Moldova to Investigate Magnitsky Money Laundering Funds
Moldova's National Anti-Corruption Centre has launched an investigation into the role Moldovan banks played in the $230 million tax rebate fraud uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Moldovan authorities acknowledged on Wednesday. In doing so, Moldova became the fifth country to try to trace the funds obtained in that tax fraud, joining Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Switzerland.
The investigation involves Moldova's biggest bank, Banca de Economii (The Savings Bank), which an investigation by OCCRP, showed was involved in the complicated transfer of funds that followed the 2008 tax fraud scheme. OCCRP obtained bank records from two phantom companies used to transfer the funds to the some of the ultimate beneficiaries of the fraud.
Sergei Magnitsky blew the whistle in 2008 on Russian officials who he discovered stole $230 million in tax proceeds from the state and laundered it through a web of phantom companies and offshore accounts. Russian officials then arrested charged him with the very fraud he uncovered. For four months prior to his death in 2009, Magnistky was held at Butyrka detention center where he was denied treatment for pancreatitis and gallstones.
The UK-based investment firm, Hermitage Capital, Magnitsky's former employer, filed a complaint with the Moldovan prosecutor in June, in which it identified two accounts at the Moldovan bank that had received the stolen funds, which were then sent to Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Hong Kong.
The details of Moldova's criminal investigation will be made public in the next few days, according to the National Anti-Corruption Centre's spokesperson Angela Starinschi.