Moldova’s Parliament lifted on Thursday the immunity of a former prime minister, who was later detained and charged with being involved in a bank fraud of up to $1.5 billion.
A total of 79 lawmakers out of 101 voted to lift the immunity of Vlad Filat, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2013, so he can be investigated for the money that went missing from three banks ahead of Nov. 2014 elections.
Masked officers later escorted Filat, 46, from the Parliament to the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office, where he was charged for corruption, including bribery, and influence peddling, which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years. He is being detained for 72 hours.
Filat, the most senior politician to ever have his immunity lifted, denies wrongdoing and says the probe is politically motivated.
Lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party, which Filat leads and is part of the ruling coalition, did not vote Thursday.
General prosecutor Corneliu Gurin says Filat took bribes worth $260 million from a businessman and helped him gain control of one of the banks.
“We have conclusive evidence that Filat committed fraud worth hundreds of millions of euros at the Savings Bank,” said Gurin. “It is a very serious crime, and involves the destruction of evidence.”
The businessman, Ilan Shor, was chairman of the board at Savings Bank from April to Nov. 28, 2014.
U.S. investigative company Kroll, which is probing the disappearance of the money, says some 13.5 billion lei, worth about $1 billion at the time, was transferred from the bank on Nov. 24-26, 2014.
The state took control of the bank on Dec. 1, 2014.
Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet, who heads the governing coalition that includes Filat’s party, said he would not resign.
“The government will continue its activity,” he said, adding his resignation would “give satisfaction to those who wish ill on Moldova.”
About 2,000 people gathered outside Parliament on Thursday, the latest in a string of protests over the missing money.
Money also disappeared from the Social Bank and Unibank before last year’s parliamentary ballot. All three banks were put under the central bank’s administration in December and the losses covered by state reserves.