PAS Contrives Spy Plot to Muffle the Interpol Case

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Christian RUSSU
The Interpol database manipulation scandal has hurt both the ruling regime and Moldova’s international image. For more than a week, the authorities have prudently avoided the awkward topic, while launching fake anti-crisis programmes to divert public attention
After a brief lull, the law enforcement agencies are in turmoil again. On 4 June, the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, Veronica Dragalin, revealed hot news to the public: her office, with the support of colleagues from the United States and France, had exposed a criminal scheme to manipulate Interpol databases. To put it simply, our law enforcers were helping criminals on the international wanted list to evade prosecution. Among them were our citizens, subjects of Central Asian autocracies and many others. For this purpose, the data about such persons were adjusted in order to exclude them from the Interpol “red” list. According to media reports, they were given the status of “refugees” and “asylum” in Moldova. Needless to say, this procedure was not free of charge. Thus, we are talking not only about the abuses of the Moldovan Interpol bureau specifically, but also of other units of the Internal Ministry, which repaid multimillion-dollar orders. Dragalin’s move took many high officials by surprise, and in the meantime, she got the necessary arguments to bolster her position in the intra-clan struggle in the justice system and in general. The investigation team of the high-profile case includes all key members of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, including its head, which should protect them at least temporarily from the Pre-Vetting Commission. As part of the high-profile case, numerous searches were conducted in law enforcement agencies, including the SIS, with the participation of overseas officers. After that, documents were leaked from the affected officials, testifying to alleged abuses of prosecutors, political background of the case, and lack of evidence. It is indicative that the internal ministry immediately bailed out its colleagues, assuring that it would deal with them itself. The head of the General Inspectorate of Migration Mihail Voda was even returned to duty. Only Viorel Tentiu was sent to custody. However, the scale of the scandal demanded explanations and assurances: the head of the General Inspectorate of Police Viorel Cernauteanu promised that order would be restored and that the Interpol central office would come and check everything. The PAS “fire brigade” immediately assessed the scale of the imminent threat and promptly threw a counter news bomb into the public field, which, according to simple calculations, was supposed to save the high-ranking Moldovan law enforcers from the flames of the unpleasant case. On the second day, the Russian-language outlet Insider organized a leak of information that the former Chief of General Staff Igor Gorgan had sent information to the Russian GRU. A high-profile spy scandal involving Russian intelligence services is “jusе what we need” in such a situation. Gorgan was accused of treason, recalling that he was appointed by former President Dodon, who himself was in Moscow the other day. It all aligned. The story should have been coherent, clear and useful in terms of shifting all the responsibility for the two high-profile scandals to an external enemy. At the same time, it was possible to justify the tightening of criminal liability under the article on treason of the motherland, which will now apply not only in wartime. By the way, not only the controlled mass media were involved in working out this scenario, but also the formally opposition right-wing formations from the Together bloc, which pledged in the Pact for Europe to help the authorities promote the course of European integration. The leaders of the parties that make up the bloc were forced, willy-nilly, to refer to the spy scandal surrounding the former chief of the General Staff and to justify the decision of the PAS deputies to expand the application of the article on state treason. Information from the correspondence of the former official, hoping for the imminent arrival of “liberators from Russia”, was intended to shock the population and prepare public opinion for a new offensive of the authorities against the remnants of democracy in the country. However, the performance of all those involved was rather poor. Vague and uncertain statements by officials about the importance of fighting corruption and the value of cooperation with Western partners did not answer simple questions about why the ruling party and its informal leader are doing such things at the end of their mandate. As you see, the country’s leadership now faces very simple and specific questions. Our talking heads also had outright failures. For instance, justifying the silence of the Moldovan special services on the Gorgan case before the publication in Insider, PAS deputy and former SIS officer Andrian Cheptonar spilled the beans that the publication took place only due to our authorities. Apparently, it was the lack of an offence in the actions of the former Chief of General Staff that had previously explained such inaction on the part of the SIS. Only a week later one of the prosecutor’s offices, which does not report to Veronica Dragalin, announced the opening of a criminal case on this situation. In comparison, a criminal case on the abuse of Interpol databases was opened two months ago and completed lightning fast. In the case of the invented spy scandal, only President Maia Sandu managed to promptly carry out a “public execution” of the victim by stripping Igor Gorgan of all his regalia. As for the precedent of abuses in Interpol databases, it will have both political and legal consequences. While our cooperation with European structures in the field of security and migration was steadily growing, and various hubs, new missions, offices and structures popped up in Moldova, it turned out that in the basic area of work within Interpol, our law enforcers were simply covering up international criminals. Moreover, this story began to develop in 2022, i.e. already during the sole rule of Maia Sandu and PAS. You can’t blame it on the predecessors, as usual. And if the routine corruption in road construction, airport tenders or state enterprises is no longer surprising - everyone understands that higher-ups has long recognized it as a necessary and useful evil - now we are talking about Moldova’s international image, which has suffered greatly. As well as the image of the current regime, which promotes democratic values and is engaged in an “uncompromising” fight against corruption. Or, perhaps, a compromising one? The worst ramifications, such as exclusion from Interpol, have so far been avoided. Having correctly assessed the severity of situation, external partners have once again come to the aid of our hapless rulers. Not those in Brussels or Paris waiting for us to fulfil our commitments on European integration and explanations on the scandal, but those in Washington, Ottawa and London, who revealed the “malicious plans of the Kremlin” to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Moldova. Encouraging speeches, praise for resisting Moscow’s intrigues and warnings of new threats are likely to demonstrate to everyone that even in such an unsavory form, Maia Sandu and PAS will be supported. The main thing is to stick to the geopolitical course.