Lazarenko released from jail pending August 18 court hearing
PARSIPPANY, N.J. - A U.S. judge released former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko from jail pending a court hearing scheduled for August 18, Mr. Lazarenko's Ukrainian lawyer told the Associated Press on June 14.
"U.S. Judge Martin Jenkins was satisfied with a petition for [Mr. Lazarenko's] release submitted by Lazarenko's American attorneys," the Ukrainian attorney, Maryna Dolhopola, said, according to the wire service.
Mr. Lazarenko has been held in a detention facility outside of San Francisco since 1999. He is accused by the United States of laundering $114 million through various U.S. banks while he was Ukraine's prime minister but has pleaded innocent to the charges. Mr. Lazarenko also faces two counts of murder and is wanted on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation of government property and abuse of office in Ukraine. Additionally, he was convicted in June 2000 of money laundering by a court in Switzerland, which sentenced him to an 18-month suspended prison term.
According to several news sources, Mr. Lazarenko's lawyers petitioned for his release from prison so that he could be present while both prosecution and defense lawyers take testimony in Ukraine from various individuals. He will reportedly remain free of custody for the entire period of witness depositions, which is said to lead up to the August trial date.
Ms. Dolhopola told the AP that Mr. Lazarenko could listen to testimony via technical means. However, Ukraine's Procurator General Sviatoslav Piskun said that "Mr. Lazarenko will wear a special electronic bracelet and officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and police officers will have a right to enter premises he will live in any time they wish," Interfax-Ukraine reported on June 13.
The Associated Press also reported that "an eight-member delegation, headed by Martha Boersch, chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force at the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, and Mr. Lazarenko's lawyers were taking testimony in Ukraine from high-ranking officials."
It is believed that the deposition of high-ranking Ukrainian government officials will help illuminate not only Mr. Lazarenko's alleged misdeeds but also allegations of widespread corruption among other Ukrainian government officials. According to the AP, Mr. Jenkins also approved the naming of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma as a witness in the case.
Prior to his being elected a national deputy in the Verkhovna Rada, Mr. Lazarenko was Ukraine's prime minister from May 1996 to August 1997. In February of 1999 he fled Ukraine, seeking foreign refuge but was arrested by U.S. authorities on February 24, 1999, for attempting to illegally enter the U.S. Subsequently, the United States charged him with several counts of financial impropriety.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 22, 2003, No. 25, Vol. LXXI
| Home Page |