Prosecutor General: Tymoshenko Could Be Questioned In 'Lazarenko Case'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka has said that after former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko returns from the United States, investigators will question former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as part of the "Lazarenko case."

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko

"The investigators will have questions for Tymoshenko if Lazarenko appears. Abuse, fraud and other issues are not very comfortable for Tymoshenko in the context of what has to be proved, whether she was an accomplice in crime or not," he said in an exclusive interview to Interfax- Ukraine.

Pshonka said that if Lazarenko returns to Ukraine, the investigating authorities will be obliged to detain him, announce the indictment, interrogate him and then bring him to court to decide on choosing the measure of restraint for him.

"The questions for Lazarenko concern the crimes of which he is accused. And he is accused of abuse of office while holding senior positions and serving as Ukraine's deputy prime minister and prime minister."

"Damages of UAH 4 million ($0.5 million) were caused to state interests."

"He also is accused of misappropriating another's property and budget funds worth more than $15 million and UAH 20 million ($2.5 million), as well as receiving a bribe of over $100 million, and being involved in the organization of premeditated murders," Pshonka said.

He said that he did not know whether Lazarenko would come to Ukraine after serving his prison sentence in the United States and whether investigators would contact him.

"We don't know whether he will stay in America and whether there will be contact with him, or whether he will come here, or it will be permitted to question him there..."

"In the Lazarenko case there are reasons to question Lazarenko along with Tymoshenko, as well as having face-to-face meetings," Pshonka said.

As reported, a new criminal case was opened against Tymoshenko on October 12, 2011 for laying the burden of the debts of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) corporation on the Ukrainian budget.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said that the reason for launching a new criminal case against the former Ukrainian prime minister was a letter from the Russian Defense Ministry to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which raised the issue of repaying the corporation's debt of $405.5 million.

The ex-premier's defense team has challenged in court the decision to open the criminal case.

Lazarenko was charged in the United States with laundering money obtained illegally and transferring it to foreign bank accounts in 1994-1999.

In August 2006, he was sentenced by a court in California to nine years in prison for money laundering and other crimes.

He is under house arrest at his apartment in San Francisco.

In June 2011, Lazarenko's custody period was reduced by seven months, to January 11, 2012.

It was reported in August 2011, citing Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that Lazarenko is to be released from prison in the United States on November 1, 2012, rather than on January 11, 2012, as was planned earlier.

On August 4, 2011, Lazarenko was transferred from the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin (California) to FCI Terminal Island, a low-security prison for men (also in California).

Source: Interfax