Ukraine's Ex-Premier Fined $20M

SAN FRANCISCO -- A U.S. judge ordered a former Ukrainian prime minister on Friday to pay nearly $19.5 million to a Ukrainian businessman who said the politician demanded cash and half ownership of his firm in exchange for favored treatment.

Pavlo Lazarenko, who served as Ukraine's prime minister from 1996 to 1997, was convicted in U.S. federal court in 2004 of using his position to extort millions of dollars from his country and then launder it through California banks. The indictment in the complicated and slow-moving case came down in 2000.

During the trial, businessman Peter Kiritchenko testified that he gave Lazarenko tens of millions of dollars and ownership of half of a company to help expand his firm.

He later asked for a court order for Lazarenko to give back the money, and on Friday U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins agreed that the former prime minister should return it.

"The record supports his request for $19,473,309.00, based upon his submission of specific and credible evidence," Jenkins wrote in his order.

Lazarenko, the first foreign leader to be convicted in a U.S. court since Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega in 1992, was sentenced in 2006 to 108 months in prison. He is in home confinement in California pending a federal appeals court review of his conviction.