Shor: Moscow’s Man in Moldova

Life in exile has not hindered the fugitive magnate’s political powers.

Shor: Moscow’s Man in Moldova

Life in exile has not hindered the fugitive magnate’s political powers.

In the village of Salchia, in southern Moldova, a sign states that the playground was built with funding by Ilan Shor. The fugitive businessman retains significant influence on Moldovan politics despite a sentence in absentia on fraud charges.
In the village of Salchia, in southern Moldova, a sign states that the playground was built with funding by Ilan Shor. The fugitive businessman retains significant influence on Moldovan politics despite a sentence in absentia on fraud charges. © Piotr Garciu
Wednesday, 13 December, 2023

Four years after fleeing Moldova to avoid jail for his involvement in the country’s largest banking fraud, magnate Ilan Shor continues to hold sway over national politics and control anti-EU parties with the support of Russian funds.

According to the Security and Intelligence Service of Moldova (SIS), since mid-2022 the 35-year-old has been instrumental in funnelling one billion lei (54 million US dollars) into the country through political parties affiliated with him to sway people’s votes.

“The hybrid war waged by Russia and cross-border criminal groups intensified in 2022,” said SIS chief Alexandru Musteata, listing election meddling, the distortion of democratic processes and the nurturing of separatist sentiment in Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia.

Moscow exerts significant influence in Moldova, particularly through the country's breakaway region of Transnistria in the east and Gagauzia in the south.

“For Russia, it is important to score a geopolitical victory with non-military means in Moldova, amidst its failure in the war against Ukraine,” political analyst Victor Ciobanu told IWPR, adding that Chisinau’s vulnerability served the Kremlin’s goal of destabilising the EU.

“According to Kremlin logic, the more such hotbeds there are, the more likely the EU or NATO will want to sit down at the negotiating table to ease sanctions against Russia,”he noted.

On November 3, two days before key local elections, authorities barred the Chance party, linked to Shor, from participating on national security grounds. The local elections were viewed as a litmus test of President Maia Sandu’s campaign to join the EU and her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won in over half of counties - clinching 240 mayoral posts - but in no large cities, including the capital Chisinau.

The authorities have accused Russia of buying votes by channelling about five million US dollars to criminal groups led by Shor. The Moldovan Commission for Emergency Situations stated that the Chance party used undeclared foreign money to bribe candidates, voters and manipulate public opinion.

According to the police, members of the Chance party promised voters between 25 euros and 150 euros per vote. The SIS alleged that the funds were transferred to Moldova from Kazakstan by Igor Shved, an Israeli-Russian businessman close to Shor, as the tycoon’s accounts are frozen and he is under sanctions in various countries.

For Shor’s supporters, the accusations and the removal of the party from the elections were a political move.

“They were simply afraid of us, that’s why they banned us,” Alexander Danilov, a candidate on the Chance party list in Gagauzia’s administrative centre Comrat, told IWPR. “Have you ever seen a thief donating funds to build playgrounds?”

Indeed, Shor has won hearts, minds and votes through funding infrastructure projects, including roads and parks in Gagauzia, where he can rely on deep-rooted tensions with the central government. The region’s governor, Evghenia Gutsul, is from the Shor party: she was elected in spring 2023 despite a controversy over vote-buying, her campaign focused on improving relations with Moscow.


In April 2023, the Israel-born Moldovan oligarch was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the theft of one billion dollars from Moldova’s banking system in 2014, the largest bank fraud in the country's history.

Shor was president of Banca de Economii, one of the three banks involved in the so-called theft of the century. He was also head of Dufremol, Moldova’s largest seller of duty-free goods, which his father, Miron Shor, founded in 1994.

Leveraging his father's wealth, Shor had expanded the family business, buying TV stations, an insurance company and the Moldovan soccer team, FC Milsami Orhei.

Life in exile has not hindered Shor’s political activities. He was elected to parliament in 2021, although he never attended any sessions and lost his parliamentary mandate in 2023.

Since mid-2022, the magnate has masterminded anti-government protests, addressing demonstrators and voters online. His political associates, like Dmitry Konstantinov, chairman of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, have regularly visited him in Israel for consultations.

In June, the Constitutional Court banned the Shor party, a ruling upheld in September following the party’s appeal.

In July Alexei Lungu, a journalist working at one of the tycoon’s TV channels, founded the Chance party. The businessman never hid his connections with the new party, which all members of the banned Shor Party joined unanimously.

The ban angered Shor party voters.

In Salchia, a tiny settlement in the country’s southern region of Taraclia, one of only two candidates for the mayor post was from Chance.

The candidate from Chance party is a good guy. I know him personally, and he deserved to be the mayor. Because of this decision we were not even given a choice,” 64-year- old villager Vasily told IWPR.

“Did you see a playground for children in the centre - it was built by Shor. The only chance we have to buy groceries is the Shor’s food truck, which arrives here twice a week. It looks like he is the only one who cares for us,” Vasily concluded.

Shor’s involvement in the banking fraud does not seem to bother his voters.

“Everyone in the government steals from us, so what?” a resident of Comrat told IWPR.

Chance is not the only party that Shor has bet on. In May 2023, four members of the Moldovan parliament - Alexander Nesterovsky, Alexander Sukhodolsky, Irina Lozovan and Vasile Bolea - announced that they were leaving the Socialist faction to join the small Revival party. Revival received 0.25 per cent of the votes in the parliamentary elections of 2015 and did not take part in subsequent ballots.

Moldovan authorities accused the four of conspiring with Shor. Nesterovsky and Lozovan were accused of money laundering and corruption for accepting funding for the Revival Party from an organised criminal group. On September 21, acting Prosecutor General Ion Munteanu requested their parliamentary immunity be lifted; the two were detained and remain under house arrest.

Footage posted by the anti-corruption department of the prosecutor’s office showed Lozovan allegedly offering 50,000 euros ( 55,000 US dollars) to the mayor of Ocnita, a northern town on the border with Romania, to switch from the Socialist to the Revival party.


Ciobanu maintained that for Shor, the local elections were another attempt to prove that he was the one to be counted on rather than former president Igor Dodon, head of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, who for years was the Kremlin’s man in Moldova.

In 2020 Dodon lost another presidential term to Sandu who vowed to steer the country of 2.6 million on a pro-Western course and rid it of corruption. As Dodon’s influence dwindled, Moscow’s stance has adapted.

We saw how the Kremlin moved from supporting Dodon to supporting Shor. We saw how Russian channels covered anti-government protests last year, talking about the Shor party as the main pro-Russian opposition party in Moldova,” Ciobanu said.

Andrei Curăraru, a security expert at Moldova’s WatchDog think-tank, noted that the task of Shor and other pro-Kremlin politicians was to signal to the outside world that the idea of European integration was controversial in Moldova.

“I think that mayors from pro-Kremlin parties elected in cities and villages will soon begin to state that they are against the EU and that their communities do not support this idea,” Curăraru concluded.

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

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