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Swiss give U.S. legal assistance in case of Ukraine ex-premier

(AP) -- Switzerland is giving the United States legal assistance in the case of Ukraine's former prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, and has ordered the freezing of related assets here, a Swiss police official said Monday.

This content was published on September 21, 1999 - 08:52

(AP) -- Switzerland is giving the United States legal assistance in the case of Ukraine's former prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, and has ordered the freezing of related assets here, a Swiss police official said Monday.

U.S. authorities made the request earlier this year, and Switzerland approved it on September 9, said Folco Galli, spokesman for the Swiss Federal Police Office.

Swiss police are investigating Lazarenko on allegations of laundering a "relatively large" sum of money, while Ukrainian authorities have charged him with stealing $2 million from the government and of illegally hiding about $4 million in foreign
banks.

He was first detained by Swiss police last December, but was released on a $3 million bail after spending two weeks in a Geneva prison.

Lazarenko, Ukraine's centrist opposition leader who led the government in 1996-97, fled to the United States in February and applied for political asylum after being stripped of his legislative immunity and served with an arrest warrant at home.

Ukraine wants him back, but has no extradition treaty with the United States.

Lazarenko was detained in San Francisco in April after a Swiss judge issued an international arrest warrant for him and asked U.S. authorities to extradite him.

A decision on the Swiss request for Lazarenko's extradition is still pending, Galli said.

The U.S. request involved the freezing of assets and information on bank documents related to Lazarenko and other people, said Galli, who declined to identify the others concerned.

Four banks in Geneva and a financial institution in Zurich are affected, he added, but he gave no further details.

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

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