Moldovan police last week shut down a factory in Cruileni allegedly making unauthorized copies of Russian Kamov-26 coaxial rotor utility helicopters. More than 10 helicopters were under assembly in the covert factory when it was raided on June 30.
The Moldovan interior ministry said the bootleg aircraft were destined for customers in other former Soviet-controlled countries. The ministry characterized the defendants, charged with aircraft smuggling, as “well organized.”
Situated between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, as measured by per capita GDP, and has been a hotbed for smuggling, human and drug trafficking, and counterfeiting for decades. A 2019 study in Intellectus, the journal of intellectual property, noted that anti-counterfeiting and anti-smuggling measures in the country have been largely ineffective due to limited law enforcement resources and “more efficient manufacturing, transport, distribution and sales models used by transnational criminals.”
In the case of the counterfeit Kamovs, the interior ministry said the scheme’s principals were from the breakaway region of Transnistria. As early as 2002, the local Moldovan delegation from the European Parliament called Transnistria “a black hole” for a variety of illegal pursuits, including arms trafficking and money laundering.