Six men accused of attempting to assassinate the leader of Moldova’s ruling Democrat Party Vlad Plahotniuc have been sentenced to between three and 20 years in prison by a court in Chisinau.
Valeriy Zabolotny, the vice-president of the sports charity IFAVIS, and the alleged ring-leader of the group of alleged hitmen, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while the other five defendants were sentenced to between three and 11 years behind bars. The accused continue to deny the charges claiming that they were the victims of a setup. Prosecutors have welcomed the convictions saying “The evidence administered by the criminal prosecution body is enough to convict these people to a punishment according to the law…”
The defendants lawyers, however, have vowed to challenge the court’s decision. “The ground for appeals to the court of appeal is sufficient. Concerning the veracity of the condemnation … I believe that the legal provisions in national law were obviously exaggerated and ignored here,” a lawyer of the defendants said.
Prosecutors originally called for a tougher punishments for the six accused ranging from between 11 and 24 years.
In total, seven individuals were charged with attempting to kill the controversial politician and oligarch, however, one of the accused, Iurie Parhomenco, pled guilty in return for a reduced sentence of five years and four months in prison. The investigation established that the men acted on the orders of the crime boss, Grigore Caramalac, known as Bulgaru, who is believed to be in hiding in Russia. Caramalac has denied the allegations, calling the case a “clown show”
He is suspected of contracting a group of Moldovan and Ukrainian men to carry out the killing in return for 200,000 dollars. According to prosecutors, Karamalak wanted Plahotniuc out of the way so that he could extend his control over Moldovan politics, but Plahotniuc’s critics suspect the assassination attempt was in fact staged by the politician himself in an effort to improve his image and portray himself as an enemy of organised crime. These critics point to a video recorded by police of the plotters openly discussing their plans in a busy parking lot and even tracing them out on the ground as straining credibility.