The man whom Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called one of the "godfathers of contraband" has been arrested on suspicion of heading an organized crime group that illegally imported goods into the country.
Odesa businessman Vadym Alperin was detained on November 27 when he voluntarily appeared for questioning at the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP).
He faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty on charges of forming an organized crime group, tax evasion, and abuse of office.
Zelenskiy the previous day said the suspect evaded capture during a sting operation in which seven employees of the state customs service and three businessmen were detained on corruption and contraband charges.
Detectives from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau say Alperin in November 2017 offered the agency a $800,000 bribe if they would unfreeze about $19 million that belonged to two dozen firms he owns and close the case.
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.
Authorities in January 2018 said they had uncovered a smuggling scheme allegedly led by Alperin that bilked the state of more than $29 million. The importers avoided paying customs duties because the declared worth of goods was grossly undervalued.
A September 2013 report on Russian and Ukrainian facilitators of weapons transfers, The Odessa Network, said Alperin was a well-known arms broker and "prominent" businessman in Odesa.
"Alperin also is a former Party of Regions deputy in the Odessa city council, and owns many other businesses in real estate, transportation, and cargo brokering," the report stated.