Ex-Moldovan President Dodon Detained After Home Searched By Anti-Corruption Police

CHISINAU -- The former president of Moldova, Igor Dodon, has been detained by Moldovan authorities on corruption charges, the Prosecutor-General's Office said on May 24.

Senior anti-corruption prosecutor Elena Kazakov announced that Dodon was detained after searches of his home, office, and cars during which several luxury goods, foreign currency, receipts, and other documents were found.

Kazakov, speaking at a briefing, identified Dodon as the main subject of the investigation but said that "intermediaries" also were subjects of the probe.

The goods and money that prosecutors say were used to commit crimes exceed tens of millions of lei -- hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars -- and include real estate and vehicles, she said.

The documents found at Dodon’s home confirm real estate transactions that exceed 700,000 euros, Kazakov said, adding that two people have been detained for trying to hide evidence. One of them tried to destroy evidence by swallowing it, she said, without specifying what it was.

Moldovan media reported that the person was identified as the brother-in-law of the former head of state and that he allegedly swallowed a receipt.

Prosecutors said they found 600,000 lei in one of the locations subject to the search and that an envelope with the insignia of an unspecified party contained foreign currency of more than 17,000 euros and $1,000.

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced the search earlier on May 24, saying it was being conducted by anti-corruption authorities.

The Moldovan-Russian Business Union, headed by Dodon since its founding in February, was among the offices searched.

Late on May 24, Dodon declared his innocence and blamed pro-Western President Maia Sandu, who he said wanted to distract people from the country's economic woes.

"Dear citizens, I want to assure you that for every element of interest to the prosecutors I have the necessary explanations that remove any suspicion of corruption or breaking the law," Dodon said in an online message. "This politically motivated case is fabricated."

Dodon, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was president of Moldova from 2016-2020. He was defeated in November 2020 by Sandu, a U.S.-educated politician who ran on a ticket of closer relations with the West.

The Kremlin said it is "naturally alarmed that such a practice and persecution once again affects those who advocate the development of friendly relations with Russia for mutual benefit."

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on the Moldovan authorities to ensure Dodon's rights are respected.

At a news conference on the issue, members of Dodon's Party of Socialists said the actions were part of a "two-penny show" meant to distract the public's attention from poverty and social issues.

Vlad Batrincea, deputy chairman of the party, said he believed the actions of the investigators were a politically motivated move by authorities loyal to Sandu.

"This is a dangerous game. Those who go against the opposition want to provoke destabilization," Batrincea said at a briefing.

A representative of Sandu, who is currently in the United States to celebrate her 50th birthday, did not respond to a request for comment, according to Reuters.

Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, formally applied for European Union membership in March after Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Despite its lack of wealth and size, Moldova, which has a population of about 2.6 million people, has taken in more than 472,000 refugees from neighboring Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, unimedia.md, and deschide.md