Geneva prosecutor calls for 18 months for former Ukrainian prime minister

Geneva's cantonal prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, has called for the former Ukrainian prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, to be given an 18-month jail term, following his conviction for money laundering in 1998.

This content was published on June 26, 2000 - 06:47

Lazarenko has also been found guilty of illegal transactions relating to a metals trade worth SFr14 million (US$8.5 million).

The ex-prime minister 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However, Geneva prosecutors have withdrawn an earlier request for Lazarenko's extradition.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 $4 million in foreign banks.

Lazarenko embezzled close to $7 million during his time as governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region. He has been accused of profiting from his own position and enriching himself to the detriment of the state of Ukraine.

A verdict will be issued in 15 days. Lazarenko's defence lawyers said he chose not to attend the court hearing in Geneva because he feared being extradited to Ukraine which has served him with an arrest warrant.

Lazarenko was the centrist opposition leader who later 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.

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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