Tag Archives: Chiril Gaburici

Deconstructing Vlad Plahotniuc’s article in the Wall Street Journal

An article published in the WSJ opinion section on 27 December, 2017, signed by the head of Moldova’s ruling Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc proclaimed that Moldova needs the West’s help against an aggressive Russia, but a closer scrutiny of Plahotniuc’s record reveals that his anti-Russian rhetoric is nothing more than a political strategy aimed at gaining domestic legitimacy and foreign support for his increasingly anti-democratic regime. This becomes all the more clear once we put Mr. P’s WSJ statements into actual context.

Mr. P: “Moldova is dependent on Russian energy. We are seeking to diversify and hope to integrate with the European gas and electricity markets via Romania by end of next year.”

–    On 1 April 2017, following an internationally monitored procurement procedure,  Moldova’s state owned Energocom (controlled by Plahotniuc’s government) signed a one-year contract to import electricity from Ukraine. Two months later, Moldovan side (read Plahotniuc)surprised its western partners by deciding to modify the contract in favor of the Russian state owned power plant in the separatist region of Transnistria, which fails to pay for the Russian gas it uses to produce the electricity it sells to Moldova, having accrued an over 6 billion USD debt, officially accumulating on the books of the Moldovan state owned gas company. Thus, Plahotniuc is increasing Moldova’s strategic dependence on Russia, instead of reducing it by acquiring electricity from Ukraine.

–       Moreover, after the Annexation of Crimea and during the War in Donbas, in November 2014 then Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy Andrian Candu, now Parliament Speaker and Plahotniuc’s closest protégé was eager to offer Russian investors concessions or have them privatize strategic Moldovan infrastructure assets such as the energy grid, national railway, state  telecom company, which only proves that, when it comes to making money, the Democratic Party and Plahotniuc totally disregard the Russian threat to Moldova and the region.                      

Mr. P: “Between 2011 and 2014, Russian-backed interest groups manipulated Moldova’s banking system to launder more than $20 billion.”

–          Plahotniuc has held enormous sway over the Moldovan justice system and banking sector. During that timeframe, he controlled a large stake in one of the banks involved in money laundering. He also controlled the prosecutor general. Needless to say, such a large scale laundering operation would not have been possible without his blessing. Similarly, Plahotniuc fails to mention the billion dollars stolen from Moldovan banks under his watch and the failure to prosecute the main fraudster – Ilan Shor, as identified in an independent Western financial forensic investigation.

–          Moreover, it was none other than the current Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase who back in 2010, as a legislator, promoted the amendment that created the necessary conditions for the $20 billion Laundromat by eliminating the 3% state tax in cases of property disputes, replacing it with a ceiling of about 1500 EUR for physical  persons and 3000 EUR for legal persons. Without this crucial amendment, the launderings of $20 billion would have cost 0.6 billion, making it a much less attractive undertaking, even without adding all the presumed bribes offered to the judges and other accomplices in this vast criminal enterprise.       

Mr. P: “Given that a significant percentage of Moldova’s population is exposed to Russian-controlled media, propaganda and the anxiety it stirs are among the biggest threats we face.”

–          Plahotniuc owns the rebroadcasting rights to the first Russian federal TV channel – Perviy Kanal – the most influential Kremlin propaganda tool. Moldova’s Broadcasting Regulator controlled by Plahotniuc offered an associate of pro-Russian president Igor Dodon a license to rebroadcast the second Russian federal channel – the nefarious NTV. For a decade now, Plahotniuc has been making a fortune off Russian TV propaganda in Moldova.

Mr. P: “We need the West to invest in an independent media market.”

–        Plahotniuc’s political and administrative machine has been harassing and obstructing independent media, including those funded by Western donors. The six months delay in issuing TV8 a license is a case in point. It is largely because of Plahotniuc’s actions that Moldova dropped four positions in the Reporters without Borders 2017 Press Freedom Index.        

Mr. P: “Unfortunately, powerful political forces, including our pro-Russia president, Igor Dodon, are sympathetic to Moscow’s narrative.”

–        Plahotniuc’s media empire played a major role in the election of pro-Russian president Igor Dodon. Dodon’s fellow Socialists, in turn, offered Plahotniuc a life vest by supporting the highly controversial introduction of the mixed electoral system that gives Plahotniuc a chance to hold onto power after the next election, as his party risked not passing the 6% threshold under the previous proportional party list system.  

