Vlad of Arabia: properties, interests and connections in the Middle East
● The leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova Vlad Plahotniuc reported for the first time a series of business and interests in the Middle East.
● Moldova has strengthened its relations with the countries of this region in recent years.
● One of the intermediaries is the Trans-Oil patron, Vaja Jhashi, who advised several government structures in the Middle East.
● The United Arab Emirates has been a destination for money leaks from the "Russian Laundromat" affair, as well as the "grand theft" of the billion US dollars from the Moldovan banking system.
The leader of the Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, is running for the parliamentary elections on 24 February in the uninominal constituency No. 17, Nisporeni. According to the statements on his property and personal interests for 2018, the leader of the Democratic Party reported first time that he had income from the Middle East and that he owns companies in the tax haven Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates UEA.
Vlad Plahotniuc reported in his declaration of assets and personal interests that he is the only owner of Vangurad International LTD in the United Arab Emirates and of the Vangurad International Group LTD in the Samoa Islands.
The information about these two companies - Vanguard International Ltd and Vangurad International Ltd is different in the same document. These are investment companies which he had bought with 100,000 US dollars. We requested an explanation from the chairman of the PDM, but until the date of this investigation publication, we received no answer.
The Democratic leader said he obtained from Vangurad International LTD dividends worth 4,550,200 euros, 11,597,400 Moldovan lei and 347,500 US dollars.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries through which 434 million US dollars in the so-called "Russian Laundromat" circulated in 2011-2014. This was an organized crime financial scheme by which 20 billion dollars were obtained from Russia after making business with the state.
Also, the United Arab Emirates was one of the destinations of money leaks following the theft of the billion, revealed by Kroll's second report.
Trans-Oil businesses in the Middle East
The UAE was not an important economic partner for Moldova since it appeared on the world political map. The two countries established diplomatic relations on December 21, 1995. Since then, and by 2017, except an attempt in 2008, Moldova has failed to increase the value of trades with the UAE.
Moldova's bilateral trades with the UAE rose to 2.47 million US dollars on the exports and 1.89 million US dollars on the imports in 2017. This amount is not even half of the revenues of Vladimir Plahotniuc's companies in the UAE.
Nevertheless, Moldovan authorities showed a sudden interest in this region in that period. This time, one of the binders for economic interests is the Trans-Oil Group, controlled by Vaja Jhashi, a businessman with three citizenships - Russian, American and Moldovan.
The Trans-Oil Group of companies has now a monopoly over the export of cereals from Moldova. The one who granted the citizenship of Moldova to Jhashi Vaja Enricovich in 2005 was the president Vladimir Voronin.
On January 29-30, 2018, Enricovich accompanied Prime Minister Pavel Filip on a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Being asked why the President of Trans-Oil was in his delegation, Prime Minister Pavel Filip said that Enricovich knows the Middle East very well.
"I chose him and I asked him to join me in this visit to the United Arab Emirates because he is the only person I know from Moldova who is fluent in Arabic and is a specialist in this field too", said Prime Minister Pavel Filip while explaining his relationship with Jhashi.
On the other side, requested by the Center of Investigative Journalism in Moldova, Jhashi said he does not hold any official office in the Moldovan Government.
"I do not have any official position in Moldova`s Government, neither counseling nor consultancy. This has happened (collaboration with Prime Minister Filip) because of the expertise I have in the Middle East and because I speak Arabic fluently", said the businessman.
He requested that his statements should not be politically approached.
Also, Jhashi said that he sometimes shared his opinion on certain aspects related to the Middle East economy and some traditional problems specific to this region with several government agencies, but strictly as a particular opinion of an expert.
Also, about two weeks after the official request, the government confirmed that Vaja Jhashi is not officially a government adviser and that his visit together with Premier Filip was made "privately, as a private sector official".
