Former US Department of Justice and FBI Officials cast shade on the case against Ilan Shor – EU Reporter

New analysis is casting further doubt on the evidence against Ilan Shor as two former senior U.S. law enforcement officials present their findings, having conducted a review of the court evidence presented against Shor in relation to the bank fraud case.

In 2016, the Moldovan Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office charged Shor with fraud and money laundering in connection with the collapse of the Moldovan banks.

Justin Weddle has extensive experience in investigating organized crime and money laundering, having previously served as the Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York and the US Department of Justice’s Resident Legal Advisor to two law enforcement cooperation centres based in Bucharest, focused on broader crime and corruption across the region, including in Moldova.

In his review of the evidence against Shor, Weddle questions the evidence on which the Court took its decisions, stating that: “Because critical portions of the Court of Appeals’ decision relied on incompetent witnesses, who provided mere hearsay, in the form of un-confrontable and uncross-examinable evidence and testimony, it fails to live up to the fundamental principles that ensure reliability according to U.S. justice system principles.”

He adds that “neither the Moldovan Court of Appeals decision nor its reasoning, should be treated as a reliable basis for U.S. institutions to reach conclusions about Shor and his conduct.”

Weddle also points out the underlying problems of the Moldovan Judiciary, referencing the U.S. State Department and public reporting regarding the lack of independence and impartiality in Moldova’s judiciary. He writes that “the fact that the Court of Appeals relied on incompetent evidence in the face of Shor’s objections and arguments about defects of the evidence suggests that the court was not independent or impartial. This indicates another reason that the Court of Appeal’s decision does not satisfy U.S. standards for reliability.”

Matthew Hoke is a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) Special Agent with over 26 years of experience leading high-profile, cross-border criminal investigations across multiple jurisdictions, including Ukraine, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Finland.

He conducted a separate review of the case against Shor, concluding that “there were material irregularities in the investigation of Shor by the Moldovan government” and that the “Moldovan authorities failed to take certain very basic—almost common sense—steps to test the validity and strength of key evidence that were submitted to the court, including information provided by a third-party private advisory firm which conducted evaluation specifically for internal review purposes and the exculpatory nature of the defendant’s voluntary statements”

Similar to the conclusion of Weddle, Hoke believes that in the U.S., the evidence provided against Shor would not have passed the legal threshold for indictment. He writes that “Given these irregularities, the investigation, in my view, would have been insufficient to pass the threshold for a DOJ indictment, had the investigation been conducted in the United States by the FBI.”

Relying on his experience of investigating crime in Eastern Europe, Hoke suggests that it is plausible that Shor was used as a scapegoat, writing that “Specifically, Shor’s case corroborates with my experience in the former Soviet nations where it is not uncommon for private businessmen and oligarchs to scapegoat other less powerful oligarchs/businessmen.” Hoke draws attention to the fact that Shor was a young businessman with far less net worth, fame and political influence who got involved in this scheme years after the bank already became practically insolvent. Hoke states “As such, the fact that Shor was sentenced to as much as the amount of prison than the other more culpable co-conspirators is difficult to understand.”

He further states “Based on my experience, the irregularities I have explained in this report create a strong suspicion that the investigation was done with a centrally operated and pre-scripted narrative with a goal of convicting a specified target.”

Hoke also highlights the record speed at which the investigation against Shor was conducted, he states that “I have doubts whether a thorough investigation could have been conducted within 20 months for a case like Shor’s. It was a complex financial crimes investigation involving the alleged theft of USD 1 billion and targeting the most powerful politicians and businessmen in the country.”

Both Weddle and Hoke also raise serious concerns in relation to the evidence provided by the key witness against Shor, Matei Dohotaru, as well as the Kroll reports which formed the underlying basis for the conviction. Weddle states that: “Dohotaru’s “evidence” was not competent and was not meaningfully subject to Shor’s confrontation or cross-examination. Dohotaru was—by his own admission—an official of the National Bank of Moldova who had no personal knowledge of Banca de Economii or Banca Sociala’s transactions.” And that “Instead of personal knowledge, Dohotaru offered his opinions and surmises, often based on many unidentified underlying levels of hearsay”.

Hoke also notes that Shor’s defence attorneys were denied from cross-examining Dohotaru. Hoke states that based on his experience, “these are reasonable indications that neither the Kroll reports nor Dohotaru’s statements that rely on the Kroll reports have been tested by the prosecution at any point.”

In relation to the Kroll reports Hoke writes that he was not able to find any reference to an independent analysis conducted by the Moldovan authorities to test Kroll’s findings. Instead, he writes, “reference to the Kroll reports in the court judgments strongly indicates that the authorities took the Kroll reports at face value”.

Having personal experience in working with Kroll, Hoke writes “I do not recall a single case over the course of my career in which Kroll’s findings were read into evidence without any kind of independent analysis/vetting by the authorities. The reason is obvious—Kroll is not the investigative authority itself and taking its findings at face value would effectively mean that they are doing the investigation on behalf of the authorities. This is simply unacceptable.”

In December 2023, Matei Dohotaru was deposed by Shor’s legal team in the U.S. following a successful legal proceeding. During the deposition, he was no longer able to confirm having knowledge of the alleged evidence he provided against Shor in 2017.

The case against Ilan Shor is still pending in the Supreme Court of Moldova.

This article first appeared on EUREPORTER.

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