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News 22 Dec 17

Moldova Bank Sheds Light on 'Grand Theft' Suspects

A new report commissioned by the country's central bank suggests a Moldovan banker and mayor, who is already on trial, was the possible mastermind behind the 2014 'billion dollar' theft that shook the country. 

Madalin Necsutu
BIRN
Chisinau
 
 The National Bank of Moldova. Photo: BNM

The National Bank of Moldova on Thursday published a detailed summary of the second investigative report by US company Kroll and Steptoe & Johnson, which backs prosecution claims that the banker and mayor of the town of Orhei Ilan Shor was behind the huge bank fraud that rocked the country in 2014.

The 57-page document suggests that Shor, and affiliated companies and individuals close to him, played a key role in coordinating the affair known as the “grand theft", which involved lifting a billion US dollars from the Moldovan banking system.

“Contemporaneous documents suggest the involvement in the suspected fraud of a large group of Moldovan companies working in concert, linked to Mr Ilan Shor ('Mr Shor') (the (Shor Group)',” the Kroll report says.

Shor is already on trial and under house arrest and has pleaded not guilty.

The report argues that “at least 77 companies with accounts at the three Moldovan Banks made up this group”, naming Banca de Economii SA, Banca Sociala SA, and Unibank SA. These are some of the largest banks in Moldova.

However, the report contextualises the theft in Moldova within a bigger international scheme of money laundering, which includes UK limited partnerships and companies registered in offshore locations such as Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Panama.

“In total, Kroll analysis fund flows through the Core Laundering Mechanism totaling US 2.6 billion between 2012 and 2014. A total of 81 bank accounts at the two Latvian banks were identified as 'Core Laundering Accounts,'” the document notes.

The scandal over the missing money caused uproar back in 2014 when thousands of people lost savings supposed to be guaranteed by the state.

This sharply undermined support for the country's pro-EU government.

Representatives of Kroll and Steptoe & Johnson are due to come to Moldovan capital, Chisinau, early next year to give more details and work with the prosecutors on this affair.

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