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Facing Price-Fixing Charges, Ex-Energy Regulator Official Says Will Stay Out Of Ukraine

Dmytro Vovk and three regulators are accused of colluding with several executives of electricity and coal producer DTEK to manipulate tariffs on electricity generated from coal.

A former head of Ukraine's energy regulator accused of taking part in an alleged conspiracy to fix electricity prices for the benefit of the country's largest privately owned power and coal producer says he will stay away from the country.

Dmytro Vovk, who headed the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission for nearly three years until May 2018, said in an August 19 Facebook post that that "as long as the head of the presidential office controls" the country's anti-corruption law enforcement agencies, as well as the judiciary, "I'm not ready to come" back to Ukraine.

Vovk's whereabouts is unknown.

He said, "I would gladly come to court, but not ready to participate in a kangaroo court."

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau earlier this month accused Vovk and three regulators of colluding with several executives of electricity and coal producer DTEK to manipulate tariffs on electricity generated from coal that forced consumers to overpay by $747 million in 2016-17.

DTEK allegedly benefited by $560 million in the scheme.

Vovk dismissed the charges of abuse of office as "a wild goose chase" in a previous Facebook post.

There is "no legitimate basis for suspicions set out in the investigation," DTEK said in an August 8 statement.

A Kyiv court on August 14 set bail at $400,000 for one DTEK manager who wasn't named.

Ukraine's richest billionaire, Rinat Akhmetov, owns DTEK, which is part of his holding company System Capital Management.

The so-called Rotterdam+ pricing formula that NABU has been investigating since March 2017 was in place from April 2016 until July of this year.

It based the wholesale price of electricity by Ukrainian thermal power plants on coal prices set in the Rotterdam port plus delivery costs to Ukraine.

NABU alleges that at certain times it has not seen documented proof that the purchased coal originated in Rotterdam, maintaining that there was no justification for the price hikes.

For more than a year until December 2014, Vovk was the national manager in Russia for Ukrainian-based chocolatier Roshen, which is owned by ex-President Petro Poroshenko.

He was a vice president of the Kyiv-based Investment Capital Ukraine boutique bank in from 2009 to 2013.

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