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Jailed former PM faces fresh corruption charges

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-11-11

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was controversially convicted of abuse of power, has been charged with additional financial crimes, the Ukraine tax office said Friday. Her lawyer described the charges as "absurd".

AFP - Ukraine has charged jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with a number of financial crimes, the tax office said Friday, further denting Kiev's hopes of joining the European Union.

"Yulia Tymoshenko was charged with organising the concealment of hard currency earnings of more than $165 million, embezzling budget funds and tax evasion totalling 47 million hryvnas (around $5.86 million)," the tax office said in a statement.

It said the authorities had pressed charges against the flamboyant 2004 Orange Revolution leader on Thursday, although it only released the information on Friday.

Tymoshenko now faces trial on the fresh charges while already serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power in an October verdict that shocked the West and dealt a blow to Ukraine's dream of joining the EU.

On Monday, Tymoshenko's lawyer, Sergiy Vlasenko, said that several criminal probes had been reopened, calling the new investigations "absurd" and aimed at "eliminating Tymoshenko from politics" ahead of 2012 parliamentary polls.

The probes all relate to Tymoshenko's role as head of energy firm United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), then the country's largest power company, in the 1990s.

The latest charges come after the Ukrainian Security Service on October 13 said it had opened a new criminal case against the fiery opposition leader, on suspicion of embezzling $405 million of funds in cooperation with a top government member.

The probes are separate to the charges of abuse of power on which Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years last month. In that case she was convicted of inflicting massive losses on the national budget in a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

The court said the deal that Tymoshenko signed with Russia's then president Vladimir Putin resulted in losses of 1.5 billion hryvnas ($187 million) for state energy firm Naftogaz.

As well as the prison term, she has also been ordered to pay back the financial losses in full.

She has appealed against her conviction, insisting the harsh sentence was ordered by her arch-foe President Viktor Yanukovych who defeated her and other figureheads of the 2004 Orange Revolution in the 2010 presidential election.

Several other wide-ranging probes against Tymoshenko are ongoing.

Deputy prosecutor general Renat Kuzmin said last month that prosecutors were reviewing information on Tymoshenko's alleged involvement in the notorious contract killing of Ukrainian MP Yevgen Shcherban in 1996.

She has also been charged with abuse of power in probes into alleged misspending of proceeds from selling greenhouse emission quotas under the Kyoto Protocol, and even into inflated prices paid for ambulances, which have not gone to court.

Tymoshenko has suffered from health problems in the three months since her arrest, and her lawyer said Friday she had asked investigators not to question her on the latest charges because of back pain that left her unable to walk.

The EU postponed an October summit with Yanukovych over the jailing of Tymoshenko, warning it threatened Kiev's European Union integration aspirations.

Ex-Soviet Ukraine had hoped to sign an Association Agreement by the end of the year and become a formal EU member within a decade. But it is now also studying the option of joining a customs union led by Russia.

Date created : 2011-11-11


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