On 18 October a Chisinau court put former Prime Minister of Moldova, Vlad Filat, under a 30-day preventive arrest, as he was accused of influence peddling, fraud and passive bribery in connection with the alleged theft of over 1 billion dollar from three banks in the country. Filat’s arrest comes just two days after former head of the Savings Bank Ilan Shor, in a statement to the Anti-Corruption Centre, accused Filat of having threatened him to get him to “collaborate” and of demanding millions of euros to be brought to the office of the Liberal-Democratic party. In order to arrest Filat, his parliamentary immunity was lifted after a vote in parliament, which according to Filat’s Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM) was politically motivated.
Politically motivated arrest?
In November 2014 it was discovered 1 billion dollars ‘disappeared’ from three Moldovan banks and ever since political parties have pinpointed suspects and starting last month massive protest have been held by angry Moldovans. Filat, who alongside Shor and Democratic Party figure Vlad Plahotniuc has been accused of the fraud, is the first major politician to be arrested in this case. In a statement Filat’s PLDM party said that it considered Filat’s arrest a “cynical put-up affair” and he has become “a permanent target of attacks”, as the speed of the procedures ”proves that this was a political order” used to “find a scapegoat”. Many PLDM MPs filed claims with the Constitutional Court (CC), demanding “examination of the lawfulness of the decision to strip Vlad Filat of immunity”. Filat’s lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Shor on making false statements, while a LDPM MP accused the Prosecutor General of being a “tool” in the hands of Plahotniuc. Ahead of his arrest Filat said that “there is the dictatorship of one person in Moldova” and decisions are “made on Cantemir Street”, where the office of Plahorniuc is situated. After the vote on Filat’s parliamentary immunity, LDPM MPs walked out of the session hall in protest. The Democratic Party released a statement saying it “took cognizance of the accusations made by the alliance partners from the PLDM. We consider they are unfounded, but understand that they were made in an atmosphere of tension and emotions and therefore will refrain from classifying them somehow”.
Experts are divided in their opinion on the arrest of Filat. According to Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Moldova Free International University Alexandru Cauia, there are “no reasons to speculate about political settling of accounts” as “this event could be a first step” towards Moldova’s future. Media expert Cristian Tabara said the arrest of Filat “represents the start of the implementation of the law in Moldova”, while Constitutional law expert Vitali Catana likened the arrest to former Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase’s arrest and said he “would like Moldova to follow the example of Romania”. Chairman of the Association “Justice and Uprightness” Ion Dron said “Filat does not deserve compassion” and Jurist Pavel Midrigan expressed hope that “maybe the government officials will become more responsible now”. According to international law expert Vitalie Gamurari Filat’s arrest is “not something extraordinary. It is about a common law offense, not about political retaliation”. However, rector of the Justice Program of Soros Foundation Moldova Victor Munteanu said the arrest was in “direct violation of the presumption of innocence” as it “pursued only one goal – not to directly violate his presumption of innocence, but to dishonor him”. Political analyst Nicolae Tsvetkov said that the “removal of this piece [Filat] could lead to the collapse of the whole system” as Filat is one of the leaders of the European course in the politically divided country.
Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet took over the leadership of the LDPM from Filat, but has not distanced himself from Filat, as some experts suggested he should do. Furthermore he said, referring to Shor who is currently not under arrest, “I’m sure that the main beneficiary will go home calmly as if he does not have planes, bank accounts and millions. I now see why some of the criminal cases opened at our insistence gather dust on shelves. I’m sure that these subjects will be raised again in the near future” . Victor Munteanu also expressed his confusion on this matter as Shor’s statements “incriminate oneself” but he still has not resigned from a “post that implies the management of public resources – that of mayor of Orhei”. On 19 October Shor will be questioned by anticorruption prosecutors, but no charges have been put on him so far. The director of the Customs Service Tudor Balitski will also be questioned as a witness in the case against Filat. If Filat is found guilty, he will have to serve up to fifteen years in prison and be banned from holding public posts for a period of ten to fifteen years.