Sheriff (in Cyrillic: Шериф) is the second-largest company based in Transnistria (Moldova). Formed in the early 1990s by Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly, former members of the special services, Sheriff has grown to include nearly all forms of profitable private business in this small nation, and has even become significantly involved in Transnistrian politics. Others contend that the company is truly run by Igor Smirnov, the former president of the secessionist republic of Transnistria, being run mafia-style, and used as a front to launder money.
Sheriff owns a chain of petrol stations, a chain of supermarkets, a TV channel, a publishing house, a construction company, a Mercedes-Benz dealer, an advertising agency, a spirits factory, two bread factories, a mobile phone network, the football club FC Sheriff Tiraspol and its newly built Sheriff Stadium at an estimated cost of $200 million including a five-star hotel still under construction.
Transnistrian government policies have isolated the region from the rest of Moldova, allowing Sheriff to forge a monopoly there. This led to a time of cooperation between the government of Igor Smirnov and Sheriff. The company supported government policy and in return, the customs service, headed by the president's son, Vladimir Smirnov, gave Sheriff a reduction on taxes and import duties. He was also said to be a major silent partner among the leadership of the company.
As time progressed, however, Transnistria's indeterminate status has slowed the growth of Sheriff. When a new party, Renewal, was formed in 2000 with the goal of independence from Moldova, Sheriff supported them. Renewal is also known for its support of the interests of big business. Kazmaly, co-founder of Sheriff, and the company's Human Resources Director, Ilona Tyuryaeva, were both elected to parliament as members of Renewal. Some media sources claimed Oleg Smirnov, younger son of president Igor Smirnov, to be among the top leadership of Sheriff company, though these allegations have never been proved. Moreover, after 2006 the leadership of Sheriff openly opposed Smirnov's politics. After presidential elections of 2011 allegations of Smirnov's clan involvement in Sheriff disappeared from articles about Transnistria.
Sheriff has used its economic clout to sway elections, by virtue of their ownership of a mobile phone network and of TSV, a local television station. In the 2005 Parliamentary elections, Renewal gained an absolute majority in the parliament, holding 23 of 43 seats. This victory ousted long-time Speaker of Parliament Grigori Maracutsa, replacing him with Renewal leader Evgeny Shevchuk, who also had strong ties to Sheriff.
Fearing a loss of power, the government of Smirnov accused Shevchuk and Sheriff of plotting a coup d'état in Transnistria. The accusation stated that Sheriff was plotting to reintegrate Transnistria with Moldova, in return for profitable business conditions for the company there. Sheriff has strongly denied these accusations, and maintains that they also desire independence from Moldova. Following multiple attacks between the two parties, Smirnov received the support of the Russian government. Since then, Shevchuk has disappeared almost entirely from the media, and did not register to be a candidate in the December 2006 presidential election. However, in 2011 Shevchuk beat both Igor Smirnov and Renewal's new leader Anatoliy Kaminski in the elections for the Presidency of the republic. On 29 December 2012 President Yevgeny Shevchuk issued a decree abolishing all preferences previously granted to Sheriff by Igor Smirnov and thus ending period of company's privileged position in Transnistria's economy.
Notes and references
- "Transnistria 2006: Is Regime Change Underway?" British Helsinki Human Rights Group. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Solovyev, V. & Zygar M. (2006-09-19). The Old Guard Wins in Transdniestria. Kommersant: Russia's Daily Online. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Ash, Lucy (2004-04-01). "Misery in a Pariah State." BBC. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- McCracken, Patti (2006-02-12). "A place the world chooses to forget: Moldova's breakaway region is a pawn in its fight with Russia." The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-11-17.
- Sports in Pridnestrovie: Going for Gold
- Jahn, George (2004-01-18). "Hotbed of Weapons Deals." The Washington Times. Retrieved 2006-11-17.
- "Moldova's Future Uncertain." (PDF). International Crisis Group. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Protsyk, Oleh. "Moldova's Dilemmas in Democratizing and Reintegrating Transnistria." (PDF). International Policy Fellowships. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- "Renewal, Pridnestrovie's reformist opposition party." pridnestrovie.net. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Botan, Igor (2006-01-17). "Democracy and governing in Moldova." E-Democracy. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
- "Four Persons Run For Head of Transnistria", Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- An aided economy. The characteristics of the Transnistrian economic model, 16 May 2013. http://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2013-05-16/aided-economy-characteristics-transnistrian-economic-model
- Нас ждут «голые» полки магазинов? Профсоюзные Вести, 16 February 2013. http://profvesti.org/2013/02/16/10065/
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