Kiev, Apr 28 (AFP) Ukraine today launched a process to return some USD 1.5 billion in assets allegedly stolen from the budget by the deposed Russian-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych and his team.
The National Security and Defence Council said the state savings bank had begun confiscating the old regime’s holdings in line with an earlier court ruling.
Council chief Oleksandr Turchynov said the USD 1.5 billion (1.4 billion euros) would be returned to the state budget.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s press service put the exact amount at 40 billion hryvnias — a figure that was worth about USD 5 billion when Yanukovych was still in power.
“This money was stolen from the Ukrainian people,” Poroshenko said in a public address. “It was pulled out of the pocket of every Ukrainian.”
The financial monitoring service said in 2016 that the assets belonging to Yanukovych and his cronies had been frozen in Ukraine since the February 2014 pro-EU revolution.
The Kremlin-backed leadership has been accused of pilfering billions of dollars during a four-year tenure that ended with a street revolt in which Ukraine allied itself with the West.
Switzerland also froze assets linked to Yanukovych and 19 members of his entourage less than a week after he and his closest allies settled in self-imposed exile in Russia after having been removed from power.
Ukraine’s acting chief prosecutor in April 2014 accused Yanukovych’s inner circle of heading a criminal gang that had cost the former Soviet republic up to $100 billion.
The exact amount the old guard may have pocketed remains unknown.
In Ukraine Yanukovych led a lavish lifestyle, building himself an opulent palace outside Kiev that included a petting zoo and a collection of classic cars worth millions of dollars.
A golden replica of a loaf of bread that Yanukovych displayed to his guests became a symbol of people’s revulsion toward his regime. (AFP)
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.