The OffSHORE Airport. What’s Happening to the Moldova’s Main Gateway?

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The Chisinau International Airport became a subject of dubious commercial transactions once again. Vladimir Rotar, RTA: The main news of this week is of course the transfer of Avia Invest SRL which owns the Chisinau International Airport concession to the Russian businessman Andrei Goncharenko. This is really akin to a sensation:  surprising is as the fact that Nathaniel Rothschild unexpectedly rejected his asset acquired just a few months ago, as the personality of the new owner, the Russian businessman Andrei Goncharenko. The latter has already stated that he plans to increase the passenger traffic and turn the airport into a regional transport center between Europe and Asia. For this purpose, Goncharenko plans to build a new runway and the “most modern terminal in the region”. There is no doubt that the capital's airport remains not only a strategic object - after all, it is the only one in the country, but also an extremely tidbit for any entrepreneur. The monopoly position and favorable external environment after the Ukrainian events allow substantial profit insurance to the Chisinau's air harbor owners. It is not surprising that in 2013 it was handed over to the concession of an offshore company close to Ilan Shore, and through it the control of the airport was actually transferred to the unofficial owner of Moldova, Vlad Plahotniuc. The deal caused a lot of criticism among the Moldovan public, but, of course, no one could go against the all-powerful oligarch. After the fall of the Plahotniuc regime in June of this year, the new Moldovan authorities were concerned about the return of the capital's airport to state ownership, but Shor got there first. Ex Orhei mayor sold his Avia Invest controlling stake to the billionaire Nathaniel Rothschild, thus, raising the bar for the ACUM-PSRM alliance. Chisinau arrested the company's property, but could not stop the purchase itself. And now the third owner within the year has appeared at the airport, and his personality is highly questionable. The foreign media calls Andrei Goncharenko “a shadow oligarch with offshore assets” and, apparently, for a purpose. We know quite a little about him or his evidently considerable wealth and its sources. Goncharenko is a former top manager of Gazprom, and that immediately gave impetus to rumors to a further transfer of the airport to Russia. Rumors were heightening by the news on Russian loan of $ 300 million for Moldova appeared at the same time, as well as rumors about Goncharenko’s ties with Boris and Arkady Rottenberg Russian billionaires, who are considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This version is now particularly "dispersed" by the pro-European forces. However, everything seems far from so simple. First of all, it looks strange the fact that Nathaniel Rothschild got rid of the airport so quickly. The president’s version that the billionaire was frightened of competition (the government recently announced its plans to build two more airports in Moldova) of course, has the right to be but it looks too strained. It is more a kind of lucrative deal to sell a distressed asset. Or maybe even a planned action, where Rothschild acted only as one of the links in a pre-thought chain, the purpose of which was to return the airport to its original “concessionaire”. This was directly stated by Igor Dodon, according to whom, Andrei Goncharenko was originally "in the same scheme with Ilan Shor." It is clear that the Head of State is thus, trying to quickly get around the rumors about the “surrender of state property to the Russians,” but the connection between the Russian and Moldovan oligarchs cannot be absolutely ruled out. Moreover, at the moment it’s impossible to say Goncharenko is “the man of the Kremlin”. In Russia, there’s a lot of shady past and scandal connected to this person. And the point is not even the information around the media about his hard assets in London, but in multiple frauds. The businessman’s “folder” includes the fact of a large bribe giving to the police to prevent his company Gazpromstroyengineering from checking; extortion, and corruption cases within distribution and receipt of government contracts. According to some reports, the main business partners of Goncharenko already do have problems with Russian law. It can be assumed that Goncharenko himself also has them. This is indirectly confirmed by his attempts this year to obtain a Moldovan passport through the scandalous law on citizenship for investment. According to Dodon, they were undertaken back in the days of Plahotniuc. Most likely, the correct answer to the question - who is actually interested to resale the Chisinau airport - Moscow or Shor - will not be soon received. As you know, money loves silence, especially such a considerable amount. One thing is clear: the new authorities still have absolutely no control over the situation with the airport, because to return it to the state property requires enormous legal work and dozens of court processes. Therefore, despite all the statements of Moldovan politicians, the country's main air harbor remains under the control of offshore companies and businessmen with a dubious business reputation, de facto showing Chisinau’s real successes in the process of “deoligarchization”.