Moldova: Russia intimidating officials over corruption probe

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2017 5:26 PM

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Moldova's parliament accused Russia's intelligence service of intimidating politicians, following an investigation into alleged money laundering by Russian officials.

In a parliamentary statement Thursday that was authorized by the speaker, Andrian Candu, Russian intelligence agents are said to have "abusively stopped .... interrogated and treated in a humiliating manner" 25 Moldovan lawmakers, intelligence officials, and pro-European politicians in recent months.

In addition, Russia was accused of seeking to put Moldovan officials under "international monitoring" based on inaccurate information and that one interior ministry official was said to have endured "35 such abusive interventions" to and from a Moscow airport.

Candu and Premier Pavel Filip met Russia's Ambassador to Moldova, Farit Muhametsin on Thursday to make an official complaint.

The harassment is said to have coincided with an ongoing probe into a $22 billion money laundering case involving money sent from Russia to the private Moldinconbank.

Officials include the head of the National Anti-Corruption Center, Viorel Chetraru, detained for three hours at a Moscow airport in April 2016. He was headed to a meeting with Russian officials about money laundering. Deputy police chief Gheorghe Cavaliuc was also questioned in 2015.

More recently, Violeta Ivanov, a lawmaker and deputy Interior Minister Oleg Babin were detained for questioning at a Moscow airport in Nov. 2016, unimedia.info online site reported.

The abuse is alleged to have intensified after Moldovan authorities detained 15 judges and three judicial officials in September on suspicion of issuing illegal judicial rulings connected to the money laundering scheme.

The scheme which began in 2010 is said to have laundered Russian money "stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity," moving the funds from Russian shell companies into European Union banks through Latvia, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an independent organization based in the U.S.

Moldovan judges are said to have legitimized the funds through false rulings, providing "clean money backed by a court ruling at a fraction of the cost of regular laundering schemes," the group said.

According to the group, the scheme used one bank each in Latvia and Moldova and 19 banks in Russia, some of them controlled by rich and powerful figures including the cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Until last year, Moldovan businessman Veaceslav Platon owned more than 60 percent of Moldinconbank. He was arrested in Ukraine last year and has been extradited to Moldova to face charges in the case. His shares are temporarily held by Moldova's central bank.

Russia did not cooperate with the probe, according to the parliamentary statement. The government asked Moldovan officials to not make official visits to Russia until the issue was resolved.

But Moldovan President Igor Dodon, who favors closer relations with Moscow, said he would go ahead with a visit to Russia next week, and was aware of the allegations of abuse which he called "dysfunctionalities."

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Corneliu Rusnac in Chisinau, Moldova contributed to this report.