Aliaksandr Barankov, a former financial crimes investigator from Belarus, is in imminent danger of losing that status and being sent home, where he says he fears he will be killed because he has denounced corruption at the highest levels of government.
Barankov, 30, faces an Ecuadorean judge’s ruling as early as Tuesday on an extradition request from Belarus, where prosecutors accuse him of fraud and extortion. Barankov contends he uncovered a petroleum-smuggling ring involving senior officials of President Alexander Lukashenko’s government, including relatives of the leader.
He calls the criminal charges against him bogus, and is backed by rights activists in the formerSoviet bloc nation, which Lukashenko has ruled since 1994. His government has been condemned for fixing elections, repressing opposition groups and independent news media, and jailing dissidents. Lukashenko has kept about 80 percent of industry in state hands and earned the nickname in the West of “Europe’s last dictator.”