Vladimir Plahotniuc who is allegedly responsible for the deportation of Turkish teachers last year as Moldova’s ‘one and only oligarch,’ fled the country along with his inner circle in a hurry after his party’s announcement of resignation from the government on Friday evening, TV-8 reported.
Shortly after the resignation declaration, Prime Minister Maia Sandu told reporters that Plahotniuc would be prosecuted for usurping power and other crimes.
Necdet Celik, a Bucharest-based Turkish journalist claimed that Plahotniuc was also the one behind the deportation of seven Turkish teachers in September last year.
Seven Turkish teachers who worked for a chain of private high schools, Horizont, were detained in a joint operation by Turkish and Moldovan intelligence services on September 6, 2018.
They were then expelled from the country though they were not charged with committing any crimes in Moldova.
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the Republic of Moldova violated the rights of the Turkish teachers by deporting them back to Turkey and fined the country 25,000 euros for each of the Turks.
Turkish authorities were seeking to arrest the teachers for alleged links to the Gulen Movement. The movement is led by US-based self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government blames Gulen for masterminding the failed July 15 coup attempt in 2016. Gulen denies any involvement.
Plahotniuc reportedly headed to Istanbul
Plahotniuc, leader of Moldova’s ruling-turned-opposition Democratic Party (DP), was headed to Istanbul, according to TV-8, citing flightradar24 portal, the world’s most popular flight tracker.
“Within the past few hours, several private jets took off from Chisinau, heading to Istanbul, Odessa, London, Moscow. One of them carried the family of businessman Ilan Shor, involved in the high-profile scandal over the withdrawal of one billion euro from the country’s banks. It is presumed that another aircraft carries Plahotniuc and some of his companions,” the TV channel reported on Friday night.
The channel claimed based on several sources speaking on condition of anonymity that Plahotniuc first went to neighboring Ukraine, Odessa and later flew to Istanbul with a Turkish civil aircraft owned by Kugu Aviation, landing at Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
Moldovan political crisis sparks after the February election
Following an inconclusive parliamentary election in February, each three Moldovan political parties – the pro-Russian Socialist Party (SP) which supports Moldovan President Igor Dodon, the pro-European Union ACUM, and Plahotniuc’s DP – got more than 20 percent of the vote.
The coalition negotiations to form a government dragged on as neither of the other two parties wanted to work with Plahotniuc. Only on June 8 did SP finally manage to reach an agreement with ACUM to oppose DP which controlled the former parliament and cabinet.
The government was formed with Sandu, leader of Action and Solidarity Party, a part of the ACUM bloc, as prime minister.
DP refused to recognize the new government and appealed to the Constitutional Court which is allegedly filled with Plahotniuc loyalists. The court immediately ruled that Sandu’s coalition was unconstitutional because it was formed more than 90 days after the election.
On June 9, it also deposed president Dodon, and handed over his powers to DP’s acting Prime Minister Filip, including the grant to sign a decree on the parliament’s dissolution instead of the president.
Both Moldovan governments, plus president Dodon refused to leave, issuing orders, almost like in Venezuela.
However unlike in the Venezuelan experience, on June 10, Russia recognized Sandu’s government. The United Kingdom (UK), Germany, France, Poland, and Sweden have also backed the Moldovan parliament, which is in favor of the Sandu government.
Last year, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution declaring Moldova “a state captured by oligarchic interests.”
The Moldovan crisis marks an era in which Russian and Western interests seem to overlap.
Finally, on Friday the Filip cabinet resigned and went into opposition. Plahotniuc’s move came in the aftermath of the resignation.
Previously, president Dodon had declared that people close to the resigned Filip’s cabinet would try to flee Moldova in an effort to avoid prosecution for graft and usurping power.
“I do not rule out that they [DPs] will try to leave the country, because several private jets are ready at the airport. But this will not save them, no matter where they hide, anyone can be found in the modern world,” Dodon told the RTR-Moldova TV station.
Bargaining over federalization of Moldova
On June 8, Andrian Candu, DP’s deputy chief, told Reuters that Dodon had approached DP with a coalition offer on terms set by Russia, which included a long-standing plan to turn Moldova into a federal state that would give special recognition to the separatist region of Transdniestria wanting to merge with Russia.
Dodon claimed the idea of federalization had come from Plahotniuc, who allegedly offered Moscow in exchange for Russian criminal cases against him being dropped.
A Russian statement also confirmed Dodon’s allegation.
In February just before the election in the country, Russia announced that it launched a money-laundering probe into Plahotniuc and Veaceslav Platon, one of the country’s richest men.
The Russian authorities accuse the two of laundering 38 billion rubles (US$582 million) through two Russian banks by transferring foreign currency out of Russian accounts and into Moldova under the pretext of selling foreign currency.