Kyiv Post: Feds and Lazarenko near settlement in asset forfeiture case
A decade-long case against $271 million in assets allegedly stolen by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko is close to wrapping up.
A joint motion filed in federal court in Washington DC on August 13 states that attorneys representing the U.S. government have agreed on "the general contours of a settlement" with Lazarenko, who served six years out of a nine year sentence on charges of money laundering, extortion, and wire fraud, a court document reviewed by the Kyiv Post reveals.
"The Parties are now in the process of drafting a settlement agreement which, once signed, should result in the conclusion of this matter," the document reads, petitioning a U.S. federal judge to indefinitely delay all current deadlines in the case.
"Rather than expend additional resources attempting to resolve the remaining factual and legal issues in this matter, the Parties would like to focus their attention on drafting a settlement agreement," the motion says.
The public filing states that parties to the case – including Lazarenko, his family members, and attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department's money laundering and asset recovery section – agreed on a "term sheet" outlining a settlement on August 10.
One of the few members of Ukraine's political elite to ever face prosecution, Lazarenko has now spent decades litigating crimes that were alleged to have taken place in the 1990s.
With a power base in the city then known as Dnipropetrovsk, Lazarenko scaled the rungs of Ukrainian political and business power. He involved himself in the country's lucrative gas trade and became prime minister in 1996, under then-President Leonid Kuchma.
But it all came crashing down in 1998, when he was arrested on money laundering charges while crossing into Switzerland from France. A scandal erupted in the Ukrainian press when it emerged that Lazarenko had been traveling on a Panamanian passport.
Lazarenko, by then a deputy in the Verkhovna Rada, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Attempting to flee to the United States, he was arrested at New York City's JFK airport in 1999, and was convicted of money laundering in 2004.
Since his release in 2012, Lazarenko has been fighting off various asset forfeiture cases concerning $271 million in cash that U.S. federal attorneys allege was gained through "fraud, extortion, bribery, misappropriation, and embezzlement."
The assets are scattered across Guernsey, Switzerland, Antigua, Lithuania, and Lichtenstein.
Deputy Prosecutor General Yevhen Yenin said in February that the case was nearing its "final stage."
The terms of any potential settlement and how much money – if any – will be returned to Ukraine remain unclear.
A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Yenin declined to comment, saying "any comment could spoil [the] very fragile hope of success."