The Tverskoy Court of Moscow has arrested former leader of Moldova’s Democratic Party and this country’s richest man, Vladimir Plakhotnyuk, on charges of organizing the withdrawal of 37 billion rubles ($568.7 million) from Russia, RBC reports.
According to the FSB Internal Security Department, Plakhotnyuk is in Miami, Florida. The lawyer of the defendant, Darya Konstantinova, said that the defense denies his participation in the crimes. According to Konstantinova, the matter is political in nature, since the actions of the Democratic Party of Moldova contradicted the position of Moscow.
In February, Russian MIA called Plakhotnyuk the organizer of the so-called ‘Moldovan scheme’ for withdrawing money from Russia together with entrepreneur Vyacheslav Platon, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for illegal currency transactions in Moldova in 2017.
The media learned about the scheme in 2014. Vedomosti told about the contents of the letter of the financial monitoring service and the service for the prevention and combating money laundering of the National Center for Combating Corruption of Moldova to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia with a description of the withdrawal of almost 700 billion rubles ($10.7 billion) from the country using 20 banks. The scheme involved the conclusion of loan agreements, according to which Russian companies, which acted as intermediaries for the withdrawal of money, allegedly received loans in the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars or acted as guarantors for them. Obligations on fictitious debts were not fulfilled, and creditors turned to Moldovan courts, as citizens of this country also acted as guarantors of loans, many of whom were not aware of their own participation in transactions with gigantic amounts.
When considering similar cases, judges and bailiffs, controlled by the Moldovan organizers of the scheme, ruled to recover billions of dollars. In this scheme, Russian intermediary companies in the scheme kept accounts with such banks as Rublevsky, Intercapitalbank, Smartbank, Baltika, Strategiya, European Express and others. All the banks mentioned above had correspondent accounts with BC Modlindconbank S.A. controlled by the organizers and conducted shady transactions through it.
Later, the existence of the “Moldovan scheme” with the participation of Russian banks was confirmed in the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. A number of participants in the scheme were detained. In June, the Ministry of Internal Affairs accused Plakhotnyuk of Creation of a Criminal Community (Art. 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and management of a drug cartel, which supplied hash from North Africa to the EU and the CIS. The case file stated that the members of Plakhotnyuk’s criminal group were engaged in “human trafficking, trading in prostitution, contract killings, raider seizures of banks and enterprises, and thefts from the financial and banking system of Moldova.” The investigation believes that Plakhotnyuk gained influence in the criminal environment of Moldova, monopolized the country’s energy system and media, created and headed the Democratic Party, after which, having won influence on state authorities, patronized various criminal organizations.
In 2017, Basmanny Court arrested Plakhotnyuk in absentia at the request of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee. According to the department, he was complicit in orchestrating an unsuccessful attempt on businessman Renato Usaty. On June 25, the Head of the Moldovan Ministry of Internal Affairs, Andrei Năstase, said he had turned to the international investigative authorities for help in the investigation against Plakhotnyuk. Materials were requested including from the FBI.
Bloomberg dubs Plakhotnyuk the richest citizen of Moldova. The exact size of his fortune is not specified. In 2015, the businessman’s declaration revealed that he owns four Moldovan television channels – Prime TV, Publika TV, Canal 2 and Canal 3.