Trans-Oil businesses in the Middle East
The president of the Trans-Oil company said in October 2017 for the infomarket.md portal that he signed a 25-million-dollar contract with the Iraqi Defense Ministry for sunflower oil deliveries. In addition, the Trans-Oil Group exported products worth over 34,500,000 US dollars to the Middle East in 2017-2018.
The largest importer of Trans-Oil products was the Ministry of Commerce of Iraq - $ 31,314,705, followed by Babylon Overseas (FZE) - $ 2,996,216, and Taj al-Sultan Refilling LLC company - nearly $ 220,000.
Babylon Overseas (FZE) was opened in 2016 in Sharjah, UAE by Ghenadie Ostrovitchi, Stela Ostrovetchi’s husband, director of the "Floarea Soarelui" SA Balti. In March 2017, Ghenadie Ostrovetchi was replaced by a certain Muhammad Imran Abbasi in running Babylon Overseas.
Also, Babylon Overseas is the company that owns part of the business of a former major player in the field of agriculture in Romania, Adrian Porumboiu. By the end of 2015, it was taken over by Vaja Jhashi through a sophisticated scheme. Currently, the transaction is the subject of litigation that is judged by Romanian courts.
The Arabic connection
The connections between Vaja Jhashi and Vladimir Plahotniuc have developed over the last few years. Vaja Jhashi is a member of the Moldovan Business People Association headed by Vlad Plahotniuc. They had common interests at Victoria Bank. Enricovich served as First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of this bank in December 2011.
However, the president of the Trans-Oil told the Centre for Investigative Journalism CIJM that he had never had any business or commercial relations with Plahotniuc "either in the past or present." "I have been Vlad Plahotniuc’s friend for a very long time, but, frankly, I did not even know he had interests in companies in the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, obviously, it has nothing to do with me ", he insisted.
As for his interests and the functions at Victoria Bank and the Moldovan Business People Association, Jhashi said: "As part of Victoria Bank's Board of Directors, together with six other members, I am not a business partner/shareholder with Vlad Plahotniuc. As you may know, the Board of Directors has a supervisory role."
"It is true that we are both members of the Council of the Association of Businessmen, but this is a non-profit and non-commercial entity. In my world of commerce this for sure doesn’t fall into joint business or partnership," he said.
However, Trans-Oil International has funded the Atlantic Council, an American think-tank that invited Vlad Plahotniuc (2016) and Andrian Candu (2018) to several events dedicated to international relations. Moreover, Trans-Oil has funded researches of this analytical centre about Moldova.
Apart from relations with Plahotniuc, Jhashi is equally well connected to the entourage of Igor Dodon. The vice-president of the Trans-Oil Group is Mihail Caraseni, president Dodon's advisor on economic issues. Mihail Caraseni has a brother in the Democratic Party, Demian Caraseni.
Formalization of new relations
Immediately after Filip's visit to the UAE, Moldova inaugurated an embassy in a luxury building in Abu Dhabi on May 10, 2018. Moldova`s ambassador to the capital of the UAE was named Victor Haruta, the son of former Chief of the Municipal Enterprise "Green Areas Management Association" in Chisinau, Eliferi Haruta.
Tudor Ulianovschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and the Economy and Infrastructure Minister Chiril Gaburici attended the inauguration ceremony of the new diplomatic office.
Ulianovschi is also close to Middle East affairs. He was Head of America, Asia, Middle East and Africa Directorate of the Foreign Affairs and European Integration Ministry between 2011 and 2013 and he was in charge of Economic Affairs at Moldova`s Embassy of to Qatar in 2013 - 2014.
Tudor Ulianovschi became ambassador to Switzerland (2016-2018) and from 2018 - to present, he is head of Moldovan diplomacy at just 35 years old.
Moldovan citizenship against large money from Emirates
After Moldova`s Embassy inauguration in Abu Dhabi on July 11 2018, the Economy and Infrastructure Ministry led by Chiril Gaburici announced the signing of a public service contract for the development, implementation and international promotion of the Citizenship Acquisition Program with the consortium MIC Holding LLC and Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd.
