Latvia keeps €50m believed stolen from Ukraine

Take note – story published 7 years ago

Latvia has got a windfall of €50 million to add to its state budget after seizing cash believed to have been stolen from Ukrainian state coffers, investigative news show De Facto reported September 11.

According to De Facto, some of the cash in question was in accounts held at Latvia's PrivatBank (a subsidiary of Ukraine's PrivatBank Group) and two other banks.

Sergiy Kurchenko, a billionnaire associate of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich is at the center of a Ukrainian investigation into how millions of euros were stolen from the state and was one of the first to be named on EU and US blacklists of people close to Yanukovich's notoriously corrupt regime.

Consequently Kurchenko had his assets in Latvia frozen.

But according to De Facto he was not alone. In 2014 Ukrainian Prosecutor General Vitaly Jarema announced that former Ukrainian member of parliament Serhijam Arbuzov had had $49 million frozen in Latvian accounts.

Another Ukrainian businessmen/politician Yuri Ivanyushenko had $32 million dollars plus 72 million Swiss francs frozen in Latvia according to Jarema.

However, De Facto says that though investigations into money laundering from Ukraine via Latvian banks continue, neither Kurchenko, Arbuzov nor Ivanyushenko are among the suspects.

Both the Latvian State Prosecutor and Latvian State Police told De Facto they had asked for information from Ukraine - but received very little in return.

After discussing the matter with his Ukrainian counterpart last year, Latvian Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers said: "Unfortunately we did not receive information that this money had been stolen from the State and should be returned to Ukraine."

As a result of this puzzling inaction, a series of court decisions this year have seen the frozen assets instead seized by the Latvian state, where they have provided a significant boost to the budget, so far amounting to some €50 million.

According to De Facto's sources, the money came not only from accounts at PrivatBank, but also from ABLV bank and Regional Investment Bank, all of which have been handed penalties by the financial regulator in connection with money laundering suspicions.


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