By Madalin Necsutu
Anti-graft prosecutors in Moldova on Wednesday interrogated Vladimir Novosadiuc, director of Sputnik Moldova, a news agency affiliated to the Kremlin, over a notorious money-laundering scheme.
It comes after a report by the international investigation company Kroll named him and his wife among beneficiaries of the so-called “Grand Theft” of a billion US dollars from the Moldovan banking system during 2012-2014.
His wife, Rita Tvik, is the author of a book, Life and Destiny, a biography of the father of Ilan Shor, the business mogul, politician and convicted mastermind behind the theft. She is also the founder of the Novosti-Moldova News Agency.
Moldovan media reports said the two had helped Shor take over two TV stations, Euro TV and Alt TV.
In June 2017, courts sentenced Shor to seven-and-a-half years in prison for fraud and money laundering. He remained free pending an appeal, however, and was able to continue his political activities.
He served as mayor of his native town of Orhei and, from February 2019, as a deputy in parliament for his own Ilan Shor Party.
But in June this year, following the fall of the Democratic Party-led regime of Vladimir Plahotniuc, Shor fled to his native Israel. Moldova is now governed by a coalition of the pro-European ACUM bloc and the pro-Russian Socialists.
The director of Sputnik Moldova told RIA Novosti agency that he had nothing to do with the Grand Theft. He admitted only that he and his wife were shareholders in Unibank, one of three banks implicated in the scheme.
“At seven in the morning, I was searched. They found nothing, I went to the prosecutor’s office for questioning … I said I was not guilty. I don’t feel guilty. I was accused of fraud and money laundering. I was among the founders of Unibank. My role was to attend and vote at the general meeting,” Novosadiuc said on Wednesday. He was not arrested but has been forbidden to leave the country for 60 days.
General Prosecutor Office spokesman Emil Gaitur said Novosadiuc was interrogated for 40 to 50 minutes, when prosecutors told him the reasons for the search, which were related to the massive fraud.
His interrogation comes after two Ilan Shor Party deputies, Marina Tauber and Reghina Apostolova, were arrested on Monday after interim General Prosecutor Dumitru Robu asked parliament to lift their immunity. Their names also appeared in the Kroll report as beneficiaries of the money-laundering scheme.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was following Novosadiuc’s case. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, also expressed concern about the investigation.
“I am concerned about the investigation launched against … Vladimir Novosadiuc, who was detained and questioned by the law enforcement authorities of Moldova. Looking for more information about the circumstances of the case,” Desir tweeted.
Moldova is also probing another huge money laundering scheme, known as the Russian Laundromat, which involved over 20 billions US dollars being cleaned through the Moldovan judiciary and banks.