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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lazarenko Stays in Jail As Ukraine Starts Probe




GENEVA -- Ukrainian opposition leader Pavlo Lazarenko must remain in jail for another month pending a money-laundering trial unless he meets conditions for a multimillion-dollar bail next week, his lawyer said.


Paul Gully-Hart said the Geneva criminal court ruled in a hearing Friday that it will accept the as yet unspecified bail if Lazarenko, a former prime minister, can prove he got the money legitimately.


Gully-Hart has proposed to the court a bail of 4 million to 5 million Swiss francs ($2.8 million to $3.6 million).


Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet issued a statement saying he planned to question Lazarenko this week on the basis of what he learned during a trip to Ukraine and on evidence collected in the Swiss city.


In Kiev, meanwhile, Ukraine's Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko ordered an investigation into allegations that 10 senior government officials were involved in corruption.


Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the prosecutor-general's office was probing the case and would likely ask parliament soon to lift Lazarenko's immunity from prosecution.


"It is a quite complicated, difficult issue, especially that [the arrest] is connected to passports of another country," Kuchma said. Lazarenko was carrying a Panamanian passport when he was arrested.


Gully-Hart said his client was ready to cooperate with the Swiss authorities, but that he did not want information to be passed on to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, because he believes it would be used against him for political purposes.


Lazarenko, prime minister from 1996 to 1997, was dismissed by Kuchma. Critics say he used the office to reap huge profits from the distribution of natural gas in the former Soviet republic, but he and his allies deny the charges.


Lazarenko maintains Ukrainian officials want to discredit him before presidential elections in October 1999, and he has even accused Kuchma's close entourage of plotting to kill him.


Lazarenko's centrist Hromada party fared well in parliamentary elections this year and he was widely considered a top contender in the future presidential race.


Lazarenko, detained nearly two weeks ago as he entered Switzerland, has admitted moving money to Swiss accounts, but claims he can prove it has no criminal connections.


Lazarenko was charged Dec. 4 in connection with a "relatively large" sum of money. In regard to Ukraine's corruption probe, former acting prosecutor Oleh Lytvak said in a broadcast interview that the main prosecutor's office has materials on 10 state officials that allegedly show their involvement in corruption, though he gave no further details.


He told Interfax there were "certain facts" showing abuses of power by officials at several ministries and other state institutions involved in privatization. Other corruption suspicions involve "famous gas traders, the transit of ammonia through Ukraine, the state of the Cabinet's reserve funds," Lytvak said.


Pustovoitenko, the prime minister, said he had ordered a probe into the allegations and that a report from the Cabinet's State Service Department would be submitted at the next government session. The department will give an account of "who is involved in what cases," he told a Cabinet meeting. He did not give any names.