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Former Ukrainian prime minister faces sentence in Switzerland

Pavlo Lazarenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister


A court in Geneva is today due to sentence the former Ukrainian prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, who was convicted of money laundering in 1998.

He was found guilty of illegal transactions relating to a metals trade worth SFr14 million (US$8.5 million).

Lazarenko was jailed in Switzerland for two weeks, before being freed on bail of SFr4 million. He later fled to the United States and is currently being held in prison there on charges of misappropriating more than $100 million. Switzerland last year gave the US legal assistance in their investigations.

However, Geneva prosecutors have withdrawn an earlier request for Lazarenko's extradition. The Ukrainian authorities have also charged Lazarenko with stealing $2 million from the government and of illegally hiding about $4million in foreign banks.

Lazarenko was the centrist opposition leader who led the government in 1996-97. He fled to the US at the beginning of last year and applied for political asylum after being stripped of his legislative immunity and served with an arrest warrant at home.

Lazarenko has insisted the investigations against him both in Switzerland and the Ukraine were plotted by President Leonid Kuchma and his allies. He said they wanted to get rid of him as a candidate in the 1999 presidential elections.

swissinfo with agencies

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