Throughout its history, Elat Shopping Center got in the spotlight due to several corruption and crime scandals. It has been controlled by criminal leaders, who avoid displaying their connection with this business.

The true beneficiaries of Elat Shopping Center do not appear in the official documents of the State Registration Chamber, or in any accounting documents, they are pulling the strings from the shadow. As we showed in the first part of the investigation, official documents have virtually no value for them, the main argument being the authority of the person, who controls the business. The bigger the authority of the person, the more its word weighs. As for official documents, there are intermediaries.

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Elat case is reminiscent of a pack of wolves - the strongest leads, while the vulnerable is destroyed. Our investigation revealed that the real beneficiaries of Elat are Mihail Aizin, aka Kitaet, the controversial politician Renato Usatii and the feared Grigore Caramalac, aka Bulgarian. According to the sources, the latter two, who are good friends and neighbors in Moscow, control Elat together.

Usatîi şi Karamalak

How was Leonid Volneanschi stripped of his business?

The raider attack on Elat Holding began in 2009, when the Communist Party, led by Vladimir Voronin, withdrew from power. Leonid Volneanschi, author of Elat brand, enjoyed the protection of Vladimir Voronin in exchange for fat transfers, made by Elat to the accounts of the party.

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Leonid Volneanschi. Source: logos-press

In mid-2009, Volneanschi remained without protection and became vulnerable to the criminal leaders, who had their eyes on his estate, plotting various schemes. Another weak point of the businessperson was his debt; he borrowed millions of euro and dollars for business development.

At that time, Volneanschi held a 52 percent stake in Elat.

To protect at least a part of his business, Volneanschi sought protectors in the criminal world. He chose the former policeman Ion Stratulat, who had already been known in the criminal world as a feared killer. The two came to an agreement: Volneanschi assigned 25% of the shares to Stratulat in exchange for protection, while the former policeman undertook to invest in the completion of the fourth floor of Elat Center.

At that time, problems overwhelmed Gorbuntov’s bank and Volneanschi offered him Ion Stratulat’s help. In an interview for CrimeMoldova, Gorbuntov said Stratulat was an experienced professional. However, in September 2011, Ion Soltoianu shot Stratulat. Subsequently, Volneanschi and Gorbuntov remained without protection.

At the same time, Leonid Volneanschi found out he had cancer and he often had to go to a clinic in Israel. To save his property, Volneanschi sold several assets in Elat to the businessman Andrei Gargalic, who is said to be a friend of Grigore Caramalac.

In 2012, Elat was inflicted the biggest strike. On the one hand, Roman Gudcov was stripped of 49 % of shares, and on the other hand, Volneanschi, who made million-worth debts to advance the development of Elat, remained penniless.

Larisa Nefiodkina, who at that time accompanied her sick daughter to the same clinic in Israel where Volneanschi was treated, recollected, "I was there when Leo received a call from Chisinau and found out what happened to Elat. He suddenly changed in the face and said that this is the end".

Usatii’s involvement

Renato Usatii returned to Moldova in late 2009, when the Alliance for European Integration-1 came to power, the victims of violent protest of April were treating their wounds and sought revenge, while the government promised them life in paradise after a few years.

Usatii came back from Russia not just to visit his relatives and native places; he was invited as adviser to Prime Minister Vlad Filat. "He told me, “Come to Moldova and you will have a good salary, at around 150 thousand euros a month.  Officially, it will be 7000, but you will have the exclusive right to export ‘Bely Aist’ cognac and control over the Ministry of Agriculture, namely, you will control the import of citrus," Usatîi said in a press conference, three years later when his relations with the premier worsened. Filat repeatedly denied having Usatii among his advisers.

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Coincidentally or not, but two raider attacks occurred in 2012: one on Elat and the other on Gherman Gorbuntov’s bank, which involved the same judges and the same bailiffs. A key role in the attacks had the notorious executor George Botan, who is currently investigated under arrest, as part of Russian Laundromat case.

Please note that despite numerous appeals to the prosecution, law enforcements, being under political control, did not react.