Just the same day, on July 11, 2018, the journalists of the Maltese portal St. Lucia News wrote that MIC Holding LLC is the acronym for the Moldovan Investment Company (MIC), a company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Moldovan Security and Intelligence Service SIS were not allowed to check the people beforehand. Thus, anyone, regardless of a criminal record, but with money in his pocket, can buy his Moldovan citizenship and then "whiten" the "dirty money" that he holds against a 3 per cent tax to the state.
So, shortly, in the last days of the parliamentary summer session, just before the vacation, the Parliament passed on 26 July 2018 a controversial tax reform containing provisions on tax amnesty.
This package of laws that was supposed to boost the economy, legalized in subsidiary the gain of the Moldovan citizenship in dubious conditions. There have been 5,000 citizenships that can be granted against the sum of EUR 100,000 in the Sustainable Development Fund or at least 250,000 euros in a strategic area of activity.
This double deal was immediately rated by the development partners of the Republic of Moldova. The EU and US Embassies in Chisinau, the IMF and other institutions have had virulent reactions to the decisions taken by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.
Despite the negative reactions from the Western partners and donors of Moldova, the Government continued to promote the acquisition of Moldovan citizenship in the Middle East, namely in the United Arab Emirates.
Subsequently, on November 5, a Moldovan delegation launched internationally the "Fast-track Moldova Citizenship by Investment Programme" at the Global Residence and Citizenship Conference. The event took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This article was written in the framework of the project “Promoting an informed and conscious vote in the parliamentary elections through a monitoring and information campaign "For a Clean Parliament 2018", implemented by ADEPT, API, CAPC and CIJM with the financial support of the Soros Foundation Moldova/Good Governance Department. The activities undertaken within the project are the responsibility of the implementers and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Soros-Moldova Foundation.
Investigations in the same category:
● The main beneficiary of the cryptocurrency business in the breakaway region of Transnistria is the Sheriff holding and a former employee of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation. ● The equipment was purchased through a bank involved in the theft of the billion. ● The actors and companies involved have businesses in the energy sector, telecommunication, internet in Crimea and in the Western countries in Europe. Tehnopark company is located in the Business Center "Rossia", one of the most modern buildings in Tiraspol, the main city of the breakaway region of Transnistria, in contrast to the grey of Soviet architecture. This is a
European funded roads rehabilitated with significant delays
Four out of 13 companies, that have been shortlisted in international tenders over the last five years in order to rehabilitate the national roads of the Republic of Moldova, have been sanctioned for delays in the execution of the works. All fined companies are international and the amount of fines exceeds EUR 3.8 million. The four companies that were sanctioned for delays in the execution of the works were contracted during 2011-2014 for repairing several areas on national the routes Chisinau - Soroca, Chisinau - Comrat - Giurgiulesti, Chisinau - Ungheni - Sculeni and for the construction of Ungheni bypass
Bypass road, “bypassed” by the Authorities
Announced with great pomp in early 2012, Chisinau's bypass road remained just an unfulfilled promise. Five years after the announcement of the project, the authorities did not even develop a feasibility study to determine the need for the ring road and its route. In the absence of the “plan”, however, a construction company was contracted, which conducted only 3% of the works in two years on a bypass road segment that was to be ready in January 2018. The whole Bypass road would cost about EUR 200 million, money the authorities do not know where to take from. The first
Till the first earthquake happens
It's usually said about houses and building, constructed in the Republic of Moldova after 1991, they will resist before the first earthquake will happen. This is an emotional evaluation of things. And two earthquakes with a moderate magnitude that happened in September and December of 2016 proved it. What's the actual situation in the construction sphere? And, is there a possibility for a total damage to happen to a person and his property, because of builders or officials’ fault? Features in Moldavian constructions “When I was a student, my professors used to tell me: “There is an unique environment in
How several presidential candidates pocketed electoral money
The campaign for 2016 presidential elections with a budget worth almost 60 million lei has been one of the most expensive in Moldova so far. The money collected from thousands of sponsors: students, pensioners or unemployed, prosperous businessmen reached the accounts of some companies that manage TV channels. The main beneficiary of the electoral campaign held this autumn fall is the first deputy-chairman of the Democratic Party, owner of 4 TV channels. Most of the contenders aired election ads on these TV channels. About 40 per cent of electoral funds of the 12 candidates were paid to the accounts
