Moldovans demand justice for vanishing USD 1 bn, lack of government action

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Tens of thousands of Moldovans took to the streets on May 3 in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau to demand justice for a banking scandal that saw USD 1 billion vanish from three of the country’s biggest banks. They are calling for some political leaders in the ruling pro-European coalition to step down for their lack of action over the scandal and poor governance, reports.

The participants dispersed peacefully in the central square at midday, chanting slogans such as “Moldova is ours,” “We are Moldova,” and “The thieves must go to jail.”

Moldovans are looking for answers after USD 1 billion disappeared from three local banks. Banca de Economii, Banca Social and Unibank, issued a total of USD 1 billion in loans to unidentified recipients, a staggering amount of money that equals about 15 percent of the 2013 gross domestic product of USD 7.9 billion in a nation of less than four million people.

Prosecutors and American auditors investigated the questionable transactions that took place in November, just a few days before the country’s parliamentary elections, which saw pro-European parties scoring a narrow lead over the pro-Moscow Socialist Party.

The American investigations firm Kroll issued a report early March, but Moldova’s central bank authorities claim the firm does not allow making the report public. However, details of the report leaked to the press found that Banca de Economii (Savings Bank) issued USD 600 million in loans to companies backed by Russian banks.

It was noted that the decision to issue the credit was approved by the bank’s Administrative Committee, led by millionaire Ilan Shor, a former shareholder who was accused of selling about a quarter of the bank’s shares to a Russian state-owned company. The central bank took over the struggling Banca de Economii in November, when the Supreme Court of Justice ruled the institution should be returned to the state.

To keep the financial entities afloat and allegedly avoid a potential banking sector collapse, Moldova’s central bank issued a bailout of about 9.5 billion lei (USD 520 million) from the state emergency funds, according to the local press. If the banks will not manage to repay the bailout, the debt will be eventually be passed onto the country’s sovereign debt and charged to Moldovan taxpayers.

The rally, organized by the Civic Platform for Truth and Dignity, gathered a wide cross-section of Moldovans furious about the widespread injustice, political corruption and poverty in the country.

A group of professors, lawyers, economists, political analysts and singers delivered passionate speeches in the front of the crowd estimated at 40,000 people. They called for unity and the resignation of the ruling “bandits” and oligarchs who captured the state and failed to work in the public interest.

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