The friendship of Renato Usatii and General Nicolae Alexei 

It is known that after Ion Stratulat’s death, his shares in Elat have been divided among the former policeman’s parents, wife and children. Though at the first glance, they are vulnerable shareholders, they managed to keep their shares in Elat. This was mainly due to General Nicolae Alexei, father of Ion Stratulat’s widow.

Surprisingly or not, but in the fall of 2014, the former member of the Cristian-Democratic People’s Party of Moldova and former deputy minister of Internal Affairs, Nicolae Alexei banded together with Renato Usatii.

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Even more curious seem the statements of General Alexei, exonerating Renato Usatii from his relations with the criminal world.

Moreover, the former head of the Department to fight against organized crime definitely knew that Renato Usatii was in close relations with Grigore Caramalac, alias Bulgarian, whom he had personally detained. Especially after all the press mediated this and Usatii himself acknowledged the relationship, he had with Bulgarian.

Another trace of Renato Usatii in Elat Shopping Center is Stanislav Rogulschi, a retired colonel of ISS, who until recently headed Renato Usatii’s security service. Coincidentally or not, but namely Rogulschi was appointed director of Elat JSC immediately after the raider attack on the shopping center in 2012. In the picture below, Rogulschi, who is from Balti, appears alongside at the time of Usatii’s detention in October 2015.

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In one of his recent live streaming, Usatii acknowledged he knows Rogulschi and that the latter until recently headed his security service.

Blogger Veaceslav Balacci claims, referring to Leonid Volneanschi, that Usatii was blocking the remaining 13% of Volneanschi’s shares, which he intended to pay the debt to Larisa Nefiodkina, widow of Valeri Rotari, alias "Zelionii", as well as to other creditors.

Grisha Bulgarian’s traces

Even if he has not been to Moldova since 1998 (at least officially), it is known that Grigore Caramalac continues, through his trusted people, to do business and some charitable activities in Moldova. The person, accused in two criminal cases of attempted murder, racketeering and extortion, turns out to be a savior for many Moldovan athletes. Caramalac is the founder and financier of International Fund to Help Sports Veterans and Invalids. Valeriu Zabolotnii, former fighter, vice president of the Fund, represents it in Moldova. The aid offered by Caramalac made many dignitaries forget his criminal past. Thus, the Centre for Human Rights in Moldova awarded a diploma to Caramalac’s Fund and government representatives thanked the Fund on behalf of the Government.

The photos below show the links of the former and present officials with Caramalac’s Fund.


Grigore Caramalac and Nicolae Juravschi, Source:

One of Caramalac’s trusted person in Chisinau is the businessman Andrei Gargalic, de facto owner of the five star hotel Royal Park, situated in the Rose Valley Park, Chisinau.

Andrei Gargalic, Source:    

It is curious that, although in several interviews Andrei Gargalic recognizes that he is the owner of the accommodation, the official owner of the hotel is CLUB ROYAL PARK COMPANY Ltd., founded by two off shore companies in Cyprus, namely, by KYRIE TRADING LIMITED and LITHOVIA TRADING LTD. Lada Gargalic, Andrei Gargalic’s wife, appears as the manager of CLUB ROYAL PARK COMPANY Ltd.

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Lada Gargalic, Source:

Leonid Volneanschi claims that in 2011, finding out that he was seriously ill, he sold the assets, worth 2 million euros, which he held in Elat Holding to Andrei Gargalic, for the amount of 1.5 million euros. However, taking Volneanschi’s assets, Gargalic did not pay him. Larisa Nefiodkina confirmed that she, together with Volneanschi, visited Gargalic four times. Volneanschi asked Gargalic to repay her the debt with the money he owed him, but Gargalic refused.

Several sources indicated that in fact the shares, taken by Gargalic from Volneanschi, were allegedly controlled by Caramalac. Moreover, Caramalac had recently sold a real estate object, a sports complex that had allegedly belonged to Elat Holding. The transaction, which was carried out through intermediaries, was assisted by the controversial lawyer, Valerian Minzat, who is known to be a close friend of Andrei Gargalic.

