22 Jul 2019 17:26

Moldovan interior minister suggests putting tycoon Plahotniuc on int'l wanted list

CHISINAU. July 22 (Interfax) - Moldovan prosecutors should open a criminal case against businessman Vladimir Plahotniuc and declare him an international fugitive, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Andrei Nastase said.

"I am calling for the immediate launch of a criminal inquiry into power usurpation in our country, a process that was protracted by the former prosecutor general and by the current acting prosecutor general. I demand revocation of parliamentary immunity from Ilan Shor, Vladimir Plahotniuc, and others, and their placement on the wanted list," Nastase told a press conference in Chisinau on Monday.

"Once independent prosecutors have done what they should, once all procedures are complied with, my colleagues from the Interior Ministry will bring Plahotniuc to account. We will definitely bring him over to Chisinau," Nastase said.

The former prosecutor general, Eduard Harunjen, should also be held to account for concealing the reply from the Prosecutor's Office III of the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, regarding Plahotniuc's involvement in a money-laundering scheme, he said.

"This is a very serious case, which requires an immediate internal inquiry by the Prosecutor General's Office. According to data from the Swiss federal police and justice department, Moldovan authorities were to confirm that they'd received the information about Plahotniuc's money laundering detected by Zurich prosecutors," Nastase said.

He said that he had learnt about the Swiss letter during a separate inquiry.

"The letter was sent to Eduard Harunjen, who passed it on to Adriana Betsisor of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. A reply was due by June 21. They concealed the document in order to impede criminal and international inquiries into Plahotniuc, a suspect in a number of grave crimes. These circumstances need to be investigated. All culprits must be identified and held to account," he said.

"[This case] is demonstrating the resistance to domestic change on the part of prosecutors and judges who are still within the corrupt and controlled system that existed in Moldova over the past ten years and was created by Plahotniuc and his entourage," Nastase said.

The Prosecutor General's Office did receive a letter from Swiss prosecutors, the agency's press service confirmed to journalists earlier on Monday. The reply is ready and being translated into English, it said.

It was reported earlier that Harunjen categorically refused to step down for a month after the new government came to power.

The parliamentary majority accused him of involvement in the power usurpation during the June 8-15 period when the Democratic Party and government were refusing to recognize the new government approved by parliament on June 8.

Harunjen resigned last week.

By law, Plahotniuc, Shor, and several other individuals involved in the theft of a billion dollars from the national banking system cannot be prosecuted without the prosecutor general. All were elected to parliament in the February 24 elections and thus enjoy immunity. Only the prosecutor general has the power to request that parliament strip them of immunity.

Plahotniuc left the country on the evening of June 14 soon after his Democratic Party announced a move into opposition. He stepped down as the party's leader a week later. He is presumably in the United States.

Shor left for Israel at around the same time.