21 Aug 2019 19:27

Chisinau Airport's concession contract may be annulled - President Dodon

CHISINAU. Aug 21 (Interfax) - Moldovan President Igor Dodon said he could not rule out that a concession contract to operate the Chisinau International Airport could be annulled.

"The government is conducting an investigation now. A parliamentary commission has also been set up to investigate the deal. The decision was made in violation of the law, and the concession holder didn't honor all obligations to modernize the airport. Moreover, there are some suspicions that part of the money paid for the concession contract originates from the billion dollars stolen from Moldova's banking system. If this is so, there is every reason for this contract to be annulled and the airport transferred to government management," Dodon said in an interview with the Europa Libera (Free Europe) radio station on Wednesday.

Dodon confirmed that the situation surrounding the Chisinau International Airport would be discussed at an emergency session of the Supreme Security Council to be convened before the end of the week.

The concession contract to operate the Chisinau Airport was "a criminal decision by the previous administration" and does not imply the airport's sale, Dodon said. "It remains the state's exclusive property, and the change of the owners of the company that was awarded the concession to operate the airport doesn't change the essence of the problem," he said.

It had emerged on Tuesday that the company NR Investments Ltd belonging to the Rothschild family had acquired a 95% stake in Avia-Invest, the company that had been awarded a concession to operate the Chisinau Airport in 2013.

The concession contract implies investments amounting to 244.2 million euros and the increase of the airport's passenger flow to 1.5 million from 1 million people a year, which could earn Moldova about 150 million euros a year.

Avia-Invest was awarded a 49-year concession to operate the Chisinau Airport in 2013. Since then, the company has changed hands several times. The new government has started an investigation into the circumstances under which the concession contract was concluded and made it understood that, if serious violations were uncovered, the deal may be annulled.

Moldovan businessman and politician Ilan Shor chairs Avia-Invest's management board. A first-instance court sentenced Shor to 7.5 years in prison on charges of involvement in the theft of $1 billion from Moldova's banking system. On June 14, shortly after the change of government in Moldova, Shor fled the country together with tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc, his patron. The Moldovan parliament voted on August 15 to deprive Shor of immunity from prosecution and open a criminal case against him. Shor is believed to be in Israel now.