Ex-Ukrainian Prime Minister Now In Federal Prison Owes Marin $2 Million In Back Taxes

SAN RAFAEL, CA -- Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko may find an inquiry from Marin County tax collector Roy Given waiting when he is released from the federal prison at Terminal Island on Nov. 1.

A Front view outside the mansion in Novato, Calif., bought by former Ukranian prime minister Pavel Lazarenko for $6.7 million.

Lazarenko, who has been cooling his heels behind bars for the past six years following his conviction for money laundering, transporting stolen goods and fraud, owes Marin $2.1 million in back taxes and late payment fines levied against the palatial, 11-acre Novato mansion at 100 Obertz Lane he once called home.

And the bill will get bigger Tuesday, because Given doesn't expect to get a check from Lazarenko by the 5 p.m. deadline for paying 2011-12 property taxes. Tardy taxpayers face a 10 percent penalty.

Given, head of the Department of Finance at the Civic Center, said that Dugsbery Inc. of Sausalito, the entity through which Lazarenko bought the mansion, is Marin's biggest tax scofflaw.

The bill includes $894,407 in back taxes and another $997,824 in late payment penalties, as well as $129,000 on two adjacent parcels.

The properties are among 1,487 Marin County parcels that owe $20,703,732 in back taxes, penalties and interest.

"I'd like these people to call my office and try to work out a payment plan," Given said, adding that it's been hard to contact Lazarenko, "since he's been in prison."

The next step for the Novato mansion will be "final formal notifications, including to the state Franchise Tax Board and the IRS, and then we'll be forced to put the property up for a tax sale," probably in late August, he said.

Disposition of the property will be delayed if the federal or state governments makes a claim.

Officials said that the 59-year-old Lazarenko, once ranked as the eighth-most corrupt official in the world by an international watchdog group, pocketed millions when he controlled lucrative oil and gas contracts as head of the Ukrainian government in fiscal 1996-97.

Ousted from office, he fled amid controversy in 1999 to seek asylum in the United States and wound up in Marin.

Federal prosecutors accused him of stealing $114 million while in public office and trying to hide $21 million in American banks, including $9.3 million deposited in the Sausalito branch of Westamerica Bank, and he went on trial in San Francisco.

He was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $10 million.

Prosecutors said he paid cash siphoned from the Ukraine to buy the Novato mansion overlooking the Marin Country Club for $6.75 million.

The 19,495-square-foot, nine-bedroom, nine-bath residence has two helicopter landing pads, five dog kennels, a ballroom, granite floors inlaid with brass, and gold-plated door knobs.

The mansion was built by George Michael Shipsey, a former Marin developer convicted in 1997 of embezzling $700,000 in union pension funds.

Movie star Eddie Murphy created a local stir when he rented the home for a time.

Given called Lazarenko's lofty, tardy tax bill an aberration, and noted that most taxpayers will pay up before Tuesday's deadline.

County staffers on Monday will sort thousands of bills mailed in over the weekend.

Given's staff already is knee deep in tax bills as sacks of mail have poured in and employees process 8,000 payments a day.

Hundreds more appear to pay up in person, like those in a line last Thursday afternoon that snaked through the tax office lobby.

"It's just been fine. People are happy," said veteran tax cashier Katherine Haley.

"Some people are concerned about all the special assessments" imposed by various taxing districts, she added.

Joani Metolius of Novato was among the taxpayers waiting to pay the tax collector.

"It costs me only $14 a day for the privilege of living in this wonderful, most beautiful county," she said of her tax bill.

"I feel privileged to live here and I'm happy to pay this."

Source: Marin Independent Journal

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