Hundreds of protesters in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau forced their way through a police line and entered the parliament on Wednesday.

The protesters called lawmakers traitors for appointing Pavel Filip, a member of the main pro-European coalition, as prime minister.

Moldova has not had a government since a no-confidence vote in October overturned the administration of Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet.

The vote occurred following a scandal that siphoned more than $1 billion—amounting to 15% of Moldova’s GDP—from three banks in the small country of 3.5 million people. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe with a per capita income of $300 per month.

Banca Sociala, Banca de Economii (BEM) and Unibank had taken control of 30 percent of Moldova’s banking sector assets. The banks issued loans that allowed them to move around $1 billion to Latvia and then into a bewildering array of shell companies.   

“This sum has been issued under government guarantee and since the banks are unlikely to ever be able to repay, ultimately the taxpayers will have to be the ones that pay,” said Adrian Lupusor, executive director of the Expert-Grup, an economic think tank in Chisinau.

A report issued by US-based risk management firm Kroll placed primary responsibility for the theft on Israeli-born Ilan Shor. The Moldovan oligarch is connected to former Prime Minister Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM), the largest party in the ruling coalition.

The Kroll report, however, “did not specify a word about the responsible people in the state authorities who knew and tolerated [it]. It was impossible for Shor to perform this without their tacit approval,” according to Alexandru Stratan, director of the Chisinau-based National Institute for Economic Research.

Filat was stripped of immunity in October after he was accused of receiving $250 million in bribes and kickbacks for his alleged role in the bank fraud scheme. Complicity between the two men was revealed after Renato Usatii, the leftist mayor of Balti, Moldova’s second-largest, leaked security service intercepts of conversations between Filat and Shor. Usatii was arrested for the leak.

In October UK national radio’s premier investigative program, File on Four, produced a piece examining the role of UK companies and partnerships in the Moldovan fraud, specifically Scottish Limited Partnerships which have, according to Richard Smith of Naked Capitalism, “a set of characteristics that are uniquely suited for nefarious purposes.”


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