The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Israeli businessman Ilan Shor, who is now a lawmaker in Moldova, for allegedly working with Russia to influence the elections in the former Soviet country.
According to a statement issued by the US State Department, Shor worked with “corrupt oligarchs and Moscow-based entities to create political unrest in Moldova and sought to undermine Moldova’s bid for EU candidate status.”
The US Treasury Department said Shor had worked with Russia to create an alliance ahead of the 2021 elections and later coordinated with Moscow to blunt Moldova’s efforts to join the European Union.
The State Department said it was blocking any US assets and criminalizing transactions with Shor.
US authorities had notified Israel of their intention to sanction Shor, Hebrew-language media cited a senior US official as saying.
Shor, 35, was included in a list of 21 individuals and entities “related to systemic corruption and Kremlin-linked election interference in Moldova,” State Secretary Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Married to a pop singer decorated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Shor was convicted of stealing $1 billion from Moldovan banks in 2014. The following year, he was elected mayor of the central town of Orhei.
In 2017, he was handed a 7.5-year jail term for money laundering, fraud and abuse of confidence. However, he remained free pending his appeal, during which he ran for office in Moldova’s 2019 parliamentary elections, and won. At the time, critics said the fact that he was allowed to run despite his conviction was an indictment of Moldova’s political system.
Several months after being elected to Moldova’s parliament, he fled the country, most likely to Israel, and has been wanted by Moldovan authorities ever since.
According to the State Department, Moscow has sought to advance its interests by providing illicit financing – including funds earmarked for bribes and electoral fraud – to support pro-Kremlin political activity in Moldova.
Other individuals included in the latest round of US sanctions against Moscow include Russian oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.
“Plahotniuc’s bribery of law enforcement officials reflects his longstanding efforts to capture and corrupt Moldova’s judicial and law enforcement institutions while using his wealth and political influence to undermine political rivals and rule of law in the country,” the State Department said, noting that Plahotniuc and his immediate family members were now ineligible for visas to the United States.
The sanctions come as Western powers seek to bolster support for Moldova amid fears of a spillover from the war in neighboring Ukraine, with Russia maintaining troops in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.
Blinken said the United States was “promoting accountability for systemic efforts to undermine Moldova’s democratic institutions and elections,” adding, “The United States will continue to hold accountable those threatening democracy abroad.”
AFP contributed to this report.