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article imageFormer Moldova PM held over $1bn corruption scandal

By AFP     Oct 15, 2015 in World

Moldova's former prime minister was detained Thursday over a $1-billion corruption scandal dubbed the "fraud of the century" which sparked mass protests and sent the national currency into a tailspin.

Former prime minister Vlad Filat was detained in parliament by officials from Moldova's anticorruption agency. He can be held without charge for 72 hours.

Chief Prosecutor Corneliu Gurin accused Filat, who led the former Soviet republic from 2009 to 2013, of involvement in the misappropriation of around $250 million from the country's banking system, out of a total $1 billion that cannot be accounted for.

In April, the Central Bank of Moldova discovered that three banks had granted loans worth $1 billion, equivalent to around 10 percent of the country's GDP, to unidentified beneficiaries.

The disappearance of the money sparked a wave of indignation in the country of 3.5 million, with thousands of protesters last month staging round-the-clock demonstrations in the capital Chisinau to demand the resignation of top officials.

The scandal dealt a severe blow to Europe's poorest country, causing the national currency, the leu, to tumble and inflation to spiral.

Anti-government protesters on Thursday blocked the entrance to parliament to prevent Filat, who heads the pro-European Liberal Democrat Party of Moldova, from leaving the premises.

The protesters chanted "We want Filat!" and "Filat to prison!".

Earlier on Thursday, parliament had voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution at the request of the chief prosecutor.

Protest leaders hailed Filat's detention as a victory for their anti-corruption campaign.

"The indignation of protesters who descended onto the streets of Chisinau has forced the parliament to compromise," protest leader Renato Usaty, head of leader of pro-Russian Partidul Nostru (Our Party), told demonstrators. "This is our first victory."

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