Moldovans despair at 'theft of the century'

Man stealing paving stones

This is a story about a high-street robbery, but not the kind you might imagine. It wasn't a bank heist, or a jewellery shop ram-raid. A man in Moldova has been caught on CCTV stealing the street itself, or at least several hefty paving stones.

The crime took place on Ştefan cel Mare, the main street in the country's capital city, Chisinau, under bright street lights and in front of meandering pedestrians. And the brazen manner in which the theft was carried out has set some Moldovans pondering what has happened to their country. Others have found humour in the situation.

Footage of the theft was posted online by Krujca Mednaea, a popular Moldovan YouTube channel and Facebook page, and it quickly went viral. Overlaid with the music from Super Mario Brothers - for comic effect - the man is seen picking up the tiles and loading them into the boot of his car which is parked on the pavement. He does pause for passers by, but otherwise makes little effort to conceal his actions. There appears to be a passenger in the car, watching his friend at work.

The video has been viewed more than 350,000 times, and prompted a slew of comments from people venting anger and frustration at the incident.

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Many said the incident was symbolic of the economic and political turmoil currently facing the country. Some comments compared the paving stone theft to the 2014 fraud case in which one billion dollars disappeared from three banks.

"Everyone is stealing what they can, some are stealing billions, others [are stealing] the pavement," wrote one on Facebook.

"Like the authorities, this Homo Moldovanus is a representative of the people. A nation of thieves by definition… How can we cure it?" asked another.

One user called it "theft of the century", while another joked that the man was probably stockpiling tiles for an anti-government protest later this month.

A suspect has reportedly been detained by police, and is facing a 2,000 lei ($100) fine if convicted. He might also have to pay to cover the cost of repairing the pavement, according to local reports.

Reporting by Margareta Mocreac, BBC Monitoring

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko

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