The newly elected president of the Republic of Moldova wants to control intelligence agencies and prosecutor’s offices to attack her opponents, just like millionaire Vlad Plahotniuc. The narrative is publicized by people close to PSRM, a party which holds de facto control over the institutions in question, although it has formally lost power.
NEWS: “In recent days, the head of state has met with representatives of the competent legal authorities. Find out what prompted her desperate actions”, KP.md writes. The publication refers to the meetings president Maia Sandu had shortly after taking office with the heads of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PG), the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS), the National Integrity Authority (ANI) and the National Anticorruption Center (CNA). The article quotes official communiqués released by the Presidency after these meetings, but at the same time the author writes that “during the talks the president asked the Intelligence and Security Service for information about the owners of news agencies and Telegram channels”, and that “some commentators have argued this was a specific request of United States agencies”. KP also claims the new administration in Moldova is reportedly exerting pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office (as the Prosecutor General subsequently said), implying that Maia Sandu has ordered the National Integrity Agency to examine the wealth and assets of certain public servants in an attempt to bring the state’s power structures under her control: “…And now, as Maia Sandu has been elected president of Moldova, under our very eyes forces are trying to bring all the power and control structures under the president’s thumb”, the publication also notes. Referring to Maia Sandu’s press statements regarding the fight against corruption, KP alleges Sandu is willing to resort to a “purge” similar to that operated by Plahotniuc. “How will this happen? Will she use the Plahotniuc method, when investigations and legal proceedings involving serious breaches of the legislation, ordered by politicians? And one such politicized investigation was fabricated against Maia Sandu herself, in which she stands accused of betraying her country. Therefore, should we learn from the lessons of Moldova’s most prominent oligarch? Unfortunately, the first suspicions that Maia Sandy plans on acting this way emerged during her term as Prime Minister, when she tabled amendments to the legislation on the Prosecution’s Office. Then she suggested the Prime Minister (while the former PAS leader still served as Prime Minister) should lead the investigations of the Prosecutor General’s Office. A Stalinist proposal, unthinkable for a civilized democracy. For this particular reason, the new president’s first actions have raised concerns over her grudge against her political detractors”.
NARRATIVES: 1. The new presidential administration in Chișinău is trying to subdue key state institutions using the methods of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, including by operating purges. 2. Maia Sandu turns the screw on the Prosecutor’s Office. 3. The President of the Republic of Moldova is demanding information from the SIS at the Americans’ request.
BACKGROUND: Maia Sandu won the presidential election by making the fight against corruption the centerpiece of her campaign, promising firm action against top-level graft. “The fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary are my immediate and most important concerns”, the president said after the election while presenting the priorities of her term in office.
Although Maia Sandu won the election, to the detriment of PSRM leader Igor Dodon, the latter controls an informal majority in Parliament. The Socialists, alongside a group of deputies affiliated to the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor, involved in the billion-dollar bank fraud and sentenced to 7 years in prison in the court of first instance, voted a number of controversial laws challenged by the pro-European opposition, one of them aimed at removing the SIS from the president’s control, which was the case during the mandate of president Dodon, who also appointed the institution’s leadership. In this context, it’s worth noting that suspicions have been circulating for years in Moldova that the SIS is being used as a tool to exert political pressure and prosecute opponents, thus overstepping its legal prerogatives.
With respect to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the fight over who controls this institution has triggered a number of political crises in the Republic of Moldova over the last ten years. Former Prime Minister Vlad Filat was removed from office over a dispute with mogul Vladimir Plahotniuc regarding the prosecutor general. Maia Sandu was also ousted in 2019, when her Cabinet challenged the procedures for appointing the Prosecutor General, which led to the unravelling of the ruling coalition made up of PSRM and the ACUM-DA-PAS bloc. Following his application, Alexandru Stoianoglo was appointed Prosecutor General of the Republic of Moldova.
In November last year, Stoianoglo refused to appear before Parliament and present the activity report of the Prosecutor’s Office and findings related to the massive bank fraud in the Republic of Moldova. Stoianoglo instead organized a press conference where he made public his one-year activity report. The Prosecutor General also chose not to attend the deposition organized by Parliament’s Investigation Committee in late December regarding the “Russian Laundromat”. On January 5, prosecutors spoke publicly about political pressure on their activity. Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglu referred to “attempts to undermine the independence of prosecutors” and “a gross insult from politicians”, which he says continued to build up as the investigation progressed.
The Prosecutor’s Office in the Republic of Moldova was accused of being controlled by the political class and used as an instrument to intimidate opponents and even undermine their public standing.
PURPOSE: By means of such articles, PSRM-controlled media seeks to smear Maia Sandu’s public image by associating her with oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who dominated Moldovan politics through repressive action and used the state’s key institutions, including the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anticorruption Center (CAN) to advance his personal agenda and intimidate his opponents.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The author writes that Maia Sandu allegedly asked the Intelligence and Security Service for information about the owners of websites in response to requests received from the USA, but provides no evidence to support his claim. At the same time, KP alleges the meetings the Moldovan president had at the start of her mandate with representatives of the SIS, PG, ANI and CNA, served as an opportunity for Sandu to turn up the pressure on these institutions, just like Plahotniuc. The author also says Sandu made a similar attempt during her time as Prime Minister (2019), proposing amendments to the draft law on the Prosecutor’s Office whereby the Prime Minister would control the course of this institution’s investigations. At the time, the Sandu Cabinet took responsibility in Parliament over modifications brought to the draft law, allowing her to appoint the Prosecutor General, after claiming the result of the vacancy-filling contest had been tampered with.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: During her first days as the new head of state, Maia Sandu met with the head of the Intelligence and Security Service, the Prosecutor General, the head of ANI and the director of CNA, where she pointed out that eradicating corruption, especially top-level graft involving high-ranking officials and public servants, is one of her priorities as President. Sandu militated for well-oiled and independent institutions and for consolidating the rule of law in the Republic of Moldova.