Mr. P: “Moldova is a proud multiethnic state, devoted to reform and democracy.”

–         In the last two years, Moldova has been suffering from clear democratic backsliding, as reflected in the worsening of the country’s Freedom House Democracy Score. Similarly, Moldova has fallen in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. Democratic Party’s ongoing attack on local public administration and intimation on mayors, aimed at forcing them to join the ruling party is particularly damaging to local democracy. After orchestrating a hostile takeover against the democratically elected Chisinau municipal administration, now the second largest city Balti is undergoing a similar scenario.  



Former Transnistrian Separatist Leader Finds Refuge in Moldova Thanks to Plahotniuc.








Is Any Truth or Dignity Left in Vladistan?

Filat, Plahotniuc, Voronin

Collage: Independent.md

If Putin’s Russia is an iron fist ruled Vladimirland, then Moldova can surely be regarded as a feather-headed Vladistan – a triumvirate of Vlad Filat, Vlad Plahotniuc and Vladimir Voronin.  For about five years now Moldova has been facing a crude reality of three people indulging their egos at the expense of the entire country. The three are seasoned politicians with shrewd instincts.  Yet their mutual coexistence is not by choice. Each of them would prefer to see the other two go, but no one is ready to retire just yet, not even septuagenarian  Voronin, as for the other two – they are just getting started.

It is the two ‘young bucks’ that are causing the biggest stir in their struggle for supremacy. The country barely recovered from the previous bout the two had in 2013, following the ‘Huntingate’ scandal, when both Filat and Plahotniuc lost their public offices in a war of mutual destruction.  It would not have been that huge of a deal if the two settled their differences without employing the full arsenal of government machinery at their disposal with complete and utter disregard for the separation of power or rule of law. In fact, their last feud left the country paralyzed for half a year and destroyed any prospects of foreign investment coming into the country. Moldova quickly became the laughing-stock of the region and its EU related success story began falling apart at the speed of light. Development partners are shrugging in disbelief.

This new round of trepidations may cripple the country even further to the point of major social conflict resulting from brewing public resentment towards these powerful oligarchs who are protecting their political and business interests at the expense of the public good. Despite Moldovans being rather peaceful people, there are plenty of forces eager to capitalize on public frustration in an attempt to channel public anxiety towards more radical measures.  So far, major public gatherings have been peaceful, yet Sunday June 7th rallies in the main square of Chisinau tested the people’s restraint to the limit. The two competing crowds were heated up, but luckily no excesses occurred this time.

The ‘Truth and Dignity Platform’, which, unsurprisingly, is turning into a political party, is gaining momentum as the only force willing to stand up to power. Yet, unfortunately, the Platform does not inspire a lot of trust either.  It is not a genuine grass-roots movement, rather an orchestrated display of frustration, somewhat similar, but of lesser quality than PLDM’s anti-Communist marches of 2008-2009.  Instead of mobilizing people from across the political spectrum, the movement is overtly right-wing, which only serves to boost the already powerful leftist front covered by the Socialists and, to a much lesser extent, by the Communists.  The fact that Liberals attacked the Platform is logical, though the timing could not have been any worse as it may potentially, though still unlikely, cost Chirtoaca the mayoral election. Chirtoaca is, after all, the luckiest politician alive. If only the left was not split, Grecianii would have easily won by a landslide.

Now, the most troublesome development of the last few days has been Prime Minister’s surprising announcement, demanding for the Prosecutor General, National Bank Governor and Head of the National Stock Market Regulator to resign/be dismissed, not quite clear, otherwise he threatens to resign himself. As the holders of those offices are quasi-irremovable, I assume, the prime minister is counting on honorary resignations. Yet, as those almost never happen in Moldova, the gesture amounts to a futile PR stunt at best, paving the way for his own ‘honorary resignation’ or a carefully planned attack, triggering a new cycle of political instability at worst.  The language of the letter and the fact that it was posted on his Facebook account on Saturday evening diminishes the solemnity of the moment and makes it look awfully disingenuous.   I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but, given his appointment process and his record in office, unfortunately, I have exhausted all of my good will.

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