Lazarenko applies for residence permit in US but still wants to return to Ukraine, says defense lawyer
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko has applied to the Immigration Court in San Francisco, California, for a U.S. residency permit, Lazarenko's defense lawyer Maryna Dolhopola has said.
"He has not applied for political asylum, but only for the right to temporary residence. Some Ukrainian media erroneously reported that Lazarenko had requested political asylum in the United States," the defense lawyer said in a statement issued on Thursday.
According to her, Lazarenko is currently staying in a public institution, which is used by the U.S. immigration service for people whose applications for residence permit are being considered.
The court has already notified the ex-premier that it would consider his case. Lazarenko's defense team expects hearings on this issue in two to three weeks.
"Pavlo Lazarenko has reaffirmed his desire to return to Ukraine as soon as possible. However, given the lack of guarantees of his personal safety in his homeland, as well as the absence of independent judiciary, and due to the prejudice of the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine against him, Lazarenko and his defense lawyers believe that the only right step is to obtain temporary residence in the United States," Dolhopola said.
As reported, Lazarenko, who spent more than ten years in prison for fraud, was released from U.S. Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Terminal Island in California on November 1.
The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine (PGO) stated that as soon as Lazarenko returns to Ukraine he would be arrested. The ex-premier's lawyer said that Ukrainian investigators allege his involvement in around 50 cases, particularly bribery, appropriation of funds, and abuse of power.
Lazarenko was convicted in the United States of embezzling illegally obtained funds and transferring them to foreign accounts in 1994-1999. A Californian court sentenced Lazarenko to nine years in prison in August 2006. He remained in his apartment in San Francisco under house arrest pending the consideration of the appeal against his conviction. In June 2011, Lazarenko's custody was shortened by seven months, to January 11, 2012.