Moldova PM moves to dismiss minister detained in land scam

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CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova's prime minister is asking the president to approve the suspension of the agriculture minister, Eduard Grama, who has been detained as a suspect in a scheme to illegally expropriate state-owned vineyards and buildings.

Premier Pavel Filip asked President Igor Dodon on Friday to agree to suspend Grama, who was detained this week by anti-corruption prosecutors. He has denied wrongdoing. Prosecutors say more than a dozen people are suspected of involvement in a scheme to illegally lease 30 hectares (74 acres) of land and buildings owned by the National College of Viticulture and Winemaking.

In November, anti-corruption prosecutors arrested 12 people in the case, saying suspects illegally changed ownership documents to make the land more expensive and bribed state officials.

The college was founded in 1842 by Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia, under the name "the Horticulture School of Bassarabia," the historical name for Moldova.

Best known for its red wine, Moldova is one of the top producers of wine in the former Soviet Union. Some 70 percent of its wine exports went to the European Union last year.

The former Russian market dried up after Moscow banned imports of Moldovan wine, fruit and some vegetables in 2014, shortly after Moldova signed an association agreement with the EU.

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