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U.S. Law Firm Says Charges Against Tymoshenko Are Not Based On Facts

Yulia Tymoshenko and lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko at Kyiv's Court of Appeal on June 8, 2011

Yulia Tymoshenko and lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko at Kyiv's Court of Appeal on June 8, 2011

Two firms retained by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to examine the charges of abuse of power and improper use of budgetary funds brought against her by the Ukrainian government have said there is no factual basis for the accusations.

The law firm, Covington and Burling LLP, and the accounting company, BDO USA, also presented their analysis of a report conducted by two other U.S. firms that serves as the basis for the Ukrainian government's charges against Tymoshenko. This report, by the two U.S. law firms Trout Cacheris and Akin Gump, is not "worth the paper it is written on," according to Bruce Baird, a partner at Covington and Burling.

Trout Cacheris and Akin Gump presented a report in October 2010, which was solicited and paid for by the Ukrainian government, in which they claimed that Tymoshenko improperly handled revenues received in 2009 from the exchange of carbon emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol.

They alleged that she had used carbon credit funds which were meant to be used for pensions. The report also alleged abuse of power related to the purchase of vehicles and other medical equipment.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington D.C. on June 17 during which the two firms presented their findings, Baird pointed out that both the Ukrainian government and their American lawyers refused to provide materials that they used to write their report about Tymoshenko. The absence of these materials raises questions about the validity of their report, said Baird.

Using available public records and analyzing Tymoshenko government accounting practices, they concluded that Tymoshenko had done nothing illegal and had not abused her position as prime minister.

"The documentation we have been able to review makes clear that the Kyoto Special Purpose Account balance of approximately 3.3 billion hryvnia [around $413 million] as of the date of receipt remained constant throughout the period at issue, with none of the Kyoto revenues expended in 2009. Because this account balance remained the same as on the date of receipt, any allegation that Prime Minister Tymoshenko 'used' these funds contrary to their target purpose is patently untrue," Baird said.

Minibuses And Medical Equipment

To buttress his claims, Baird referred to a June 2010 Ukrainian report that the Ukrainian government had commissioned from a Ukrainian accounting firm. The report did not register any concerns with how the Kyoto revenues had been handled. Furthermore, the current Ukrainian government has assured Japan that all Kyoto revenues were fully accounted for, said Baird.

The report further alleged that Tymoshenko abused her power by purchasing 1,000 Opel Combo vehicles and medical equipment. It is alleged that the government overpaid for the minibuses and that they were subsequently used by Tymoshenko in her presidential election campaign.

Addressing those allegations, Covington and Burling and BDO USA say that, according to the limited set of documents they reviewed, they found that the purchase of the vehicles was legal and did not violate Ukrainian government rules. They also said that the deal involved a direct commercial contract between an Austrian company and a Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, with no other intermediaries involved, contrary to allegations made by the present Ukrainian government.

Baird and his team did not find any contractual violations in the Opel purchase and found that the vehicles were purchased far below the manufacturer's price of 16,000-18,000 euros ($22,904-$25,767).

Baird also made reference to concerns raised in the European parliament earlier this month. The parliament passed a resolution warning against "the selective prosecution of figures from the political opposition in Ukraine...particularly in the case of Ms. Tymoshenko," and admonished Ukraine for the use of criminal law as a tool to achieve political ends.

"Our review of the facts thus far fully justifies the European Parliament's concerns," Baird said.