OpinionsThe Stoianoglo case: The fight against corruption gets off...

The Stoianoglo case: The fight against corruption gets off with a stellar start in the Republic of Moldova

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On October 5th, 2021, the Attorney General of the Republic of Moldova was arrested on charges of corruption, abuse of office, alleged links to Veaceslav Platon and involvement in the case of the Russian Laundromat. The criminal investigation was initiated following a complaint made by the PAS MP Lilian Carp and submitted on October 1st to the Superior Council of Prosecutors / SCP.  SCP appointed on October 5th the prosecutor Victor Furtună to investigate the case. Furtună decided to arrest the Attorney General on the same day.

It is true that 72 hours later, the Ciocana Court decided that convict Stoianoglo to house arrest for 30 days (a decision confirm by a superior Court on October 16th), but the impact of the October 5th developments was extremely profound for Moldovan society. In a way, Victor Furtună (n. his name in English means „Storm”) generated a real storm in the Republic of Moldova.

The signs of the storm existed for a long time, and the first one was the announcement made by Natalia Morari (a well-known journalist) that she had/has a relationship with Veaceslav Platon – known for his involvement in looting the banking system in Moldova and bearing the surname of “CIS raider number 1”. Morari made public on Facebook that she has a child with Veaceslav Platon and immediately becoming the target of criticism of the entire Moldovan society. She was accused of posing for years as a supporter of the fight against corruption, when, in fact, she had a love affair with the symbol of corruption in Chișinău.

After this soap opera-like story (and accusations against other journalists for love affairs with politicians and businessmen), the Stoianoglo case is really a game-changer for the political scene in Chișinău. If there is nothing new in the fact that “nothing is what it seems” (e.g., people and media institutions posing in something other than what they really are), then, for the Republic of Moldova, it is something completely new to see the downfall of a character as influent as Stoianoglo.

A former member of the Democratic Party, two times MP in the glory days of the Plahotniuc regime, Stoianoglo is the exponent of a class of intangibles. And his downfall is a serious signal for everyone like him in public administration: social impostors, accustomed to well-paid decision-making positions, convinced that they deserve to occupy them even though they are recommended only by family ties and corruption schemes, with the sole quality of being non-conflicting obedients who pose, without embarrassment, in monuments of experience and competence, being, however, in reality, a „brake” for the adaptation of institutions to the needs of citizens.

Stoianoglo’s detention, was followed by the arrest of one of his deputies, Ruslan Popov, on charges of illicit enrichment. It should be noted that once Stoianoglo was suspended and arrested, his deputies were also suspended. Popov was arrested, but it is useful to take a look at Stoianoglo’s other two deputies: Mircea Roșioru and Iurie Perevoznic. Roșioru was appointed deputy prosecutor by Eduard Harujen, the Attorney General of the Republic of Moldova who benefitted from media attention because of his brother’s involvement in corruption schemes and because he was one of the obedient executors of Plahotniuc’s orders. Iurie Perevoznic, prosecutor and shareholder/ investor at Multevit and Fabrica de Drojdii companies (?!), chose to resign, not before posting on social media a message asking for the “bravado” of the arrests to stop (it is also true that his social media post seems a bit threatening…).

Reactions of the pro-Russian pole in Chisinau

The Bloc of Communists and Socialists organized a protest in Chisinau on October 10th against a so-called dictatorship of the new rulers (to be read: Maia Sandu). With a possible „kuliok file” looming, former president Igor Dodon has the most reasons to fear the turnaround that things have taken in Chișinău: PAS, a party of NGO members (as categorized by Voronin) that seemed an easy prey to the pro-Russian propaganda machine, began to deliver results in line with the campaign promises.

It is important to note that the pro-Russian actors in Chișinău are desperately trying to stick to Maia Sandu and the PAS government the same labels they used during the Plahotniuc regime: captured state, dictatorship, terror.

Another instrumented narrative is that the arrest was made on pure speculations in the press. However, this propaganda logic has some cracks. First, Lilian Carp publicly acknowledged that some of the data that formed the basis of the complaint against Stoianoglo came from press investigations, so Stoianoglo’s supporters did not discover anything new here. Second, the detention was certainly based on concrete evidence, otherwise no judge would have risked to arrest a strong character like Stoianoglo.

Stoianoglo – political prisoner, power-hungry government – these are two other messages launched by political figures such as former Prime Minister Ion Chicu, MPs Vlad Bătrâncea and Bogdan Țârdea and so-called experts / technocrats in the ranks of communists and socialists.

Messages like the ones above are also spread on some Găgăuz Facebook pages/ groups, but a good part of the audience seems not fall prey to propaganda. Many ethnics from Găgăuzia do not see Stoianoglo’s arrest as a violation of the law, but as a necessary step to dismantle clientele and corruption networks. At least for now, the Găgăuz ethnics do not seem to represent the ace up the sleeve of the pro-Russians in Chișinău, who hoped to provoke local tensions/ uprisings under the slogan: Stoianoglo was arrested because he is a Găgăuz ethnic.

What could be next?

Social tensions cannot be ruled out: especially if rallies of pro-Russians clash with pro-government marches or if Stoianoglo’s defenders manage to provoke outbreaks of civic insubordination in key points of the Republic of Moldova such as Găgăuzia or Bălți. A media portal in Comrat, laf.md, already reported on the local protests: in addition to flyers depicting Maia Sandu as a devil, Găgăuz MP Aleksandr Suhodolskii directly urged the participants to take the necessary steps in order to provoke civil unrest.

However, once on this path – of dismantling corrupt groups in the administration – the government has no choice but to continue. Popular support exists, but the most important aspect is that, no matter how big the „fishes” are, the legality of all actions must be the main concern of the investigators and magistrates. PAS and Maia Sandu will not remain in power forever, and their political legacy must not be an effective repressive system, but the rule of law.

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