Moldova is a small country landlocked between Romania and Ukraine, with the Prut river marking the country’s border with the European Union and Romania. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Moldova gained its independence on August 27, 1991, but shortly after, an unfair and unequal war which broke out in the secessionist region of Transnistria, with the involvement of the 14th Russian Army which, up to this date, remains in the region. Since then, Moldova has essentially lost control over this territory, which is so strategic and vital to its economic development.
Today, Moldova is going through its most difficult, dramatic and tragic period since its independence. This time, it is not as a result of harmful external factors or pressures. In 2009, a group of individuals took Moldova into captivity and has been holding hostage an entire nation ever since. They had replaced the communist regime, considered despicable and infamous for strangulating the press and fundamental human freedoms, monopolizing the economy and taking full control of most financial flows.
Alas, the former communist regime had been replaced by a kleptocratic one that simply drew on old theft schemes and built them up to billion-dollar scales. Furthermore, instead of having one communist television channel, now there are at least six channels owned by a single mogul, while 85% of the media belongs to Plahotniuc, the man controlling the regime at Chisinau from the shadows, much like a dictator.
Up until April 7th, 2009, Plahotniuc would stand behind communist president Voronin, while defrauding business owners of their shares and properties. He seized power in 2009, committing raider attacks on the country’s banking system, taking control over exports of metals, telecommunications, energy resources and state properties in exchange for pennies.
The High Courts of Justice in London and Edinburgh demonstrated that Plahotniuc committed raider attacks and defrauded numerous business owners of their legal shares through the corrupt Moldovan justice system. The Amsterdam Court levied upon his shares estimated at over 70 million Euros. While his family lives in a house worth millions near Lake Geneva, the average pension in Moldova remains a mere 45 Euro. Plahotniuc is also known to have multiple identities and was subjected to criminal investigations in Romania, holding at least three citizenship, including that of Russia. Moreover, he was also monitored by Interpol for his links with the Russian Solntsevskaya Brotherhood.
After the takeover of the captive state institutions, Plahotniuc orchestrated a ruthless smear campaign against opposition leaders, fabricating criminal cases, persecuting them, tapping their phones through secret police, and arresting protesters. His latest stunt was the billion-dollar theft from national reserves, aided by controversial businessmen like Ilan Shor and Serghei Iaralov, the latter of whom seems to hold various citizenships, including in the US and happens to be the owner of a luxurious property in a residential area in Boston. More importantly, out of the unfathomable amount of money stolen by Plahotniuc, a large portion of it, worth at least a few hundred million dollars, comes from the International Monetary Fund, which includes US taxpayers’ contributions.
Even though the free press has long been talking about the final beneficiary of the “heist of the century,” Plahotniuc, despite the actions individuals from within the system, such as Mihail Gofman, disclosing incriminating documents, the captive justice system has not moved a finger to interrogate him. The protest movement generated a political alternative which I have the great honour to be leading, known as Platforma Demnitate și Adevăr (or simply Platforma DA, i.e. Dignity and Truth Platform), which will be taking part in the upcoming presidential elections on October 30th. Except these elections are to take place under a captive electoral authority, with around one million names of deceased citizens on the electoral lists, making up for a third of the total number of voters. Moldova might well be a contender in the World Record Book, since, according to the latest statistics, it officially has more voters than its total population.
What chances does this European Cuba have?
If the current regime does not have sanctions imposed on it by the international community, if Plahotniuc is not stopped in the nearest future, if the threatening opposition leaders does not end, and if the elections are not free, fair and democratic, Moldova may soon turn into a hub of international crime and money laundering, and a prison for its own citizens.
One-hundred and six people leave Moldova every day, chased away by fierce poverty, corruption and dictatorship. After 20 billion dollars from Russia were laundered by Plahotniuc and his corrupt justice system, after the billion dollar heist in one strike, after a military parade which people saw from behind metal fences while being tear gassed, Moldova’s only hope for freedom are its development partners, the European Union and the US in particular – the bastion of democracy – who must react to the cries of help of a hostage nation in the heart of Europe
Andrei Nastase was elected Chairman of the Dignity and Truth Platform Party in December 2015, and is currently a candidate running for President of Moldova. The party grew out of the ongoing anti-corruption grassroots movement in Moldova, which calls for a pro-European political alternative. These popular protests rail against the country’s political system, which is often criticized as oligarchic.