Second Moldova whistleblower asks to testify to FBI over $1bn bank frauds

Second Moldova whistleblower asks to testify to FBI over $1bn bank frauds
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest August 3, 2016

The reputed corporate raider Veaceslav Platon, who was recently arrested in Ukraine on a warrant issued by prosecutors in Moldova, has asked for US protection and wants to testify to the FBI in relation to the $1bn bank frauds that rocked Moldova in 2014, one of Platon's lawyers, Denis Sriptan, told a press conference in Kyiv, Jurnal daily reported on August 2.

Platon has accused oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, the first deputy president of the ruling Democratic Party, of having coordinated the frauds and claims that his life is in danger if extradited to Moldova. Testimony against Plahotniuc are adding up after a senior Moldovan official, Mihail Gofman, fingered the oligarch in the frauds and offered to testify to the US authorities.  

US prosecutors could get involved in the case via one of Plahotniuc’s main assistants in banking, American passport holder Sergei Iaralov, Forbes reported. Iaralov was actively, though informally, involved in the formation of the ruling coalition this February.

The US involvement in what is believed to have been an organised crime operation targeting Moldova’s public finances could lead to arrest warrants in the months ahead, particularly for Iaralov, a "Plahotniuc bestie", and possibly for Plahotniuc himself, Forbes claimed.

Platon’s request to be questioned by the FBI comes after Gofman, a former deputy director of anti-money laundering and terrorist finance for Moldova, escaped to the US when Moldovan law enforcement officers were trying to get him to testify. Gofman claims that his life would be in danger in Moldova. He served as deputy head of the anti-money laundry department of Moldova’s National Anticorruption Centre for 11 years and was sacked in April 2014, just before the massive frauds in the banking system surfaced.

“The entire system was rigged by Plahotniuc, with [former Prime Minister] Vlad Filat in his corner,” Gofman has claimed. Filat is serving a nine-year prison term for supposedly allowing national bank reserves to be ransacked.

Moldovan prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Platon on July 27 and he was arrested the following day. However, his lawyers claim that Platon is no longer a citizen of Moldova or Russia – another country that could ask for his extradition for his involvement in the laundering of huge amounts of money.

The court in Ukraine has not yet decided on the extradition request.

In the meantime, rumours are swirling about the business connections between Plahotniuc and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.