Ukraine-Moldova-Transnistria: golden triangle of smuggling
Almost every month, law enforcement officers of Ukraine report about delaying of alcohol and cigarettes smuggling from Moldova. However, in Ukraine the quantity of smuggled goods does not become less–“Privoz” in Odessa, which is one of the oldest and largest existing markets in Europe, is crowded with contraband cigarettes. They sell it without checks and excise duties are questionable. Internet is full of proposals of Moldovan cigaretteswholesale. However, official data indicates that for more than two years Moldovacigarettesare not imported to Ukraine. However, traders are ready to sell illegal goodsby blocks, which prove the magnitude of the supply of
The grain market in Moldova, under the Russian monopoly
The wheat harvest this year was plenteous, with an average quantity of 3.4 tons per hectare. Nevertheless, the small producers will not benefit of this situation, because they are compelled to sell their grains to a derisory price. The only beneficiary is Trans-Oil, a holding consisting in a series of off-shores registered in Switzerland and Cyprus and joint-stock companies form Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The company is controlled by the Russian citizen Vazha Dzashi, who was born in Georgia (USSR), holds an American passport and hi is member of the Council of Administration of the Moldovan Businessman Association. Trans-Oil, a
New Airline Fly One and Private Interests of the Civil Aviation Authority Director, Confirmed by ISS
Mircea Maleca, Director of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), is allegedly the real business partner of the family of Ministry of Justice Vladimir Cebotari in the new airline company Fly One. The official is hiding behind his former father- in-law from Leova. This is confirmed by a letter signed by Mihai Balan, Director of the Information and Security Service (ISS), that recently came into possession of portal Anticoruptie.md. Although its authenticity is not confirmed, ISS heads claim in an official response that the CAA managers abuse power by promoting private interests in civil aviation, which would be contrary to
Energy (in)dependence of Ukraine and Moldova: After association with the EU
The desire to join the European Union, voiced by Ukraine and Moldova, set the agenda of the authorities, including the issue of the system of purchase and supply of natural gas. Nevertheless, the assessment of the situation to date, carried out by a group of journalists from Moldova and Ukraine, shows that the market of gas in both countries still has some problems, and carries the risk of corruption. Embezzlement of public funds, key intermediary firms of dubious reputation, monopoly - these are the main features of the gas market in the two post-Soviet countries. "Moldova to Russia’s pocket". How it
New Airline in the Pocket of the Minister of Justice
A new airline will operate in Moldova as of May 2016 and will transport passengers to several European cities. The company was registered last autumn and has as founders Maria Cebotari, wife of the current Minister of Justice, Vladimir Cebotari, while his sister, Mariana Tabuica, would be the new executive director. The Minister confirmed that his family started a new business and it's just a way to earn a living. "Just like any citizen of this country, I cope with problems", says the official who gets a monthly income from ministerial activity of about 16,000 lei. Initially, Fly One promises flights
False Flags of Moldova: Azerbaijan-Netherland’s Track
The story of Giurgiulești port, „the incubator” of Moldavian flag for ships business, begins with an extremely onerous business involving the communists led by former president Vladimir Voronin, Azerbaijan businessmen and companies, Swiss credit companies, other companies registered in the Netherlands, as well as a BERD former employee that later became one of the business heads. One of the constant players that are to be described later on is the business man, Thomas Mosser. The story of the Romanian port of Giurgiulești began in 1993 when Andrei Sangheli, Moldavian former prime minister intended to build a port right in the
"Platonic" Ukrainians’ businesses in Chisinau
Oleksandr Pinchuk, a Ukrainian national and a former head of the National Bureau of Motor Vehicle Insurers of the Republic of Moldova, has been on the wanted list of the Moldovan authorities for almost a year by now. He became a key person of interest for the National Anticorruption Centre and the Anticorruption Prosecution Office when the Bureau suffered 30 million leu damages. However, Pinchuk, who is also a successful lawyer from Ukraine, goes to work every day, meets his partners and participates in public life of the neighboring state without any problems. We have found him and even talked
Audit with interests? Who owns the companies selected by the Ministry of Finance to carry out financial controls at state enterprises?
