Agents of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) have detained businessman from Odesa Vadym Alperin dubbed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "one of the godfathers of smuggling in Ukraine."
"Alperin has been detained by NABU," Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
According to UNIAN's sources in law enforcement agencies, Alperin came to the Specialized Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) for interrogation, but was met by NABU agents in the lobby there. "He has been taken to NABU by car," a source said.
NABU confirmed Aplerin's detention, saying NABU detectives and SAPO prosecutors were performing the necessary procedural actions related to issuing a notice of suspicion to this person.
"A person whom investigators consider to be in charge of a criminal gang that has committed crimes related to fraud with customs clearance of goods, importing them into Ukraine at low prices has been detained," the Bureau said.
The investigators consider that the detainee committed crimes under Part 1 of Article 255, Part 3 of Article 212, Part 2 of Article 364 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
As was reported, NABU detectives detained seven customs officials, one of whom is Serhiy Tupalskiy, deputy head of the Kyiv City Customs Service. From December 2018 to March, Tupalskiy was the acting head of the Odesa customs service on the Black Sea, where contraband flourishes.
All are accused of breaking various customs laws and underpaying duties on imported goods. Chief among them is Alperin who in an ongoing previous case is suspected of bilking the state of more than US$29 million – he was charged in January 2018.
The authorities in November 2017 froze nearly US$19 million belonging to two dozen firms that Alperin controlled. Afterward, Alperin offered NABU detectives US$800,000 to unfreeze the money. He was arrested on November 30, 2017, for two months with the possibility of posting bail at $880,000. A month later, an appellate court decreased bail to less than $6,000 after which Alperin was released. That trial is still ongoing, and he is wanted on other charges.