Convicted Israeli-born fraudster Ilan Shor wins seat in Moldova’s parliament
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Convicted Israeli-born fraudster Ilan Shor wins seat in Moldova’s parliament

Mayor of Moldovan city was sentenced to 7.5 years for fraud and money laundering; remains free pending his appeal

Moldova's parliamentary candidate Ilan Shor, businessman, leader of his self-named party and the mayor of the town of Orhei, meets with supporters during a campaign event in the city of Comrat on February 15, 2019. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP)
Moldova's parliamentary candidate Ilan Shor, businessman, leader of his self-named party and the mayor of the town of Orhei, meets with supporters during a campaign event in the city of Comrat on February 15, 2019. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP)

Election results in Moldova on Monday showed Israeli-born Moldavian businessman Ilan Shor, convicted in 2017 for money laundering, fraud and abuse of confidence, elected to Moldova’s parliament.

In the election, the broadly pro-Russia opposition Socialists won 31.5 percent, while the pro-European group ACUM won 25.9 percent. The incumbent Democratic Party was trailing in third place with 24.1%.

The country’s Central Electoral Commission reported that with over 99% of ballots counted, the Shor party had captured 8.35% of the vote.

More than 3 million voters were eligible to choose representatives for the next four years to the 101-seat legislature. Parties needed to win a minimum of 6% of the vote to enter Parliament.

Moldova’s parliamentary candidate Ilan Shor, businessman, leader of his self-named party and the mayor of the town of Orhei, arrives to meet with supporters during a campaign event in the city of Comrat on February 15, 2019. (Daniel MIHAILESCU/AFP)

Before the election, Shor insisted corruption was Moldova’s most pressing issue, despite having been convicted in a fraud case local media dubbed “the crime of the century.”

Shor, 31, was handed a 7.5-year jail term in 2017 for money laundering, fraud and abuse of confidence. But he remains free pending his appeal — and was eligible to run for office in the weekend’s parliamentary elections.

His critics say the fact that he is allowed to run despite his conviction is a damning indictment of Moldova’s political system.

Under the terms of a new voting system Shor was all but guaranteed to win a seat in his constituency — the central town of Orhei, where he has been mayor since 2015.

Shor was born in Tel Aviv to Jewish Moldovan parents. The family moved back to the country when Shor was a toddler and he grew up in Moldova.

In July 2018, Moldova’s Sports Minister Octavian Țicu attacked Shor as a “thief” and as a foreigner, and the country’s Jewish community came to Shor’s defense.

For a while in 2015, Shor was placed under house arrest as part of the probe into the huge bank fraud that eventually led to his conviction.

Prosecutors described a scam involving fraudulent transactions worth one billion dollars between three Moldovan banks. Shor at the time was chairman of the board of one of the banks.

A report by the international security agency Kroll commissioned by the Moldovan authorities put Shor at the center of the web of organizations involved in the fraudulent transactions.

Several politicians were reported to have benefited, and the money was never recovered.

ACUM party leader Maia Sandu told The Associated Press that the election was “the most undemocratic in the history of Moldova.”

“A gang of thieves … has captured the state institutions” and are “scaring … threatening and impoverishing us,” Sandu said Sunday as she urged Moldovans to vote.

Last year, the European Parliament called Moldova “a state captured by oligarchic interests.” The European Union also froze aid to Moldova after a local court invalidated the 2018 Chisinau mayoral election on a technicality, a move to thwart the apparent victory of a pro-Europe candidate.

AP and AFP contributed to this report
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