On June 15 it became known that the U.S. federal court rejected Plahotniuc’s application for political asylum for the fugitive oligarch. In Moldova, this information was perceived as a sign that a former “master of the country” could be extradited to his home country to be imprisoned.
Is there really a chance that Moldova’s richest man, accused of large-scale and serious crimes, will soon find himself in prison No 13, where the oligarch’s worst enemies, Vlad Filat and Veaceslav Platon, have been serving their sentences recently?
Our “son of a bitch”
Plahotniuc fled to the U.S. a year ago against the backdrop of a dual power structure organized by the Constitutional Court, a deep political crisis that could have ended in bloodshed.
At that time, the ambassadors of the USA, Russia and the EU took the side of the new anti-oligarch coalition of the PCRM – ACUM. And after the blitz visit of the American diplomat Derek Hogan to the DPM headquarters, Vlad Plahotniuk and his partner Ilan Shor fled the country secretly.
When it became known that Plahotniuc was hiding in the USA, many in Moldova appreciated this fact as a manifestation of unfriendly attitude towards Moldova. Commentators said that the USA has started a dirty game and wants to use the oligarch to carry out his interests. It was alleged that the former DPM leader has taken mountains of dirt on Moldovan and foreign politicians, including the USA, and is blackmailing them. In particular, the U.S. media published investigations into the connections between Vlad Plahotniuc and the head of the U.S. National Intelligence Service, Richard Granell. Of course, the biggest amount of information was gathered on Moldovan politicians, ministers, prosecutors, judges, local officials, political scientists, journalists, etc.
The black shadow falls on the “light” image of a big overseas friend.
The harbouring of Plahotniuc and the possibility of using him in the political life of Moldova put a black shadow on the “light” image of a great overseas friend.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the visit to the USA in September 2019 of Prime Minister Maya Sandu. Upon his return, they said they had asked the FBI, CIA and Justice Department for assistance in investigating the theft from Moldova’s banking system, freezing and confiscating the assets of those involved in the case in the USA. In particular, she also named Vlad Plahotniuc, “who has property there and who should return to the state what he stole”.
However, after the visit of Maya Sandu by the U.S. there was no action. And it is not surprising, nobody in the USA was going to do anything based on statements of politicians and in the absence of any materials of investigation, decisions of judicial bodies, prosecutor’s requests, etc. Most likely, Maya Sandu’s actions and statements were intended to slightly whitewash both her reputation and the country that has become a refuge for the organizers of financial fraud, called in Moldova the “steal of the century”.
He undermined the rule of law
Undoubtedly, American diplomats understood that the longer the oligarch was in the United States, the more toxic the whole story looked. And in January 2020, the American Plowman visa was revoked. This was preceded by a statement from the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. He said that “corruption [Plahotniuc’s] actions undermined the rule of law and seriously jeopardized the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova”. The State Department’s decision implied that neither Plahotniuc nor his close relatives were eligible for an American visa.
For Moldova, this meant that conditions for the oligarch’s extradition were created.
It should be kept in mind that the deprivation of the American visa for Plahotniuc is not a spontaneous decision of Washington, for example, at the request of Moldovan politicians, but the result of certain work of American diplomats and officials. Undoubtedly, the role of U.S. Ambassador Derek Hogan in Moldova should be mentioned.
Prolonged deportation procedure
Not strict measures were taken against Plahotniuk, but neat ones, leaving a maneuver field.
In particular, a person who is subject to deportation (in our case) can apply to court, which happened. And, as already mentioned, on June 15, the federal court denied Plahotniuk political asylum. But this is only the beginning of the process, as the plaintiff can appeal to the U.S. District Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. All this will take a lot of time.
Moreover, as Attorney General Alexandru Stoianoglo says, there is no extradition and legal assistance agreement between Moldova and the USA, so “…it will be quite problematic to extradite Plahotniuc from the USA”.
As it is known, only recently, the Chisinau Chamber of Appeals rejected the request of Plahotniuc’s lawyers and left in force the warrant for his arrest. The prosecutor’s office informed that the next step was to send the criminal case against Plahotniuc to the US authorities for his extradition. This means that all documents must be translated into English and processed accordingly. And this process will also take some time.
We needed a more detailed description of the procedures related to the deportations in order to clarify the essence of the actions taken by Plahotniuk. After the oligarch was stripped of his visa, a strategy was put in place to destroy the links in the process. The main blow is certainly being dealt in Moldova.
The first goal is the activity of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the second is the formation of political chaos and confusion in the country. Systematic attacks are carried out with the help of certain figures (former head of the Prosecutor General’s Office for the fight against corruption Viorel Morari), leakages of Vyacheslav Platon’s interrogation and other compromising actions. The further they go, the more they will be.
The creation of the Pro Moldova parliamentary group and later the “anti-government bloc”, the purchase of deputies and the destruction of the coalition of socialists and democrats should also be considered in the same context.
As the trial in the USA was lost in the first instance, now we should expect the intensification of actions on creation of chaos situation in Moldova.
Moldovan politicians’ response
Thus, the Moldovan politicians will answer the question whether Vlad Plahotniuc will be deported home and how soon this will happen. They can create political chaos in the country and do the work of the oligarch (and his people) with their own hands. And also they can, understanding the game of the ex-leader of DPM, together with the Prosecutor General Alexander Stoianoglo, act as a united front. And to finish what was started in June 2019 and ended with the expulsion of Plahotniuk and Shor from the country.
It is important that now the Moldovan politicians who declared war on the oligarchs have a serious ally – Veaceslav Platon. What is interesting is that he was released on the very day when a federal court in the USA denied Plahotniuc political asylum.
Vyacheslav Platon immediately said that he “will fight against Plahotniuk everywhere, on all floors of power, society and state institutions. In fact, the man who can become Plahotniuk’s “executioner” has come out.
Derek Hogan’s new chance
However, we should remember how Moldova escaped the bloodshed last year and who said a few cherished words to Vlad Plahotniuc, after which he immediately left the country.
U.S. Ambassador Derek Hogan again has a chance to distinguish himself: either Moldova will again face a deep crisis and the country will be plunged into chaos, or Plahotniuc will be deported to his homeland, where he will be handcuffed.
If the latter happens, Derek Hogan will undoubtedly need to be awarded the highest award of the Moldovan state for his services.
Sergei TkachSpain recognized Crimea as Russian