The Black Banker’s Wars

Gherman Gorbuntsov, aka “The Black Banker” owned a controlling interest in the Moldovan bank, Universalbank from 2008 to mid 2011. In August, 2011, 78 per cent of Universalbank shares were traded on the Moldovan stock exchange. The trades were a surprise to Gorbuntsov who immediately organized a press conference saying that he was the victim of a "raider attack"- a hostile takeover of his company based on forged documentation. A few days afterward, Renat Usatîi, the new controlling shareholder, said that,under Gorbuntsov, Universalbank was laundering between US$5 and US$10 million per day. Shortly after, Universalbank entered bankruptcy and the National Bank of Moldova withdrew its operating license. Moldova has been known as a money laundering haven with millions of illicitly earned money pouring through its banks including money stolen from the Russian budget in the Magnitsky case.

OCCRP obtained copies of phone taps made by Moldovan police between Renat Usatîi and other suspected criminal figures. In one of the recordings Usatîi talks to Alexei Bucătaru, aka "Lioha The Cook", a former lieutenant of Malhaz Djaparidze - a Moldovan vor-v-zakone who died in 2008 in a Moldovan prison. Usatîi and Bucătaru discussed plans to recover the money that Gorbunțsov allegedly owed to Russian businessmen who Usatîi claimed to represent.

In the beginning of 2012, the Chișinău prosecution announced that Gorbuntsov was wanted for a series of illegal activities.

"Gorbuntsov is also under investigation for his alleged involvement in a murder attempt on Renat Usatîi" says Cornel Bratunov, chief prosecutor in Moldovan prosecutor’s office.

The Moldovan authorities sent an extradition request to the UK government but Gorbuntsov has not yet been extradited.