Moldova's missing $1bn sparks protests against country's government

Moldovan officials have launched an investigation into the disappearance of the money

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 07 May 2015 09:21
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People join a protest at the Big Square of the National Assembly, in Chisinau, Moldova
People join a protest at the Big Square of the National Assembly, in Chisinau, Moldova

Around 10,000 people have taken part in a protest against Moldova's government, accusing it of failing to implement reforms to bring the country closer to the European Union.

Protesters marching on 3 May also called on the government to investigate the mysterious disappearance of around $1 billion from the state-owned Savings Bank, and private banks Unibank and the Social Bank, in November 2014.

Moldovan officials said this week that the government would step up an investigation, after the country was rocked by the apparent theft of nearly one-fifth of its annual gross domestic product, based on current exchange rates.

Central bank head Dorin Dragutanu said foreign investigators would be appointed by the end of May in the second phase of a probe into the loss of the money.

Last year Moldova placed Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank under central bank administration after a series of non-performing loans bankrupted the lenders.

Thousands of people attended the protest organised by platform 'Demnitate si Adevar'

Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, is one of Europe's poorest countries.

It is trying to reorient its economy towards the European Union after economic turbulence in Russia, its Soviet-era overlord, hit the pace of its own growth.

After it emerged that the money was missing, the central bank was forced to issue the three banks some 16 billion lei ($870 million) in emergency loans to keep the economy from collapsing.

Additional reporting by Reuters, AP

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