A court in Moldova sentenced in absentia the leader of a small opposition party to 15 years in prison on April 13 in connection with the theft of $1 billion in bank assets.
Business tycoon Ilan Shor, head of the party that bears his name, was found guilty by the Chisinau Court of Appeal on earlier charges of fraud and money laundering in a case known locally as the “theft of the century”.
In recent months, Shor has been involved in street protests condemning high prices and calling for the resignation of the government in the tiny country between Ukraine and Romania.
The 15-year sentence is double the original 7.5-year sentence handed down by a lower court in 2015. The appeals court also ordered the confiscation of $277 million in assets. The appeal has been pending for eight years.
In 2019, Shor left the country in secret and is believed to be in Israel now.
Pro-European president Maia Sandu, elected in 2020 with a promise to stamp out corruption, said the verdict was vital as a public demonstration of justice.
Shor, whose party holds six of the 101 seats in the Moldovan legislature, called the verdict illegal.
According to the US Treasury Department, Ilan Shor worked with Russians before the 2021 elections in Moldova to create a political alliance aimed at controlling the country’s parliament and supporting legislation favourable to Russia.
Washington claims that as of June 2022, Shor was receiving Russian support and his party was coordinating with representatives of other oligarchs to create political unrest in Moldova.