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The Troika Laundromat: The traces left in Moldova by the huge money laundering machine

Laundromats are mind-boggling frameworks for moving cash. They allow corrupt government officials, organized crime figures, and oligarchs to secretly invest their dirty money or perform other intentions.

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Troika Laundromat is one of the biggest leaks of bank documents. It comprises over 1.3 million transactions from 233,000 companies and individuals, totaling more than €300.000.000.000. The data is a compilation of documents coming from several sources and obtained by the OCCRP and the Lithuanian portal 15min.lt.

Documents have been provided to 23 media partners worldwide, including RISE Moldova journalists.

The cross-border investigation shows how billions of dollars have been washed by opaque companies and banks that were later closed. Among the major beneficiaries are Russian oligarchs and politicians. They secretly purchased shares in state-owned companies, bought luxury homes, paid their children’s studies to British or Swiss schools, and settled medical bills.

The name of the leak #TroikaLaundromat – comes from the Russian investment company “Troika Dialog”, connected to the Russian Armenian banker – Ruben Vardanyan. Billion dollars flowed from Russia into UKIO Bankas (Lithuania), under the aegis of Troika Dialog. Part of the money came to Russian laundry companies.

Caption: Sergiu Brega / OCCRP

Troika Laundromat did leave traces in the Republic of Moldova.

In the first case, we show how three companies registered in Chisinau were used in financial engineering that washed over $100.000.000. Under fictitious contracts signed in Moscow and Kiev, the money was leaked from the accounts of the three savings bank companies to those of some offshore companies from a Lithuanian bank. Transactions were made at the same time as the famous tax fraud in Russia known as the Magnitski case, but there is also a close connection with fuel fraud at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

The Magnitski case

The Magnitski case became globally known after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitski discovered (in 2007) the $230.000.000 theft from the Russian treasury, and two years later he died in a prison in Moscow because of torture and lack of assistance medical.

Money in Russia then disappeared in offshore firms. On their way to tax havens, where real beneficiaries hide, the millions of dollars have gone through a number of foreign companies, including Moldovan companies. Among them are Bunicon Impex SRL – headquartered in a deserted house in the center of Chisinau and owned by the Transnistrian region.

Local businesses held accounts with Banca de Economii. Hence, the money transferred to their accounts has been redirected to several outside banks, including UKIO Bankas in Lithuania.

In 2013, the Lithuanian authorities closed UKIO Bankas, and Banca de Economii closed its doors over two years, amid the disappearance of $1.000.000.000 from the banking system in the Republic of Moldova.

Caption: A client at the door of the UKIO Bankas, closed by the authorities in 2013. PHOTO: Erikas Ovkarenko / 15min.lt

The Magnitski connection

Among the Troika Laundromat bank records, we found nine fictitious contracts worth more than $100.000.000, concluded by three Moldovan companies with several offshore companies. Transactions were made using the same pattern used in the Magnitski case.

In most contracts, it is indicated that they were signed in Moscow in 2006-2009 and only two of them have been signed in Kiev.

The first was concluded on December 28, 2006. According to the contract, Whitmore Limited, a British phantom company, undertakes to provide equipment worth $25.000.000 to Avertas-Prim SRL in Moldova. The last one had the accounts opened at Banca de Economii.

For more details on the Troika Laundromat, read here or here.

Justice

The President of the Supreme Court of Justice was detained for a period of 72 hours

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The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (APO) announced today the 72-hour detention of the President of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), Ion Druță, following the hearings held at the APO, based on the searches of his office and house, and identification of objects likely to confirm the illicit enrichment accusations, according to an announcement on the Prosecutor General’s Office website.

The statement says that Ion Druță’s detention was required as, given his status, he could influence other persons that are to be examined by the criminal prosecution.

Ion Druță filed, on October 1st, a request for resignation from the position of president of the SCJ according to Ziarul de Gardă. Although, the request has not yet been accepted by the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM).

On September 24th, the SCM admitted the request of the interim prosecutor general, Dumitru Robu, for the lifting of the immunity of Ion Druță and gave the consent for his detention, forced entry and search. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anti-corruption Centre conducted searches at Druță’s office and house.

The illicit enrichment proceeding was started by the interim general prosecutor on September 23rd, after the APO was informed by the Information and Security Service (ISS) that it had found “an essential discrepancy” between the declared legal income and the properties acquired by the members of the Druță’s family between 2016-2019.

