Former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko is currently in a Geneva jail for investigation on charges of financial fraud and money laundering. Geneva canton authorities suspect him of having unlawfully deposited in local banks tens of millions of dollars worth of funds embezzled in Ukraine (see background story in this section). The authorities of the Fribourg and Zurich cantons are conducting similar investigations against Lazarenko.
According to Geneva investigative judge Laurent Kasper Ansermet, the Swiss authorities have no plans to extradite Lazarenko to Ukraine in view of the fact that he enjoys parliamentary immunity there. Swiss investigators are expected to travel to Ukraine soon in order to gather more evidence. Lazarenko may face additional charges because of his use of a Panamanian passport to enter Switzerland. Even if the passport was not forged, its use is probably unlawful. Ukraine does not allow dual citizenship.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General’s Office had earlier submitted repeated requests to the Verkhovna Rada to lift Lazarenko’s immunity, but the former prime minister’s tactical allies on the left thwarted those requests. Lifting the parliamentary immunity might in any case be insufficient because Lazarenko probably can claim immunity as a deputy to the Dnipropetrovsk region’s legislature. President Leonid Kuchma over the weekend pointedly visited Lazarenko’s political fief Dnipropetrovsk and delivered a speech there (AP, Le Temps (Geneva), UNIAN, December 4-6).–VS
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