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Ukraine's Suspended Tax Chief Questioned After Release On Bail


Roman Nasirov (center), the head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine, speaks to reporters after his release.
Roman Nasirov (center), the head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine, speaks to reporters after his release.

KYIV -- Ukraine's suspended tax and customs service chief, Roman Nasirov, was summoned to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) for questioning on March 17.

In a rare attempt to prosecute a high-level official in Ukraine over alleged corruption, Nasirov is being investigated on suspicion of defrauding the state of 2 billion hryvnyas ($74 million).

The summons came a day after he was released from pretrial detention when his family paid his 100-million-hryvnya ($3.7 million) bail -- a record high in Ukraine.

NABU said on March 17 that it has lodged an official request with the State Service for Fiscal Monitoring to find out where his relatives came up with the money.

Upon his release on March 16, Nasirov told journalists that the case against him is "politically motivated" and said he would fight to prove his innocence.

"I am thankful to my family that they somehow managed to find this crazy amount of money," he said. "Now I have a better opportunity to quickly and fully prove my absolute innocence and the absolute groundlessness of the allegations."

Nasirov was suspended from his post on March 3, and a district court in Kyiv on March 7 ordered him placed in pretrial detention for two months.

NABU says that Nasirov signed off on grace periods for a number of taxpayers, including companies linked to a former lawmaker who fled the country in 2016 while facing a corruption investigation.

During earlier court hearings related to Nasirov's pretrial arrest, dozens of activists rallied in Kyiv to ensure Nasirov does not escape trial. That was not the case when Nasirov's was released long after dark on March 16.

Officials had said that Nasirov would be placed under house arrest if he made bail, but the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's office (SAP) said on March 16 that he would not be confined to his home.

It said that he had been fitted with an electronic monitoring device.and he will be allowed to move around the city of his residence -- Kyiv.

He is barred from leaving the city without investigators' permission, hand in travel documents so that he cannot leave Ukraine, and contact or communication with people involved in the probe.

President Petro Poroshenko’s government is under pressure from Ukrainians, Western governments, and groups such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight corruption.

Observers say corruption harms the economy and hurts Ukraine's chances of throwing off the influence of Russia, which seized Crimea in 2014 and backs separatists whose war against government forces has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by UNIAN and Interfax
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