Moldovan prosecutors reportedly seize properties connected to former leader Plahotniuc

Moldovan prosecutors reportedly seize properties connected to former leader Plahotniuc
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest July 3, 2019

Several properties registered with Finpar Invest Ltd., “a core company of the real estate empire” of Moldova’s former political leader Vlad Plahotniuc, have been seized by law enforcement in a money-laundering case, Rise Moldova investigative NGO reported

Plahotniuc’s government resigned two weeks ago, putting an end to a political crisis and allowing the new parliamentary majority that declared “de-oligarchisation” as its main target to come to office.

Rise Moldova estimates the properties seized at MDL100mn (€5mn). Among assets, the boutique hotel Nobil in downtown Chisinau and the TV studios of Plahotniuc’s TV station Publika.

However, the legal grounds for the seizures and the logic of the assets chosen are largely unclear.

Finpar is controlled by Cyprus registered Asirapal Enterprises Limited, according to earlier investigations by Rise. Rise had previously spotted properties evaluated at €30mn owned indirectly (like Finpar) in Switzerland and Romania. Separately, in his wealth statement Plahotniuc declares as his assets two Moldovan companies and stakes in two foreign companies registered in Abu Dhabi and Samoa. 

It is unclear why the prosecutors did not start with assets registered in Plahotniuc’s name, rather than properties indirectly owned and therefore more difficult to demonstrate as his assets. One answer is that the hotel is Plahotniuc's most visible asset and furthermore a place where many of his enemies and partners alike have reportedly been recorded in compromising situations. 

The law enforcement body that reportedly seized the properties admitted that it cooperates with prosecutors in general, and refused to comment on the specific case. Rise quotes no prosecutor having ordered the seizure. Finpar officials claim that they are not aware of any document that seizes its properties.

The Agency for the Recovery of Criminal Goods (ARBI), a subdivision of the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC) specialising in “parallel financial investigations and the identification of goods obtained by illegal means”, according to Rise, reportedly issued an act with this end on June 26. The document was issued five days after the head of the NAC Bogdan Zumbreanu was dismissed by lawmakers. Zumbreanu was dismissed on ground that “he was loyal to Plahotniuc”, according to the document endorsed by lawmakers quoted by Jurnal — a publication supporting the pro-EU Dignity and Truth (PPDA) party that is now part of the ruling coalition. 

Just as in the case of the reported seizure of Plahotniuc’s properties, there are no court decisions or legal elements supporting the decisions. The CNA, now led by interim head Lidia Chireoglo, has not commented in regard to the seizure of Plahotniuc’s properties.

The only act mentioned by Ruse Moldova, identified by number 21 / 1-3645, has the effect of seizing several properties owned by Finpar Invest SRL over a period of 15 days.