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Ukraine Begins Confiscating $1.5 Billon Yanukovych Allegedly Stole

  • RFE/RL

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine on April 28 started returning an estimated $1.5 billion in assets allegedly stolen from the Kyiv government by ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych and his associates.

"This money was stolen from the Ukrainian people," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in an address. "It was pulled out of the pocket of every Ukrainian."

The National Security and Defense Council said the state savings bank Oschadbank had begun confiscating the Russia-backed president's holdings in line with an earlier court ruling.

Council chief Oleksandr Turchynov said the $1.5 billion would be returned to the state budget.

Poroshenko's press service put the exact amount at 40 billion hryvnias -- a figure that was worth about $5 billion when Yanukovych was still in power.

The assets belonging to Yanukovych and his cronies had been frozen in Ukraine since their government was forced out in February 2014 by street protests and they fled to exile in Russia.

The exact amount the old guard may have pocketed remains unknown. Ukraine's acting chief prosecutor in April 2014 accused Yanukovych's inner circle of heading a criminal gang that had cost Ukraine up to $100 billion.

Switzerland also froze assets linked to Yanukovych and 19 members of his entourage less than a week after his four-year tenure in office ended and Poroshenko's pro-Western government took over.

In Ukraine, Yanukovych led a lavish lifestyle, building himself an opulent palace outside Kyiv that included a petting zoo and a collection of classic cars worth millions of dollars.

A golden replica of a loaf of bread that Yanukovych displayed to his guests became a symbol of his government's excesses.

Yanukovych's lawyer Vitali Serdyuk denied that his client had anything to do with the $1.5 billion being confiscated, maintaining that the amount of money that remains in Yanukovych's personal bank account is much smaller.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
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