US bars powerful Moldovan oligarch over corruption

Supporters of the Democratic Party of Moldova, led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, protest in front of the interior ministry in Moldova's capital Chisinau, in June 2019, during a political crisis

The United States said Monday it will refuse entry to politically influential Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc over allegations of corruption.

Plahotniuc, whose Democratic Party has sought to keep a balance between Russia and the West, fled Moldova in June under the shadow of graft allegations.

His whereabouts are since unknown but press reports say he was spotted in Miami.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Plahotniuc, during the time his party was in power, was "involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova."

"Today's action sends a strong signal the United States does not tolerate corruption and stands with the people of Moldova in their fight against it," Pompeo said in a statement.

Under the order, Plahotniuc as well as his wife, son and another minor child will be barred from entering the United States.

When he fled the eastern European country, Plahotniuc denied charges against him and blamed Russia for the investigation.

"Moscow now controls the machinery of law enforcement and justice in Moldova and will seek to abuse those levers to meet their goal of destroying me to achieve their goal of turning Moldova into a client state of Russia," he said.

Moldova has struggled to find its place since gaining independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.