13:07 23.01.2013

Lazarenko categorically denies being involved in Scherban murder

4 min read

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Lazarenko has categorically denied being involved in the murder of parliamentarian Yevhen Scherban.

"Today I have to state once again that I have no relation to the abovementioned crime [the murder of Scherban]. I know for sure that this case against me was falsified for political purposes," reads a statement by Lazarenko distributed on Wednesday by his lawyer Maryna Dovhopola.

According to the ex-premier, a public statement of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office (PGO) management regarding his involvement in the criminal case on the murder of Scherban is a "blatant infringement of the constitutional norm of the presumption of innocence."

"I, Pavlo Ivanovych Lazarenko, have consistently stated, many times, that I have absolutely no connection to the murder of people's deputy Yevhen Scherban in 1996 at Donetsk airport. This case was groundlessly and illegally linked with me in 2000 by the then Prosecutor General [Mykhailo] Potebenko considering my absence from the country and inability to protect myself from this politically motivated slander," he said in the statement.

Lazarenko also stressed that the recent statements by Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka and his first deputy, Renat Kuzmin, on the case are a crime under Item 2 of Article 387 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (disclosure of materials of a pre-trial investigation or an inquiry).

"It is obvious that after such statements by high-ranking officials at the PGO one should not expect that a Ukrainian court would consider this case impartially," Lazarenko said.

According to the Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine newspaper, Lazarenko is being kept at an immigration detention facility in Adelanto, California, as he does not have visa. His lawyers say that a court will consider his case in May.

According to media reports, Lazarenko's Ukrainian passports are invalid and if his request for asylum in the U.S. is overruled he may be sent back to Greece, from which he came to the United States, or to Panama, as he allegedly has a Panamanian passport.

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, 2012.

On November 8, 2012, Lazarenko's defense lawyer Maryna Dolhopola said that the ex-premier applied to the Immigration Court in San Francisco, California, for a U.S. residency permit. 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 a residency permit are being considered.

According to the U.S. law, the Immigration Court is given six months to decide whether to grant a person the right of temporary residence in the United States or to deport this person to their home country.

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.

The PGO said that should Lazarenko return to Ukraine he will be arrested. The ex-premier's lawyers say that Lazarenko has been accused of being involved in around 50 criminal cases, including bribe giving, the appropriation of funds, and the abuse of power.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said at a briefing on January 18, 2013 that the Prosecutor General's Office had finished its investigation into the criminal case on the murder of MP Yevhen Scherban, who was shot dead in 1996, and that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had been notified of being suspected of having organized the crime, along with former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

Lazarenko turned 60 on January 23.