“The signed document provides for the return of the confiscated amount, in the total amount of [530,000 euros],” the Moldovan government announced in a statement, “the funds will be used to hire more than 550 personal assistants for people with severe disabilities.”
The move by the UK is linked to the so-called “grand theft” of one billion US dollars from Moldovan banks between 2012 and 2014. The illicit cash grab occurred when Vlad Filat was prime minister; he is allegedly connected to the crime.
In 2019, UK authorities confiscated 458,000 British pounds from three HSBC bank accounts that had been opened in the name of Luca Filat. Earlier this year, they revealed that Filat had received a number of money transfers to the three accounts using hawala.
Hawala is an alternative remittance system developed in India, and more popularly used in the Middle East.
At the time, Luca Filat attempted to justify these illicit cash amounts by explaining that these amounts from the Cayman Islands, Iraq and Turkey, including $5.5 million in loans from an Iraqi firm, were merely gifts from friends.
The UK’s National Agency for Combating Organised Crime found that the sums were linked to companies with ties to Luca Filat’s father, Vlad Filat. The latter denied that the funds were connected to him, or Moldova.
“I can’t tell you where and how they came from. I don’t know what his [Luca Filat’s] activities are because we don’t communicate,” he said.
Vlad Filat was prime minister of Moldova from 2009 to 2013. He was imprisoned on corruption charges from 2015 to 2019.
Moldova’s Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Marcel Spatari, welcomed the return of the illicit funds.
“The returned funds will be used to hire personal assistants for people with severe disabilities, in addition to the nearly 6,000 personal assistants who work today,” he said of the agreement with the UK, “This is definitely a step forward towards improving the standard of living for vulnerable people.”
The return of the illicit funds will be monitored by Keystone Moldova, an organisation with a mandate to oversee issues related to transparency and monitoring within the bilateral agreement.