Kiev raids properties in $800 mln ministerial graft probe

Kiev (AFP) –


Ukrainian law enforcement officers on Friday raided property allegedly controlled by a former minister under toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych as part of an $800 million corruption probe.

Ukraine's chief military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said investigators carried out 183 raids in the capital Kiev on property owned by Olexander Klymenko, the former minister for revenue and duties, who now lives in Moscow.

Investigators carried out raids in the Gulliver shopping mall and the pro-Russian Vesti media holding, of which Klymenko is a beneficiary.

Klymenko on Facebook described the raids as "banal banditry" by the government, while saying they had a "political rationale."

The military prosecutor accused Klymenko of registering a number of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus between 2011 and 2013 and using offshore accounts to launder money stolen from the Ukrainian state budget.

The illegal scheme saw $788 million transferred to private companies and then spent on luxury apartments, cars and office and retail premises, the military prosecutor said.

"Nine of the main suspects are under arrest in a temporary detention facility," Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.

He said that Klymenko's assets would be "frozen until a final court decision that I expect will confiscate them for the benefit of the state."

So far property has been frozen to the value of "several million gryvnia (one million gryvnia is approximately 34,000 euros), and that's not even the end," he added.

Klymenko fled the country straight after a bloody revolution that took place in central Kiev in winter 2013-2014 and ousted pro-Russian president Yanukovych.

Soon afterwards, Klymenko was placed on the European sanctions list and his assets in the European Union were frozen.