Alleged drug trafficker Oleg Pruteanu, alias Oleg Borman, was released from detention after almost two years’ imprisonment on September 20, 2019. But he was immediately detained again in another criminal case for drug trafficking transmitted to Moldovan law enforcement from the Russian Federation. According to his lawyer, he was detained to provide evidence that would incriminate Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova’s richest oligarch and the former Democratic Party (PDM) leader, in an international drug smuggling ring.
Representatives of the Chișinău law enforcement authorities confirmed that while Pruteanu is being investigated in relation as part of a larger Russian criminal case also involving Vladimir Plahotniuc and former PDM deputy Constantin Ţuţu. The latter two already figure as suspects in that criminal case in absentia. That being said, contrary to information published in the press, the case has yet to reach Moldova.
During the few minutes that Pruteanu was released on September 20, he told journalists that he was required to testify against someone, but he refused to give any names.
“I was threatened that I would be liquidated. My wife and my family will be arrested if I give names now,” Pruteanu said.
Borman’s lawyer – his mother-in-law, Ala Raevschi – later told a journalist from a TV station owned by Vladimir Plahotniuc that he was detained to testify against Plahotniuc and Ţuţu.
The case escalated after Ala Raevschi held a press conference in which she accused the law enforcement authorities of fabricating criminal cases against Pruteanu. She also declared that allegations of Pruteanu’s involvement in the latest criminal case are based on accusations brought against him in previous criminal cases.
In response, the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases (PCCOCS) said that Raevschi’s allegations were unfounded.
The prosecutor comments on the new Borman case
Lilian Bacalîm, the prosecutor from the PCCOCS who initially managed the new criminal case involving Oleg Pruteanu, told ZdG that the accusations brought to the prosecutors have no foundation.
He claimed that the case against Pruteanu was opened in the Russian Federation, as part of a larger criminal case involving people from several countries.
“The police from Portugal, Spain and the Russian Federation have been involved in an international operation called ‘Pireneiskii Izlom.’ Probably, other European Union countries through which the drugs were trafficked might join the operation,” Bacalîm said.
The prosecutor explained that the drugs were transported by ship from Morocco to Spain and then on to Russia. According to information from the Russian authorities, a criminal organization under Borman’s control purchased and shipped the majority of these drugs to Russia.
“From the bigger criminal case, investigated by the Russians, they announced an international search [for] Oleg Pruteanu,” Bacalîm told ZdG. “Pruteanu was arrested in the Republic of Moldova, a country that does not extradite its citizens, according to the Constitution. The Russian Federation selected the file regarding Pruteanu from the larger case and sent it to the Republic of Moldova, for further investigation here. After receiving the materials, consisting of over 100 volumes, the Prosecutor General issued an ordinance to take over the criminal prosecution. Consequently, in September, Pruteanu was detained and arrested on the basis of the evidence from the cases on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
“In June 2018, [in Moldova], a criminal case against Oleg Pruteanu for drug smuggling, money smuggling, money laundering, illegal drug trafficking and the creation and management of a criminal organization was sent to court,” Bacalîm said.
The Chișinău Court is currently examining the case, but according to Bacalîm it now involves a different set of accusations.
“This case presented other charges, different from the materials that came from the Russian Federation, including other quantities, other people, other routes. When the Russian Federation transmitted their criminal case, the prosecution issued an ordinance to take over the criminal proceedings. Subsequently, criminal proceedings, searches, actions dictated by materials from the Russian Federation were undertaken. Following the criminal proceedings, the prosecution concluded that he be detained,” Bacalîm said.
Țuțu and Plahotniuc, accused in the same case in Russia.
In June 2019, the Department of Investigation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (MVD) announced that Vladimir Plahotniuc and Constantin Ţuțu are being accused in absentia in a criminal case for drug trafficking through a “criminal organization” created between June and August 2012, led by Oleg Pruteanu and other persons from Moldova and Spain.
According to a statement from the Russian MVD, their investigation found that Vlad Plahotniuc, “having the opportunity to influence the political situation and the power authorities in the state, influencing the people who opposed him and for personal enrichment purposes, entered into complicity with the leaders of the criminal groups in the Republic of Moldova that are in the top positions of the criminal hierarchy.”
The Russian MVD claimed that Plahotniuc became a leader in the transnational drug syndicate no later than 2012 and “protected those who were part of it.” Plahotniuc’s “trusted man” – Constantin Ţuțu – supervised these activities, the press release said.
In recent weeks, the Chișinău press had reported that materials concerning Constantin Țuțu and Vladimir Plahotniuc had arrived in Moldova, along with the materials on Oleg Pruteanu’s case. However, this information turned out to be false.
“When the materials first came, apparently, the names of these persons (Constantin Ţuțu and Vladimir Plahotniuc, ed. note) were not there. Subsequently, other materials arrived. Their names might be there, but I can neither affirm nor deny anything, because the case is no longer mine. The case was forwarded to another criminal prosecution group,” said prosecutor Lilian Bacalîm.
In turn, prosecutor Sergiu Roșu, who now manages the criminal prosecution in the case of Oleg Pruteanu, declared that, officially, the Chișinău authorities did not receive any information about Țuțu and Plahotniuc.
“From what I know and have seen in the press, these two persons are under investigation and accusation in the same case in Russia, but these materials, targeting their actions, have not been transferred to us,” Roșu confirmed.
“We only received the materials regarding Oleg Pruteanu’s case. I cannot tell you whether or not these names appear in these materials, because the criminal prosecution is not yet finalized. But, in essence, the criminal prosecution has taken over only Pruteanu’s case and the case of another person,” Roșu added. “I have only recently received the file and it’s very bulky. The criminal prosecution in the Borman case was transmitted in February.”