Yanukovych mafia ‘took €72bn out of Ukraine’

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor has accused Viktor Yanukovich of heading a mafia-style syndicate whose crimes cost the former Soviet republic up to $100 billion (€72bn) and said some of the stolen money was now being used to fund Russian-backed separatists.

Yanukovych mafia ‘took €72bn out of Ukraine’

Ex-president Yanukovich fled to Russia in late February after a revolt that prompted Vladimir Putin to annex Ukraine’s Crimea province, triggering the biggest confrontation between the Kremlin and the West since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky said that while president from 2010, Yanukovich personally ran a multi-billion dollar criminal syndicate whose tentacles reached almost all walks of the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian life.

“Ex-president Viktor Yanukovich headed a mafia structure in Ukraine which spread across different state structures,” Makhnitsky said in London after meeting US and British officials about ways to recover stolen assets.

Yanukovich could not be reached for comment. He is at an unknown location in Russia. Makhnitsky said he would be arrested if he returns to Ukraine.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said the meeting in London was aimed at providing “practical leadership and assistance to the Ukrainian government as they identify and recover assets looted under the Yanukovich regime”.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States was determined to help Ukraine find billions of dollars it says were stolen by Yanukovich and his aides.

Makhnitsky said exact figures were impossible to give at such an early stage, but there was already evidence that $350m had been stolen from the state by Yanukovich and his allies, including his two sons, Oleksander and Viktor.

“The loss to Ukraine is up to $100bn,” he said in Ukrainian, adding that some of the money had ended up in Western Europe while large amounts of cash had gone eastwards to Russia.

From Russia, Yanukovich, has denied having bank accounts or property abroad, though the EU and US have ordered his assets to be frozen. The prosecutor declined to name any Western banks involved in the suspect transactions.

Makhnitsky was appointed by parliament during the overthrow of Yanukovich and is a member of the nationalist and far-right Svoboda party. The location of the previous prosecutor, Viktor Pshonka, is unknown. A warrant has been issued for his arrest and the EU has ordered that his assets be frozen because he is under investigation in connection with the embezzlement of state funds and their transfer abroad.

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