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NEWS 20 Mar 17

Moldovan Ex-MP Accused of Spying for Russia

Prosecutors in Moldova on Monday announced that a former MP, Iurie Bolboceanu, had been arrested during a meeting with his Russian 'handler' a diplomat in the Russian embassy. 

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Moldovan prosecutors and intelligence agents say they caught the politicinian red-handed, during a meeting with his handler, after 7 months of surveillance. Photo: privesc.eu

A former member of the Moldovan parliament has been arrested and accused of treason and espionage for Russia, amid heightened concerns over Moscow’s influence in the country.

Prosecutors on Monday said that Iurie Bolboceanu, a former MP and former member of the Moldovan Democratic Party, had been caught red-handed last Friday while meeting a “foreign intelligence service agent.” Moldova’s Intelligence and Security Service, SIS, confirmed on Monday that Bolboceanu had been meeting a Russian spy.

The arrest comes amid concerns about Russian influence in Moldova. The country's pro-European government warned officials earlier this month not to travel to Russia, citing what it said was abuse and harassment by security officers that it believes is being done in retaliation for a probe into an alleged $22 billion scheme to launder Russian money through Moldova.

Vitalie Busuioc, deputy chief-prosecutor of the Moldovan Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Special Investigations, PCCOCS, said the politician was recorded while receiving money from the Russian agent in exchange for information, after prosecutors and intelligence officers had tracked him for seven months.

He also said prosecutors believed without a doubt that the purpose of Bolboceanu’s meeting with the agent was espionage. The former MP allegedly collected information on politicians or businesses and reported to the agent who was working as a diplomat in the Russian embassy in Chisinau.

According to prosecutors, during a search of the politician’s residence, they also found 23,000 US dollars and a mobile phone used by the former MP to communicate with his handler.

“The two men followed very strict rules … They walked around for around an hour to make sure they weren’t followed and when they were sure nobody was listening, they finally met. The information was transferred through a specialized laptop and at every meeting the Moldovan citizen was paid, usually in dollars,” SIS deputy director Alexandru Balan told the press conference.

He also added that because the agent enjoyed diplomatic immunity, he could not be detained and he believes that he will be shortly flown out from Chisinau.

President of the Moldovan parliament Andrian Candu told journalists he wasn’t surprised by the arrest. “Since I hold this position, I get a lot of information, including classified information. Personally,  I am not surprised, given what I know,” he said.

Bolboceanu’s name circulated in 2016 in connection with the trial of a former policeman and a model who were sentenced last year for trying to bribe several MPs from pro-European political parties, to get them to switch sides and become pro-Russian. Bolboceanu resigned from the Democratic Party in March 2014.

A Chisinau court extended the MP's arrest warrant to 30 days.  His lawyer could not be reached for comment. 

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