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Lada Gargalic, Cristina Furdui, Valerian Minzat’s wife, Andrei Gargalic and Valerian Minzat. Source:

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Andrei Gargalic and Valerian Minzat. Source:    

Minzat’s family was among the guests of honor at the wedding of Gargalic’s daughter.

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Cristina Furdui attending the wedding of Andrei Gargalic’s daughter, Source:

Metropolitan Vladimir, who also is in close relations with Minzat, was among the wedding guests.

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Valerian Minzat and Metropolitan Vladimir, Source:

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Andrei Golban Source:

It is known that Andrei Gargalic, originating from Comrat, is a professional judo fighter. Coincidentally or not, but Ion Vinaga, who since 2012 is the de jure owner of a 49 % stake in Elat, in February 2015, took over the presidency of the Federation of Judo in Moldova, succeeding Veaceslav Manolache, a high performance judo fighter, who held the position for 15 years, while Vinaga practiced this sport as an amateur.

Ion Vinaga resigned just a month after his appointment, and the position was occupied by Andrei Golban, a judo fighter, silver medalist at the European Championships, held in Oviedo, 1998.

On December 8, 2016, Andrei Golban was detained together with two other persons, a judo fighter and a former police officer, suspected of blackmail and extortion of 13 million Russian rubles, the equivalent of $ 200,000. Prosecutors said the day after their arrest that they were members of a criminal organization, headed by Grigore Caramalac.

The International Fund to Help Sports Veterans and Invalids was an active sponsor of Moldovan Judo Federation and at the beginning of Golban’s mandate Caramalac’s Fund sponsored the Judo Federation with 300 thousand lei. Renato Usatii also sponsored the Judo Federation, when the athletes could not attend the European Championship in France because of lack of money.

It is curious that on November 2, 2012, the then Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, became honorary president of the Judo Federation, replacing the first deputy Speaker of the Parliament Vlad Plahotniuc.     

Jewish Mafia and Ion Vinaga

In the first part of this investigation, we described how Ion Vinaga took over a 49 % stake in Elat. Vinaga acquired the assets estimated at 18 million euros, paying a price of only 500 dollars. According to Gudcov, Vinaga resorted to breach of trust, alienating the property of the Russian businessman without his consent. Gudcov had signed a power of attorney into the name of Vinaga, following the recommendation of Metropolitan Vladimir, who even blessed the document, spraying with holy water.

The Russian businessman Roman Gudcov, former owner of Global Investment, declared in August 2012 that he had been illegally expropriated of his property in Moldova, following a raider attack. He also claimed that Vinaga was actually backed by Mihail Aizin.

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Ion Vînaga, Source:

Ion Vinaga is 31 years old and originates from a modest family in the village of Carpineni, Hincesti. When he took over Gudcov’s shares in Elat, he was only 27. Vinaga is also one of Volneanschi’s creditors, lending him one million euros. Volneanschi returned his debt to Vinaga with all the interest.

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Foreground: Vadim Cheibas, Secretary of the Moldovan Church, former Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, Metropolitan Vladimir, former President Nicolae Timofti, the last n on right, Ion Vinaga. Source: Presidency of RM, 2012

In fact, several sources claim that the person behind Vinaga is Mihail Aizin, the owner of Fidesco supermarkets chain. Aizin, alias Kitaet, is known as the leader of the so-called Jewish mafia. In addition to the 49 % of shares, registered into Vinaga, Aizin also controls several smaller packets, and his trusted person, Simion Spigheli, aka Sima, manages Elat Shopping Center, although another person appears in the documents.

Informed sources, who requested anonymity, have told us that some misunderstandings arose between the two groups that informally control Elat, the Jewish mafia, in the person of Aizin, on the one hand, and the Moldovan-Bulgarian mafia, in the persons of Caramalac and Usatii, on the other hand. It is difficult to forecast how these misunderstandings might end. One thing is certain, if they generate a wider conflict, the strongest will win. However, it is not excluded that another beneficiary from the shadow might take advantage of this uncertainty. This is possible in conditions of corrupt judiciary system, when laws have no value for a certain category of people.

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Investigation, Elat
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