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Disgraced Former Georgian President to Fight Corruption in Moldova

© AP Photo / Virginia MayoMikhail Saakashvili
Mikhail Saakashvili - Sputnik International
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Moldova is awaiting the possible arrival of disgraced former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to give its government lessons on fighting corruption. Local media has voiced its concerns with the fact that Saakashvili is wanted in his home country in connection with several large-scale embezzlement scandals.

Last week, embattled Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici announced the establishment of a fresh anti-corruption campaign, following mass anti-corruption protests in the country's capital of Chisinau earlier this month. Among his tasks will be to invite the former Georgian president, whom Gaburici stated has "great experience in conducting reforms."

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gestures during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the presidential palace in Tbilisi on June 27, 2013 - Sputnik International
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Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has already called on Gaburici to refuse Saakashvili's 'assistance', given that the former president is a wanted man in Georgia. Saakashvili was forced to flee the country in 2013, after the Georgian Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal case against him, with charges including over $5 million in embezzlement charges. Saakashvili now heads a foreign expert advisory council in Kiev; Georgia, meanwhile, has repeatedly demanded that the Ukrainian government extradite the disgraced former leader.

Commenting on the Georgian president's possible arrival in Chisinau, NOI.md columnist Kseniya Floriya sublimated much of the criticism voiced in other Moldovan news outlets, stating that Saakashvili's visit is unlikely to do any good, and on the contrary, will only serve as a showpiece campaign for the country's EU donors, while temporarily raising the country's disillusioned pro-EU electorate and wasting precious government funds.

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Floriya noted Saakashvili is likely to be used as an "image consultant" for the government's political donors in Europe, who are outraged and horrified over the country's systemic corruption and the slow pace of reform. The journalist notes that the government is dependent on EU, IMF and World Bank funding, and worried that the EU may lose interest in Moldova entirely and concentrate its Eastern Partnership funding on Ukraine.

Following mass protests gathering up to 50,000 in central Chisinau earlier this month, Floriya also argues that Saakashvili, who is positioned as a true political and economic liberal opposed to "Moscow's imperial ambitions," is likely to be used to calm EU supporters disillusioned with the government's near total inability to tackle systemic corruption.

"A New Maidan? Large scale protest actions in Chisinau, in favor of the EU, but against corruption."

Commenting on Saakashvili's appointment to fight corruption in Ukraine earlier this year, Ukrainian politician social activist Viktor Medvedchuk noted that "this is a theater of the absurd in Ukrainian: a politician mixed up in a corruption scandal in Georgia is now planning to lead the fight against embezzlement and bribery in Ukraine." Now, Floriya argues, "Mikhail Saakashvili can also become the main fighter against embezzlement in Moldova as well…And naturally, he won't provide his 'analysis of the situation' and recommendations for free."

Noting that Saakashvili will be joining a "vast army of international bureaucrats" working for European funds dedicated to the battle against corruption, Floriya points out that many local experts, aware of conditions on the ground, have offered the government their anti-corruption recommendations for free.

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Saakashvili's impending visit to Moldova comes on the heels of a large banking scandal in which nearly a billion dollars, equivalent to about a fifth of the country's GDP, vanished followed a government attempt to bail out three banks last year. The scandal followed revelations of Moldovan banks laundering over $20 billion in criminal funds over the past decade.

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