Photo: crimemoldova.com

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Important

The Kroll 2 Report: 77 of Ilan Shor’s companies received $2,900,000,000 in loans

Kroll was contracted by the National Bank of Moldova on January 28, 2015, in order to investigate money laundering frauds in three banks: Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank. The amount of the contract was not made public. The Kroll 2 report, published by the parliamentary investigation commission on bank fraud, spans 154 pages. However more details, such as company or person names, have been deleted.

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At the same time, the report does not contain the list of beneficiaries of bank fraud. Kroll 2 presents the schemes where bad loans were offered, but also how these funds have later circulated. The report contains the list of the 77 companies within the URB group, as well as the loans they have taken from the Moldovan banks.

In interviews, they were experts at Kroll with employees at Banca de Economii, and it was found that many relevant materials related to loans offered to Ilan Shor’s group were destroyed in suspicious circumstances of a fire in late November 2014.

The report states that between 1 January 2012 and 26 November 2014, the Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank offered $2.9 billion in loans to companies in the Shor Group.

Money earned on loans was redirected to foreign accounts in the Latvian banks ABVL and Privatbank, through which they were laundered. These accounts appear to be open only for this purpose because they did not record any other transactions.

Another part of the loans was transferred to the bank accounts of the Republic of Moldova, Russia, but also other jurisdictions.

The loans went through a coordinated money-laundering process and then disappeared into several bank accounts.

Part of the loans offered to the companies in the Shor group remained in Moldova. The tracking of the initial destination of the funds showed that the amounts remained in the accounts held at the three banks or were transferred to other banks in Moldova to pay for other loans. At the same time, more money was mixed with other funds, so it was impossible to track them later.

Out of the 2.9 billion US dollars, Kroll points out that about 220 million US dollars remained in the Republic of Moldova and were used to repay loans from the Banca Sociala, Banca de Economii and Unibank, and other banks.

The full Kroll 2 report can be read here:

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Justice

Igor Dodon reveals: Over the last week, $50,000,000 has left Moldova

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President Igor Dodon announced that during the last week, $50,000,000 (1 bn lei) had been removed from the country. The head of state refused to give details but said that those involved are “close people from Plahotniuc’s entourage.”

The statement was made on Tuesday in an interview with Cotidianul.md. According to Igor Dodon, the information arrived on Monday, suggesting that it was presented by the SIS, where the new leadership began.

In this context, the president said that he is being pressured at the moment, threatening messages are being sent to him, warning not to interfere with criminal schemes.

Several properties registered with Finpar Invest Ltd., a core company in Vladimir Plahotniuc’s real estate, were seized by law enforcement in a money-laundering file. The stake in the scene was set by the Crime Recovery Agency on June 26, two weeks after the Democratic leader and oligarch Plahotniuc left the country.

RISE Moldova managed to identify some of the seized properties. These include the Nobil luxury hotel and the studios where TV stations operate: Prime, Publika, Canal 2 and Canal 3.

Thus, RISE Moldova managed to identify some of Finpar’s properties and seized at the request of the CNA officers. They have a total value of about 100,000 lei.

Hotel Nobil – a business that Plahotniuc publicly acknowledged as “one of the investments I am proud of.” It is located in the center of Chisinau, it has 5 stars, an area of ​​3,500 square meters and a cadastral value of 40,000,000 lei, with all the terrain.

Other Finpar goods that have come to the forefront of law enforcement are virtually located in the same courtyard with the Nobil Hotel. It’s about an apartment and a few commercial spaces, all with a surface of about 1000 square meters.

The General Media Group studios in Moldexpo, which host TV channels: Prime, Publika, Canal 2 and Canal 3, as well as radio stations: Publika FM and MuzFM.

The studios are spread over an area of ​​almost 8000 square meters and are worth about 30,000,000 lei. The land over one hectare is not owned by Finpar, but the company is being tried with the Public Property Agency for its privatization.

In a discussion with RISE reporter, Mihai Pocnea, the manager of Finpar Invest, denied this information and says he has not received any documents in this respect.

Finpar Invest SRL was founded in 1993 and was originally named the Center for the Prevention of Minor Offenses. Among the initial associations were Oxana Childescu and Vera Morozan – the former wife and Vladimir Plahotniuc’s sister, respectively.

Subsequently, Finpar was taken over by offshore companies but represented by a proxy of people in Plahotniuc’s entourage, including Andrian Candu, the former Speaker of Parliament.

The full RISE investigation can be read HERE.

We recall that some Democratic Party of Moldova leadership, all the vice-presidents and the secretary-general have resigned. The decision was taken at the meeting of the Democratic Party National Political Council on 29 June and was sent to a press conference by Pavel Filip.

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