Piling cases on Tymoshenko

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Nov. 3, 2011, 10:49 p.m. | Ukraine — by Kyiv Post

Russian opposition Yabloko party activists, wearing Ukrainian national flower head bands, rally to demand freedom for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.
© AP

Kyiv Post

Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko led Ukraine’s government in 2005 and again from 2007-2010 under President Viktor Yushchenko. She made a fortune in the natural gas trading business under the patronage of ex-Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, in power from 1996-1997. Lazarenko is now serving a prison sentence in the United States after being convicted on money-laundering charges.

With Tymoshenko’s enemies back in power, not least among them Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, Ukrainian prosecutors seem determined to keep her locked up in prison far beyond the seven-year term she received on Oct. 11.

Here’s a roundup of her legal troubles, which she and many others in Ukraine and internationally say amount to political persecution rather than a genuine attempt to root out corruption. Even though some of the accusations go back to the 1990s, investigators say the statute of limitations has not expired.

Tymoshenko has been found guilty of: exceeding authority when brokering gas contracts with Russia in January 2009. The court sentences her to seven years in prison and required to reimburse the state $188 million in losses caused by the gas contract. She is also banned from taking a job as a civil servant for the period of three years after serving her seven-year prison sentence.

Tymoshenko is under criminal investigation on suspicion of:
  • involvement in contract killing of a Donetsk businessman and national lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban in 1996;
  • conspiring with Lazarenko to misuse public funds by shifting $405 million in corporate liabilities of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, a company that Tymoshenko co-owned and directed, to the state’s budget;
  • embezzlement of Hr 25 million in budget funds and evasion of the payment of more than Hr 20 million in taxes through the introduction of a criminal financial scheme regarding payments for natural gas by the United Energy Systems of Ukraine; she also allegedly concealed income in Tymoshenko’s offshore company;
  • misuse of public money by spending $350 million out of the $480 million Ukraine received for selling Kyoto protocol carbon credits on pensions instead of using it exclusively to fund environmental projects;
  • exceeding authority when authorizing as prime minister the purchase of 1,000 specialized Opel Combo medical vehicles at inflated prices, which allegedly incurred in Hr 67 million in losses to the state budget;
  • receiving Illegal VAT returns worth Hr 14 million for United Energy Systems of Ukraine in 1997-1999;
  • failing to pay VAT worth Hr 20 million for contracts between United Energy Systems of Ukraine and Gazprom in 1996-1997;
  • failing to pay Hr 681,000 in taxes from income from Somolli Enterprises Limited, a Cypriot offshore company Tymoshenko allegedly co-owned;
  • giving former Ukraine Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko a $86 million bribe in the 1990s;
  • an attempt of giving bribes to judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine in 2004 in attempt to get a court ruling which would release former managers of United Energy Systems of Ukraine.
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