8 Oct 2019 14:00

Moldovan prosecutors summon runaway tycoon Plahotniuc for questioning

CHISINAU. Oct 8 (Interfax) - Former leader of the Moldovan Democratic Party (PDM) and runaway billionaire Vladimir Plahotniuc is suspected of massive money laundering, the Moldovan Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office said on Tuesday.

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office opened the criminal case on September 23, 2019. Prosecutor Alexandru Cernei officially summoned Plahotniuc to appear with a lawyer on October 9 to testify in the case.

"If the suspect fails to appear without valid reasons, he may be fined or brought forcibly to the prosecutor's office," the summons posted by the office's press service says.

The office said it had to publicize the summons as it had no other way to inform Plahotniuc of summoning him for questioning.

The report, however, does not specify in what criminal case Plahotniuc is supposed to testify, nor does it indicate the amount of money he is suspected of having laundered. Moldovan media reported earlier that he was suspected of being the main beneficiary of the embezzlement of $1 billion from Moldova's banking system.

It was reported earlier that Plahotniuc left Moldova on the evening of June 14, immediately after the Democratic Party announced that it was joining the opposition. He also stepped down as PDM chairman.

Russia has opened several criminal investigations against Plahotniuc. The Russian Investigative Committee in December 2017 charged him in absentia with setting up a criminal ring to prepare the assassination of his political opponent Renato Usatii. An arrest warrant for Plahotniuc was issued at the time.

The Russian Interior Ministry in February 2019 charged Plahotniuc and businessman Veaceslav Platon in absentia with the organization of a criminal group responsible for syphoning off over 37 billion rubles (about $560 mln) from Russia in 2013-2014. Moscow's Basmanny District Court issued an arrest warrant for Plahotniuc.

The Russian Interior Ministry's investigative department asked at the end of July 2019 for issuing an arrest warrant for Plahotniuc on charges of organization of and affiliation with a criminal syndicate. Russian law enforcement agencies charged Plahotniuc and former PDM parliamentarian Constantin Tutu with 28 counts of large-scale smuggling and drug trafficking.

Russia additionally suspects Plahotniuc of playing a role in setting up an international criminal ring trafficking cannabis from North Africa to CIS countries. Russia prosecuted over 60 members of this drug syndicate between 2012 and 2019.

Moscow's Tverskoi District Court issued an arrest warrant for Plahotniuc on suspicion of these counts on July 29, 2019.