case investigated by the authorities. To demonstrate this, Victoriabank is working with the authorities and awaits the next steps in the process,” Victoriabank said in a press release.

“We are confident that in the next steps all charges against Victoriabank will be dismantled. In the meantime, our bank will continue to play its role as a financier of people and the economy,” said the bank’s president Bogdan Plesuvescu. 

The bank’s statement added that shareholders Banca Transilvania and the EBRD "will resort to all legal means to protect Victoriabank”.

Prosecutors were given the go-ahead to seize Victoriabank's assets shortly after Veaceslav Platon, a businessman recently released from prison after being sentenced in connection to the bank frauds, told head prosecutor Alexandr Stoyanoglo that Victoriabank is vulnerable and it can be taken back from the current shareholders.

Platon was arrested in Ukraine and sentenced in Moldova, in 2016, to 25 years in jail reportedly at the request of fugitive politician and businessman Vlad Plahotniuc. He was freed in June this year as Stoyanoglo stated that “his case was fully forged”.

A tape revealing a friendly talk between Platon and Stoyanoglo on this topic surfaced and was circulated by media.

The investigations related to the bank frauds in Moldova gained momentum and broadened, while also getting a political dimension, after President Igor Dodon appointed Stoyanoglo last autumn.

Former Democratic Party leader Plahotniuc — Dodon’s main rival — and officials of the National Bank of Moldova (BNM) were accused of having benefitted from and facilitated the frauds.

Romania’s Banca Transilvania became a shareholder of Victoriabank with a total participation of over 66% alongside the EBRD in January 2018.

The EBRD increased its stake in Victoriabank in 2016 in a move to restore effective corporate governance and attract a strong strategic investor to Moldova’s third largest lender. The EBRD consolidated its stake in a special purpose vehicle, VB Investment Holding, located outside Moldova, owned and controlled by the bank. Banca Transilvania channeled its investment into Victoriabank through the same special purpose vehicle.