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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SBU Chief Denies Probe of Gas Trader

The Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, has never investigated Swiss-registered trader RosUkrEnergo for criminal activity, while files tracking the activities of Semyon Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-born businessman considered to be a major figure in international organized crime, have been destroyed, said current SBU head Igor Drizhchany, Interfax reported late Thursday.

His statement came in direct contradiction to comments made by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her close ally, former SBU chief Olexander Turchinov.

"In the run-up to elections, a lot of people were saying that the SBU had carried out an in-depth investigation into the activities of RosUkrEnergo in 2005, exposed all the criminal schemes, and then, after a change in command, 'the investigation was just artificially closed,'" Drizhchany was quoted as saying. "I have to disappoint the authors of these statements: The SBU has never launched any proceedings and has not launched any investigation into the affairs of RosUkrEnergo."

Turchinov told the Financial Times last July that the SBU was investigating gas traders Eural Trans Gas and RosUkrEnergo for possible ties with Mogilevich. He confirmed this again in an interview on the sidelines of a news conference Thursday.

Speaking to foreign journalists last week, Tymoshenko said the investigation was "artificially closed" in September, when her government was fired and Turchinov was forced to step down. Turchinov also has said that President Viktor Yushchenko had tried to call him off the case and told him to "stop persecuting my men."

RosUkrEnergo, which is half-owned by Gazprom and half-owned by unnamed beneficiaries via Raiffeisen Bank, went on to win a monopoly on gas supplies to Ukraine under a January deal between Russia and Ukraine.

Despite a huge political backlash over the deal, Yushchenko has stood by it. The deal and the rise of the trader have become a major bone of contention between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, former allies whose parties are competitors in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Drizhchany told Interfax that the SBU had only been looking into Eural Trans Gas, RosUkrEnergo's predecessor, on suspicions of smuggling, a case that turned out to be a question of tax avoidance.

RosUkrEnergo and Eural Trans Gas have denied any ties to Mogilevich, who has Russian citizenship.

Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin told journalists on Friday that a criminal case had been opened into the destruction of case files tracking Mogilevich's activities for the last 12 years. He claimed the files were destroyed last September on Turchinov's orders. Turchinov's deputy in charge of organized crime, Andriy Kozhemyakin, had destroyed 20 volumes of case notes in just 40 minutes, Shokhin said, according to Ukrainian reports.

Turchinov, who is Tymoshenko's campaign chief, and Kozhemyakin have denied the claims.