At the beginning of May, 40 thousand people went out to the streets of Chișinău, Moldova, to request the resignation of the country’s prosecutor general, Corruption Investigation Service and customs management. The reason for such discontent is the theft of one billion euros from three largest banks in the country.
This money had mysteriously disappeared in November 2014. It is an enormous amount for a country with a GDP that does not exceed eight billion euros. Among clients of robbed credit institutions are private persons and state institutions. The government now tries to save the banks using budget money, as reported by Nekā personīga programme of TV3.
«Four companies had borrowed approximately eight million euros almost at the same time. Can you guess what was bought using this money? Three small apartments and non-existing goods – cosmetics, shampoos and computers. Some didn’t even have necessary documents! Our lawyer has provided all the necessary information to the customs office,» – said former Chairman of the Council of Banca de Economii Ilan Shor.
Shor is a wealthy businessman in Moldova. He owns television channels and a football club. He is also married with Russian singer Jasmin. Shor tried to avoid taking responsibility for the lost money, but it seems suspicion falls on him.
The National Bank of Moldova did not believe that the local oligarch is in no way involved in illegal deals and asked an influential international detective agency – Kroll – to investigate this case. The recently published report by Kroll has shocked residents. This 83-page report details how three banks in Moldova were intentionally brought to the state of insolvency, and that this was done by Shor. Defrauding of money began in 2012, when people associated with the oligarch took over the banks in secret. As a result of complex manipulations, nearly one billion euros disappeared from banks within a matter of days in November 2014.
«Situations when banks are emptied within a few days are not often. They are very rare. The collapse of Krajbanka in Lithuania and Latvia is one such case. It is an unprecedented case and any country would declare it an emergency,» – explains Chief of Money Laundering Prevention Service of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Latvia Viesturs Burkans.
Criminals also tried to hide traces of the crime: original documents of the deals were carried from banks allegedly to archive them. The vehicle carrying the documents had also conveniently disappeared on its way there. It was later found burned out. This vehicle was owned by Shor’s insurance company. The 28-year-old businessman was presented charges with abuse of official position. On 6 May, Shor was put under house arrest.
The leads of the theft of the century in Moldova have been traced to Latvia as well. Companies controlled by Shor transferred most of the money to offshores, which had opened their accounts in three Latvian banks – Privatbank, Aizkraukles Bank and Latvian Post Bank.
The report by Kroll shows that three Latvian banks also appear in the secret take-over of shares of banks in Moldova three years ago and the aforementioned theft in November 2014.
Accounts in Latvia were opened by companies registered in Britain and Hong Kong. Citizens of Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Latvia were listed as beneficiaries of these companies. Banks have a duty to report suspicious transactions. If the inspection reveals that the aforementioned Latvian banks did not carry out an in-depth assessment of clients and transactions, they may be fined 10% of their profit.
«We have requested information from the Central Bank of Moldova. We have also sent requests to the aforementioned banks. Initial data has been received, and we have begun assessing the level of involvement of Latvian banks,» – as noted by Finance and Capital Market Commission.
Moldova’s Financial Intelligence Service has not yet asked colleagues in Latvia to freeze accounts in the aforementioned banks. However, Viesturs Burkans predicts investigators will likely try to recover the money in order to compensate losses to victims of this crime.