CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — A fugitive Moldovan oligarch and opposition party leader was sentenced in absentia Thursday to 15 years in jail for his role in a one-billion-dollar bank theft case.
Ilan Shor, who leads the populist Russia-friendly Shor Party, was convicted of fraud and money laundering in the case of $1 billion that went missing from Moldovan banks in 2014.
The Court of Appeal in the capital, Chisinau, also ordered the confiscation of $290 million of his assets.
Shor, a businessman, fled Moldova in 2019 to evade corruption charges and has since been living in exile in Israel, where he was born. He was initially sentenced in 2015 to seven and a half years in jail, but his appeal dragged on for years.
In recent months, the Shor Party — which holds six seats in Moldova’s 101-seat legislature — organized large protests in Chisinau against the pro-Western government over high energy prices and a cost-of-living crisis. Moldova’s annual inflation rate stood at 21.98% in March, according to the National Bank of Moldova.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said the Court of Appeal’s verdict was “demanded by the citizens” and that it is the “only way justice can gain legitimacy, through legal decisions that punish thieves.”
Shor, 36, alleged the verdict was politically motivated “revenge for the protest movement” and that it was “in violation of all legal provisions.”
“I am not going to comply with it and I assure you that it will be annulled the day after the change of the current regime,” he said in a statement posted on social media Thursday. “This decision nor any other will prevent me from moving forward and fighting to the end, until we will remove the bandits from power.”
It is not clear whether Moldovan authorities have asked for Shor’s extradition nor whether Israeli authorities would comply with such a request.
In 2014, the year the $1 billion went missing from Moldova’s banks, it was equivalent to about one-eighth of gross domestic product in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
In December 2022, the U.S. sanctioned Shor and claimed he worked with “corrupt oligarchs and Moscow-based entities to create political unrest in Moldova” and to undermine the country’s bid to join the European Union.
The U.K. also added Shor to a sanctions list in December.