Igor Dodon, former president of Moldova and the current honorary president of the opposition Socialist Party, has been detained for 72 hours after anti-corruption prosecutors searched his residence and the homes of his close collaborators.
Prosecutors are investigating Dodon for alleged bribe-taking, financing his party from criminal sources, high treason and embezzlement.
They launched the probe in relation to footage showing Dodon receiving a bag (supposedly full of money) from the fugitive businessman Vlad Plahotniuc — a now fugitive businessman and politician who at that time was the leader of Moldova’s ruling coalition.
Tens of thousands of euros and half a million Moldovan lei (€50,000) were found at Dodon’s home, according to Deschide.md.
The interim chief prosecutor of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, Elena Cazacov, told the media that during the searches, a person related to Dodon tried to destroy documents that confirm real estate transactions worth over €700,000. More than €37,000 was found on the same person.
Cazacov added that over MDL0.6mn (€30,000) was found at one of the locations searched, as well as €17,000 and $1,000 in an envelope with party symbols.
Prosecutors kicked off the investigation into Dodon — dubbed ‘kuliok’ (bag) — after the Court of Appeal removed the legal obstacles in mid-May. Namely, the Court of Appeal scrapped the ruling of an inferior court, which last June upheld a decision of the deputy general prosecutors to stop the investigations.
Dodon and Plahotnuic and their parties had more or less openly cooperated (while also competing for power) for several years until mid-2019 in order to keep the pro-EU parties out of the ruling coalition.
The money was, allegedly, intended to finance the Socialist Party. If it is proven in court that the money was paid by Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party (PDM) to the Socialists, it would finally confirm the connection.
The footage was shot in June 2019, while Dodon’s Socialist Party was negotiating with Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party after the undecided results of the general elections.
Eventually, the Socialists formed the ruling coalition with the pro-EU parties and supported current President Maia Sandu as prime minister, after which Plahotnuic left the country.
The Russian authorities reacted quickly to the developments, defending Moldova’s pro-Russian former president.
The Kremlin is alarmed by the use of the "practice of persecution" against the former president of Moldova Igor Dodon, said the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov.
“Of course, this is an internal affair of Moldova. But we are alarmed that such persecution is again being used against those who are supporters of the development of friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation. Therefore, we hope and would like to be sure that all legal rights of Dodon will be observed," Peskov said.
Dodon’s detention took place at a time when Moldova is seeking to maintain its neutrality and avoid becoming embroiled in the war in neighbouring Ukraine.
With part of its territory occupied by pro-Russian separatists and a substantial Moscow-leaning share of the population, Moldova is seen as highly vulnerable to spillovers from the war.