The government has recently approved a list of 37 audit companies, filled by the Ministry of Finance, that will audit the financial statements of state enterprises or companies in which the state share exceeds 50 percent of the social capital. One of the companies approved to make checks in 2015 is that of Ion Prisacaru, head of the State Tax Inspectorate (STI) and other companies related to former employees of Finance Ministry. The National Anti-Corruption Center (CNA) conducted a survey on the corruptibility of the draft decision of the Government in March and warned about situations of conflicts of
Off-SHOR Airport via Russia (II)
To ensure incomes estimated at over one billion Euros to the company „Avia Invest”, managed by the current mayor of Orhei Ilan Shor, the main suspect in the case on the theft of billion from the financial-banking system of the Republic of Moldova, the Government does not want to annul an airport fee which the National Anticorruption Center (CNA) reported that it was perceived illegally. From the central rostrum of Parliament, the CNA director suggests that money stolen from BEM is laundered at the Airport, but the officials from the Center who investigate the case wait for answers from Russia.
Off-SHOR Airport via Russia
Chisinau International Airport (AIC) lease is one of the most controversial "businesses" concluded by the Government of the Republic of Moldova in recent years. Although 5 European companies with experience in airport activity were invited to participate in the contest, the competition commission chose an anonymous company, founded by an airport in Russia and a Russian factory of locomotives production, which ceded the "business" to an off-shore. Today, investments in Airport modernization are made mostly based on money from the activity of AIC transferred to the accounts of companies close to Ilan Shor. „Business” AIC - An opaque contest, won by
The confidential report of the Commission of Minister Cebotari and Airport leasing
President of the Commission on assessing the Chisinau International Airport leasing agreement, Minister of Justice Vladimir Cebotari admitted that "Avia Invest" has not fulfilled some of the provisions stipulated by the agreement, but he argues that there are no grounds for terminating the agreement. Termination was recommended by the National Anti-Corruption Center, after they had identified some irregularities about set investments and after certain revenues of the airport would have arrived at the football club of mayor in Orhei, Ilan Sor. Ex-Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet claims that the first part of the Report shows grounds for termination and the
Companies of Iurcu’s friends continue to win contracts with Moldtelecom
Companies affiliated to Vitalie Iurcu, currently Deputy Minister of Economy and ex-director of Moldtelecom, continue to be key procurement partners of the joint venture owned by the state, even after he left the company. Recently, just through one invoice, to the firm’s accounts established by Iurcu’s friends, were transferred 700,000 lei. Previously, we demonstrated how several companies belonging to friends or business partnersof VitalieIurcu, then director of Moldelecom, obtained multi-million contracts with this joint stock company owned by the state. The information is now confirmed by recent acts, which came into our possession, demonstrating that Moldtelecom continues to buy from
The stories from www.anticoruptie.md may be used in the limit of up to 1,000 characters. Web pages must indicate the source and link directly to the article. Print media, Radio and TV stations must indicate the source. Publishing full version of stories is allowed based on a prior agreement with the Center for Investigative Journalism. Articles published on www.anticoruptie.md are protected by the Law on copyright and related rights of Republic of Moldova.