Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, unemployment is high, and the country is heavily dependent upon remittances from thousands of Moldovans working abroad. A large part of the Moldovan population is Romanian-speaking, although there are also Russian and Ukrainian minorities.
- The communists were the ruling party in the former Soviet state from 1998 until 2009. Since 2009 Moldova became more pro-western. Moldova currently aspires to join the European Union, and has implemented the first three-year Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and has signed a far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU in 2014.
- The parliamentary elections in 2014 lasted nearly two months and resulted in the formation of a minority coalition composed of two groupings: the Liberal-Democratic Party (PLDM) and the Democratic Party (PDM).
- Contrary to their initial announcements, PDLM and PDM did not admit the Liberal Party led by Mihai Ghimpu to power. Moreover, they blocked the nomination for prime minister of the incumbent, Iurie Leancă.
- This ensured that the political model present in Moldova since 2009 has been preserved, in which the state’s institutions have been subordinated to two main oligarch politicians: Vlad Filat (the leader of PLDM) and Vlad Plahotniuc (a billionaire who de facto controls the PDM).
EU Reporter decided to investigate the present Moldova situation and the country’s chances for EU accession – in doing so, we turned to Viorel Topa and Victor Topa (no relation), two Moldovan businessmen. In speaking exclusively to EU Reporter, Viorel said that being in Moldova has become untenable and further claims that the pair were the victims of ‘corporate raider attacks’ instigated by Plahotniuc, which resulted in the expropriation of their assets.
The Topas allege that they were charged with criminal offences and convicted, prosecutions and convictions that Viorel Topa, speaking exclusively to EU Reporter says “were clearly politically driven as evidenced by the manner in which they were obtained; a manner that would not be upheld or recognized by any system which follows the principles of natural justice”.
In speaking out against the raider attacks, the Topas alleged that they involved “significant abuses of the Moldovan court system”. The Topas’s assets have not been returned and nor have their criminal convictions been overturned – according to Viorel, the persecution of Victor and Viorel and their associates, Vladimir Morari and Razvan Paveliu, has continued.
Speaking to EU Reporter, Viorel was by turns calm and placatory, impassioned and angry.
“We are basically refugees,” he said first. “If we had not left Moldova five years ago, we would be in jail and probably not alive today.
“And there are many more people like us. It is a fact that the state agencies, including the public prosecutor’s office and judiciary, identify assets then attack you via stealth and initiating false court proceedings. We just woke up one day to find that our assets had been transferred to unknown people – this was followed by us being told that if we kept our mouths shut, then it’s OK, probably, if not, you would face penalties. If you then continued, you would be put in prison, and that is the story.
“It is difficult to explain a raider attack to western society – it requires all the state and law enforcement institutions to act in complicity with the perpetrator and the final beneficiary of everything that is taken. For this, you need political influence, dominant political influence, because you have to appoint judges and the Prosecutor General. And this is how Plahotniuc has become the richest man in Moldova in just a few years, without investing a cent.”
Plahotniuc’s rise to the top of Moldovan business was certainly impressive –
- during 1991-1993 he held the position of specialist at the ‘Minor’ Center for prevention and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, affiliated with the Chişinău City Hall. He then held the position of economist at Euro EstHundel Ltd Moldova, then he worked at Voyage Ltd Moldova.
- In 1995-1998 he founded Angels Moldovan-American Financial Group, which he managed until 2001.
- From 2001 to 2010 he held the position of commercial manager and afterwards he was the general manager of Petrom Moldova JSC, dealing with oil import and distribution.
- In 2005, he was appointed as the vice chairman of the Board at Victoriabank commercial bank, one of the leading banks of Moldova and in 2006 he became its chairman, a position held until January 2011.
- Since then, he has seemingly single-handedly run the political world of Moldova.
So, how notorious do you believe Plahotniuc is from a worldwide perspective? How much is known about the extent of his alleged corruption?
“Corruption is just a general word – it is not just corruption that we are talking about here. When you hijack the state institutions, it is not just corruption. When you capture the state, it is not just corruption. When we say corruption, we usually have in mind bribes for certain facilities, something like this. We are talking about hijacking the state. How well is this known? It is well known to the EU, to the EU Delegation to Moldova.”
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