30 Dec 2020 23:53

Chisinau court arrests ex-Moldovan ambassador to Russia for 30 days pending trial in anabolic drugs smuggling case

CHISINAU. Dec 30 (Interfax) - The Ciocana District Court in Chisinau ordered on Wednesday to grant the prosecution's motion on taking former Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Andrei Neguta into pretrial custody for 30 days, the Moldovan Prosecutor General's Office told Interfax.

The court hearing was held behind closed doors and lasted for more than three hours, it said.

Only Neguta himself, prosecutors, and judges were present in the courtroom.

"Neguta has been designated as a defendant in a smuggling case and testified to prosecutors as a defendant," it said.

"While being questioned, the defendant still refused to admit any wrongdoing. He insisted on his previous testimony, which he provided [on Monday] as a suspect," it said.

Neguta returned from Moscow last week. He came to the Prosecutor General's Office for questioning together with his lawyers on Monday and was detained for 72 hours.

On Wednesday, the ex-ambassador was indicted for involvement in a scheme to smuggle anabolic steroids from Moldova to Russia. The prosecution asked the court to take him into pretrial custody.

The Moldovan Customs Service said in early December that a large batch of contraband anabolic steroids had been seized. The shipment of 350 kilograms of anabolic steroids was found in the luggage compartment of a van with diplomatic license plates headed from Chisinau to Moscow via the Palanka-Maiaky checkpoint on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border.

The driver of an embassy van and one more suspect were also detained in the same case on December 5.

Former Moldovan President Igor Dodon urgently signed an executive order in early December to relieve Neguta of duties as the Moldovan ambassador to Russia.

Dodon had earlier criticized Neguta's work, saying that "the voting of Moldovan citizens in Russia in the [Moldovan] presidential elections was organized poorly."

Vladimir Golovatiuc, a parliamentarian from the Party of Socialists, has been appointed Moldova's new ambassador to Russia.