Moldovans call it the "robbery of the century." According to statements by the Central Bank, three Moldovan financial institutes allegedly granted loans for a total of some 900 million euros ($950 million) just before the parliamentary elections in November 2014.
According to media sources, most of the money supposedly disappeared in Russian banks. The national anti-corruption authorities are now investigating. They have the help of a US consultancy firm whose report, known as the "Kroll Report", is being kept under wraps by the Moldovan government. In the meantime, the three Moldovan banks have been placed under state supervision.
Over 40,000 people from all over Moldova came to the capital Chisinau on Sunday to demonstrate for the return of the money and a comprehensive investigation of the theft of the century. They demanded the immediate publication of the Kroll Report and the resignation of the Attorney General as well as the head of the national anti-corruption authorities.
Lack of trust in politics
The protest activities were mobilized by the newly founded citizen platform called "Dignity and Truth", to which leading personalities in Moldovan civil society belong. Demonstrators gathered in the Square of the Grand National Assembly under the Moldovan and the EU flag to blame the new government of Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici for widespread corruption and the deadlock in the European rapprochement process of their country. The minority government, consisting of the Liberal Democratic and Democratic Party, is supported by the Communist Party. Critics see this as a departure from the prescribed pro-European course of the Republic of Moldova and a nod to Moscow.
According to Igor Botan, co-founder of the new platform and the director of the Association for Participative Democracy, the people's support for the country's chosen path to Europe has shrunk drastically from 73 % to 37 %. The reasons are probably mismanagement and corruption on the part of the government, which describes itself as pro-European. "It's almost a catastrophe. We want our messages and our behavior to restore the citizens' faith in Europe," said Botan.
A general strike is planned
The protest march on Sunday was a sign for the state to strengthen monitoring mechanisms against corruption. Should the government ignore the demands of the demonstrators, they have announced a general strike in two weeks. The entrances to the government building, parliament and the public prosecutor's office will then be closed off.
In an emergency session of the government, Prime Minister Gaburici asked the responsible state institution to maintain public order and avoid any activities – even if their origin is external– that may lead to social and political unrest.
Gaburici invited representatives of the demonstrators to talk about their demands on Monday. It is in the interest of his government to resolve the crisis in the financial sector and to stabilize the economic situation in his country, said the prime minister.
The demonstrators' demands are backed by their compatriots in several European capitals. Their neighbor Romania also spoke clearly on their behalf. In her message to the protesters on Sunday, European Member of Parliament and former Romanian justice minister, Monica Macovei, stated that the only solution for the situation in the Republic of Moldova is strengthening the judicial system and anti-corruption authorities. In the process it is necessary that an independent person be appointed to a top government office to implement judicial reform without consideration for the aims of party politics.