20:44 03.04.2024

Head of Moldova's Gagauzia autonomous region charged in Sor party financing case

2 min read

The governor of Moldova's Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, Evghenia Gutul, has been charged in a criminal case into the illegal financing of the Sor party, which was declared unconstitutional, Gutul said on Tuesday.

"We were held here for four hours, and my questioning took up half of them. They brought charges against me today," Gutul told reporters after exiting the building of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office in Chisinau.

She added that she was questioned at the prosecutor's office last week.

Veronica Dragalin, head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, said earlier that Gutul was charged with abuse of power and involvement in the illegal financing of the Sor party, which has been declared unlawful. The criminal case was opened in 2022. Gutul, alongside other party activists, was charged with donating amounts several times higher than her yearly earnings for the Sor party's upkeep.

In May 2023, Gutul won the election for governor after running as a Sor party candidate. The central authorities in Moldova did not recognize the elections, citing multiple violations and bribery of voters. The National Anti-Corruption Center opened a criminal case based on this. President Maia Sandu has refused to appoint Gutul a member of the government while the investigation is ongoing. In addition, Moldovan leaders and diplomats accredited in Chisinau refuse to meet with Gutul.

In June 2023, the Sor party was declared illegal due to its non-transparent financing. A criminal investigation is underway into this case as well. Chief of the General Police Inspectorate Viorel Cernauteanu said that around one million euros a month is supplied to Moldova to illegally finance political parties.

"This money is directed primarily towards illegally financing the parties associated with fugitive oligarch Ilan Sor. Various schemes are used for it. Among other things, couriers transporting EUR 5,000-10,000 to Moldova are hired each time. The law permits bringing up to EUR 10,000. Other schemes are used too, there are six to seven schemes used by criminal organizations," Cernauteanu said.

Law enforcement officials conducted a number of searches at the offices of the parties linked to Sor, he said. At present, around 60 people have been charged as part of criminal cases into illegal financing, and nearly ten million lei (around EUR 550,000) have been seized.