Former Moldova Prime Minister Filat Charged in Bank Fraud Case

Under investigation in connection with missing money from three banks in 2014.

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CHISINAU, Moldova—Moldova’s parliament on Thursday lifted the immunity of a former prime minister who was later detained and charged with being involved in a bank fraud of up to $1.5 billion.

A total of 79 lawmakers out of 101 voted to lift the immunity of Vlad Filat, who was prime minister of this Eastern European country from 2009 to 2013. He is under investigation in connection with money that went missing from three banks ahead of the November 2014 elections.

Masked officers later escorted Mr. Filat, 46 years old, from the Parliament to the anticorruption prosecutors’ office, where he was charged with committing offenses including bribery and influence peddling. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years. He is being detained for 72 hours. Mr. Filat denies wrongdoing and says the probe is politically motivated. Lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party, which Mr. Filat leads and is part of the ruling coalition, didn’t vote Thursday. General prosecutor Corneliu Gurin said Mr. Filat took bribes worth $260 million from a businessman and helped him gain control of one of the banks.

“We have conclusive evidence that Filat committed fraud worth hundreds of millions of euros at the Savings Bank,” said Gurin. “It is a very serious crime, and involves the destruction of evidence.” The businessman, Ilan Shor, is former chairman of Savings Bank.

U.S. investigative company Kroll, which is probing the disappearance of the money, says some 13.5 billion lei, worth about $1 billion at the time, was transferred from the bank between Nov. 24 and 26 in 2014.

The state took control of the bank a few days later. Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet, who heads the governing coalition that includes Filat’s party, said he would not resign. “The government will continue its activity,” he said, adding his resignation would “give satisfaction to those who wish ill on Moldova.”

About 2,000 people gathered outside Parliament on Thursday, the latest in a string of protests over the missing money. Money also disappeared from the Social Bank and Unibank before last year’s parliamentary ballot. All three banks were put under the central bank’s administration in December and the losses covered by state reserves.

Wall Streat Jurnal

15 October 2015