Ukrainian Criminals Find Refuge In Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Corruption was endemic in Leonid Kuchma’s Ukraine and continues to plague the country under Victor Yushchenko. Law enforcement officials have attempted to prosecute some Kuchma era officials.

Fugitive Ihor Bakai

But in several cases, the men have fled the country and found refuge in Russia.

In an attempt to bring at least one prominent person to justice, prosecutors accused Ihor Bakai, the gas tycoon and head of Naftogaz Ukraine from 1998-2000, of illegally misspending Hr 828.5 million of state funds, of abuse of power, extortion and theft of state assets.

After the Orange Revolution, Bakai fled to Russia where he was granted citizenship. An international arrest warrant for Bakai was issued in May 2005. Russia has refused to hand him over.

Other former officials are charged or wanted for questioning in Ukraine: former Interior Minister Mykola Bilokon, former mayor of Odessa Ruslan Bodelan, former Kiev Oblast governor Anatoliy Zasukha and the former deputy chief of the State Security Service of Ukraine, Volodymyr Satsyuk, all fled to Russia.

Even if Moscow agreed to extradite the suspects, there are no guarantees that Ukrainian officials will prosecute them.

Former Sumy governor Volodymyr Shcherban fled to the United States on an “investor’s visa” after the Orange Revolution. He was wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.

Shcherban triumphantly returned in November 2006, with the help of high-priced U.S. lawyers and his political ally Victor Yanukovych, who had just become prime minister.

The case against Shcherban was shelved.

Source: Kyiv Post