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Moldovan Court Quashes All Charges On Ex-Minister

Valeriu Pasat in 2005

Valeriu Pasat in 2005

CHISINAU (Reuters) -- A court in ex-Soviet Moldova has dropped the final remaining charges against a former defense minister, once accused of defrauding the treasury by selling warplanes cheaply to the United States.

Valeriu Pasat was freed from detention in 2008 under an amnesty and has lived in Moscow since charges were dropped of illegally selling 21 Soviet-era MiG-29 warplanes to Washington in 1997 and causing a $5 million loss to state coffers.

He had spent more than two years in prison.

The latest ruling by the Appeals Court absolved him of all blame in connection with charges of defrauding the state in the sale of missiles to an unnamed African state in 1998.

During testimony over the 2006 trial involving the sale of the MiG-29s, Moldova's former president, Petru Lucinschi, testified that Washington put pressure on Moldova to sell it the planes to stop them ending up in Iran.

Pasat denounced all charges against him as political, saying they were linked to his public criticism of Moldova's communist President Vladimir Voronin, due to step down after two terms in office.