The tiny country of Moldova is the poorest in Europe, and it has now got significantly poorer. Approximately $1 billion was stolen from the country’s banks late last year, which is around an eighth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). If the United States were to lose an eighth of its economy, the sum would be around $2 trillion.
Cash disappeared through dodgy loans
It is thought that the money disappeared due to various dodgy loans issued by local banks last November. A local businessman, Ilan Shor, has since been placed under house arrest for apparently using the three banks, one of which is owned by the state, to give huge loans to companies that he controls.
His dastardly scheme was only rumbled by officials earlier this year, and the U.S. auditing firm Kroll is investigating the matter. Officials in Moldova have been keeping the details of the investigation to themselves, and a lot of the population are incredibly angry.
Citizens say that the affair is symptomatic of the corruption which is a daily reality in Moldova. Sunday’s protest became about more than just some missing money, albeit a huge amount, and became an expression of anger at systemic problems.
Around 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets, which is a large proportion of the population of a country with only 3.5 million inhabitants. Although pro-Western politicians are on the rise, and promise to bring Moldova closer to Europe than Russia, many people criticize their lack of action on corruption.
Moldova: Corruption rife in political system
In fact, Igor Botan, a political analyst and a member of the political movement responsible for organizing the protest on Sunday, claims that the ruling coalition of pro-European politicians were involved in the crime.
“Our country is a poor and agrarian country,” he said. “But it’s home to decent people who want their country to flourish, to be closer to European standards, and for it to find its economic niche alongside the European Union.”
The last round of big protests hit Chisinau in 2009, when the Communist party rode into power on the back of allegedly fraudulent parliamentary elections. It seems unlikely that the protesters will reach the critical mass needed to overthrow the current government of Moldova, but they must be hoping for the return of the missing $1 billion.