Ukraine detains central banker in suspected theft of $212 million

Ukraine detains central banker in suspected theft of $212 million

KIEV - The Ukrainian prosecutor's office has detained a deputy head of the central bank on suspicion of involvement in the theft of more than US$170 million (S$212.27 million) in state funds.

Borys Prykhodko was appointed to his position during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovich, whose rule was marred by accusations of widespread corruption. He is the most senior official detained since Yanukovich's overthrow in February. "Prykhodko has been remanded in custody", First Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola Herasimyuk told a news conference.

Prykhodko's representatives could not be reached for comment. The National Bank of Ukraine said it had received no official word from prosecutors about Prykhodko and that it had asked for an explanation.

Herasimyuk said Prykhodko was suspected of taking part in a scheme with several others under which about 2 billion hryvnia (US$172 million) was taken from the state agriculture fund, created to help control domestic prices.

President Petro Poroshenko, elected in May and facing a rebellion by separatists in east Ukraine, is under pressure to wipe out corruption, which opinion polls show is one of the biggest concerns of voters.

Tales of Yanukovich's extravagance and lavish lifestyle were well known before he was overthrown in February after protests over his decision to spurn a trade pact with the European Union.

But Ukraine's new, pro-Western leaders have also made allegations pointing to theft on a vast scale during his rule.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in February that loans worth US$37 billion had gone missing from state coffers and US$70 billion had been sent out of the country during his rule. Yanukovich has dismissed the allegations.

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