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Turkey allegedly granted citizenship to fugitive Moldovan oligarch wanted for large-scale fraud

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Vladimir Plahotniuc, the former leader of the Democratic Party (PDM) who is wanted in Moldova for forming an organized crime group, involvement in the theft of $1 billion from Moldovan banks in 2014-2015 and money laundering, has allegedly acquired Turkish citizenship, TR724 reported on Thursday, citing the Moldovan noi.md. website.

Plahotniuc, who has been in Turkey since August, reportedly obtained Turkish citizenship under the country’s citizenship by investment program, which requires the candidate to buy real estate in Turkey in the amount of $250,000, a threshold that was significantly lowered in 2018.

Lucian Rogac, Plahotniuc’s lawyer, who spoke to Moldova’s Romanian language television station TV8, neither confirmed nor denied the report. The TV station also sent a request to the Turkish Embassy in Chisinau to determine if the information regarding Plahotniuc was true but reportedly has not received a response.

Maria Vieru, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, announced that they have not received any response to their requests for extradition of the former politician from Turkey since September 29.

If the allegations are true, Moldovan law enforcement agencies are now unlikely to be able to apprehend Plahotniuc since Turkish law prohibits the extradition of its own citizens to foreign states.

Plahotniuc, who is known to have a close relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, allegedly provided him with certain services. According to TR724, the fugitive oligarch was accused by Moldovan politicians of being behind the deportation of seven Turkish teachers in September 2018.

The teachers, who were working in Moldova for a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by the teachings of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, were illegally detained and deported by Turkish and Moldovan intelligence authorities over a complaint filed by Turkish Ambassador to Moldova Halil Gürol Sökmensüer.

The Turkish government labels the movement as a terrorist organization and accuses Gülen’s followers of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt that claimed the lives of over 200 people.

The Turkish teachers were handed down jail sentences ranging from six-and-a-half to 12 years and are currently imprisoned in Turkey.

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