Article by Claude Shannon, photo is in the public domain and is ‘The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy’.
Investigations into the controversial Open Dialogue Foundation and its chief, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, have been ratcheted up again after Moldovan prosecutors announced their intention to question her. Is ODF a brave human rights champion persecuted by rogue states, as many in Brussels believe, or, as a growing number of journalists, security officials and investigators believe, is it in fact a ‘trojan horse’ for the interests of convicted criminals who pay handsomely for its services?
According to infotag.md Kozlovska has been summoned to appear before the prosecutor at 2pm on 15 February. The summons itself suggests the hearing will be conducted “in the framework of an open case about money laundering committed by a group, espionage and the illegal financing of political parties or election campaigns, violating the distribution of political parties’ finances or election funds”. Furthermore, it goes on, the investigation will also consider Open Dialogue’s activities in Moldova, and the nature of its links to Moldovan politicians.
Given that Kozlovska did not appear the first time she was summoned, in late December 2018, the prosecutor can insist she be forced to appear for the second. Kozlovska said she not had been given a summons and it had instead been posted online, blaming the “Plahotniuc regime” for ordering a criminal case.
A special commission was ordered by parliament in October to investigate the activities of Kozlovska and the ODF in relation to Moldova’s internal affairs. Igor Vremya, the commission’s chair, called for the prosecutor to “investigate the activities of political leaders Sandu and Năstase through the prism of betraying the motherland”. Just prior, media stations in Moldova had issued reports on links between ODF and the right-wing opposition in Moldova.
In an interview with Newsmaker, Kozlovska claims this is nothing more than an attempt by Moldovan authorities to scare off human rights activists by making them believe “they can be criminally prosecuted at an international level for defending human rights in Moldova.”
On the political angle, she said: “The fact that media controlled by the Demparty receive and publish information about my alleged case more quickly than my lawyer in Moldova once again highlights the case’s political motivation.
“Above all, I’m a Ukrainian citizen, a request forcing me to attend the questioning can be sent to the authorities of Ukraine and to Belgium. So Plahotniuc will try to impede my human rights activity and put pressure on me”.
Perhaps Moldova is pursuing the case too aggressively, perhaps it does indeed wish to go after Kozlovska. Were both statements true, there would still be very serious questions for Kozlovska and her associates to answer. While she is keen to label all her critics as ‘politically motivated’ and ‘Russian trolls’ (as she calls EUAC for reporting on her activities), the nature of ODF’s funding is, at best, highly unusual. If Kozlovska has indeed been funded by convicted criminals to ‘launder’ their reputation and attack Moldovan authorities, then Moldova has every right to investigate such allegations.
An investigator close to the case told EUAC: “ODF is a trojan horse, it is really very sophisticated, and I am impressed every time I see performance of Kozlovska for [the] cameras. She is very good. Criminals route money to [her husband] Kramek’s company, Silk Road, and Silk Road funds ODF. What are they paying for? Of course, it is for ‘washing’ their image, and attacks to their enemies.”
The Moldovan commission chair has also called for those domestic politicians involved to be investigated for “betraying the motherland”. One of which is Maia Sandu, a former education minister. As we reported in September, Sandu initially denied she had received plane tickets and hospitality from the ODF. She only admitted to it once the evidence had been published in the press.
In a significant development, Guy Verhofstadt today weighed in on the issue with a public letter declaring his full support for here, citing “a lack of any credible evidence” against Kozlovska, while praising her work in Moldova from 2016 onwards. This intervention from Verhofstadt will raise concerns among many EU states. They may wish to know by what authority a Belgian MEP can effectively rule against two ongoing investigations by sovereign nations, one of which is an EU member state. The notion that there is no “credible evidence” against Kozlovska is a claim that Verhofstadt may come to regret. By hitching the EU’s wagon to ODF there is a real danger that if the ‘NGO’ falls, which appears highly likely, it will cause considerable damage to the reputations of MEPs who support her, and perhaps even the institution of the European Parliament itself.
Verhofstadt may also wish to ponder why in 2016 the ODF began major operations in Moldova, a non-EU state with which it has no ties other than, according to investigators, the considerable sums of money it was receiving from criminal elements in the country. The ‘Russian laundromat’ fraud in question was first uncovered by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). If those claims are substantiated then Verhofstadt will have serious questions to answer.
Kozlovska denies any wrongdoing. The case continues.