Government of Moldova shaken by big hack-and-leak operation

A weird newly-registered website called Moldova Leaks has been releasing damaging private exchanges of at least two prominent political figures in this small Eastern European country. The leaked Telegram conversations have caused a major political scandal.

At first, selected private conversations from Sergiu Litvinenco, Moldova's Minister of Justice, were leaked last week. Dorin Recean, the current Defense and National Security Advisor to the President and former Minister of Internal Affairs of Moldova, became the next victim this week.

In one of the leaked Telegram messages, Litvinenco implied that the country’s Anticorruption Prosecutor contest was rigged in favor of Veronica Dragalin winning the post – which she currently occupies.

The leaked messages caused a major political scandal in Moldova. Unsurprisingly, the pro-Russian political opposition parties present them as clear-cut evidence that Litvinenco was corrupt. They’re urging the Parliament to dismiss both him and Dragalin.

What complicates the matter is the fact that many of these pro-Russian opposition politicians are under active corruption and abuse of power investigations, and would clearly benefit from the removal of the officials responsible for prosecuting them.

Litvinenco and the Moldovan government presumably think just that. The cabinet also called the leak a part of Russia's hybrid war to destabilize the pro-European government.

The Justice Ministry confirmed the leak but added that some messages were grossly modified or taken out of context.

"The purpose of this fake is to divert the public's attention from the real problems faced by criminal groups in the Republic of Moldova and their connections with foreign services," Litvinenco said on Facebook.

He also added that the Telegram account of Moldova's President Maia Sandu was also compromised as part of the attack. According to Litvinenco, Sandu might be the figure at the top of the Moldova Leaks chart listed on the hackers' website.

The Moldova Leaks site

It is currently unknown who is behind the Moldova Leaks website. A formal investigation is underway.

However, Litvinenco says he wants to check out Ana Revenco, the Minister of Internal Affairs, which the official said has the technical capabilities to obtain such conversations at its disposal. She recently blamed Russia for creating instability in Moldova.

Several experts believe this is the work of Russia's military intelligence service GRU, which has executed hack-and-leak operations in the past to push the Kremlin’s political interests abroad.

Russia has traditionally wanted to keep Moldova under its sphere of influence and has supported Igor Dodon, the country’s former pro-Russian president, financially. Dodon was caught on video accepting bribes and was indicted for treason, accepting money from criminal organizations, and illegal enrichment earlier this year.

However, the Washington Post reported that Moscow has been directing cash toward a new pro-Russian party Șor. It is headed by Ilan Șor, the prime suspect at the heart of a major financial scandal when $1 billion went missing from three Moldovan banks back in 2014.

That’s why the Moldova Leaks website might be an effort to support Șor. Moreover, the leak site was put up on the same day the government accepted a motion from Justice Minister Litvinenco to review the constitutionality of the Șor party and possibly have it outlawed for putting the country's sovereignty and independence at risk.