Moldova will step up an investigation into the disappearance of more than $1 billion from three banks, the head of the central bank told Reuters on Tuesday, after around 10,000 people protested over the scandal at the weekend. Last year Moldova placed Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank under central bank administration after a series of non-performing loans bankrupted the lenders, which together account for up to 20 percent of the tiny former Soviet republic's banking system in terms of assets. Central bank head Dorin Dragutanu said foreign investigators would be appointed by the end of May in the second phase of a probe into the loss of the money, which is equivalent to around an eighth of Moldova's gross domestic product. Thousands of people joined a protest rally on Sunday in the Moldovan capital Chisinau and organisers vowed to continue the demonstrations until the money is returned. Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, is one of Europe's poorest countries. It is trying to reorient its economy towards the European Union after economic turbulence in Russia, its Soviet-era overlord, hit the pace of its own growth. Read more.