Moldovan prosecutors moved to seek the extradition from Turkey of a politically influential tycoon who had been living in the United States for more than a year after fleeing Moldova amid a political shake-up.
The request, announced by the Prosecutor-General’s Office in a statement September 29, was the first official confirmation of Vladimir Plahotniuc’s whereabouts. The statement said the prosecutor-general was "officially notified" that Plahotniuc arrived in Turkey on September 10.
There was no immediate response to the request from Turkish authorities, and there was no immediate reply to an e-mail sent by RFE/RL to the Turkish Justice Ministry seeking comment.
A longtime behind-the-scenes powerbroker, Plahotniuc fled Moldova in June 2019 after being pushed out of parliament as part of a government shake-up brokered by Russia, the United States, and other European partners.
He’s also been linked to what’s known as the "theft of the century" -- the disappearance of $1 billion from Moldovan banks in 2014, a jaw-dropping theft that has continued to roil Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries -- to this day.
Since fleeing, Plahotniuc dropped out of the public view, reportedly traveling under one or more assumed names and alternate passports.
In January, the U.S. State Department announced a visa ban on him and his family "due to his involvement in significant corruption...that undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova."
Two months later, however, Plahotniuc was confirmed by RFE/RL to be in the United States, living in Miami.
That fact was later confirmed by the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau, which said there were “administrative removal proceedings” under way.
In June, meanwhile, leaked filings from a lawsuit in U.S. federal court showed that Plahotniuc had sought political asylum in the United States.
It wasn’t immediately clear how and why Plahotniuc left the United States, nor why he traveled to Turkey. It is also not known if Plahotniuc is still in Turkey.
A database of foreign travelers to the United States, compiled and recorded by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, showed that a person believed to have Plahotniuc’s passport departed the United States on August 28 from Miami International Airport.
The database does not indicate where the person departed to.