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article imageMoldova seizes ex-PM's assets in $1bn corruption probe

By AFP     Oct 19, 2015 in World

Prosecutors in ex-Soviet Moldova on Monday seized assets linked to former prime minister Vlad Filat, detained over a $1-billion dollar graft scandal which sparked mass protests and sent the national currency into a tailspin.

Ex-premier Filat was ordered detained by a court for 30 days Sunday as prosecutors carry out an investigation following his arrest in parliament last week by officials from Moldova's anticorruption agency.

The prosecutors accused Filat, who led the tiny 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 went missing in a scandal dubbed the "fraud of the century".

The prosecutor leading the probe into the scandal, Andriana Betsisor, told journalists that a number of luxury vehicles belonging to Filat and his family had been confiscated as part of the investigation.

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 last week blocked the entrance to parliament to demand Filat was detained, after lawmakers voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity.

Filat's pro-European Liberal Democrat Party of Moldova has blasted the arrest as "political" and on Monday applied to the country's constitutional court to review the decision to lift the detained ex-premier's immunity.

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