Air Moldova (9U, Chisinau) has had around MDL670 million lei (USD38 million) of its authorised capital seized by police as part of a money laundering case linked to its privatisation, the Romanian daily newspaper Adevărul reported.

Moldova's Agency for the Recovery of Criminal Property (Agenţia pentru recuperarea bunurilor infracţionale - ARBI) and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (Procuratura Anticorupţie) seized the assets, which included two aircraft, buildings, and a number of road vehicles.

The National Anticorruption Centre (Centrul Național Anticorupție - CNA) said in a statement on its website on October 3 that the assets were confiscated as part of a money laundering case into a series of fictitious transactions that led to the carrier's privatisation last year. It added that the economic activities of the company were not affected.

Vitalie Racu, head of the Financial Investigation Unit of the ARBI, told ch-aviation in an email: "In order not to interrupt the technological process of the company, the two aircraft were left for the preservation and use of the Air Moldova company."

At the end of September, prosecutors seized MDL301.6 million (USD17.1 million) of Air Moldova's equity in order to prevent a transfer of shares to another owner - a move which the airline warned would hinder its owners' investment plans. The carrier added that the government had failed to increase its capital by MDL150 million (USD8.5 million) as agreed in the privatisation contract.

Air Moldova's privatisation process was completed in October 2018, sold to a consortium consisting of Romania's Civil Aviation Group, Blue Air (Romania), and two Moldovan citizens. Critics of the deal, including Moldovan President Igor Dodon, have argued that the airline should be returned to the state.

According to a development strategy for the carrier submitted by the buyer, the airline was to have launched seven new routes by the end of 2019 and four in 2020. The carrier's fleet consists of two A319-100s, two A320-200s, one A321-200, and three E190LRs. It is unclear which two aircraft were seized by the ARBI.

Editorial Comment: Added ARBI comment. - 13.10.2019 - 12:09 UTC