The Ukrainian security service (SBU) launched a new criminal case against Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday, accusing her of attempting to embezzle $405 million during the 1990s, an SBU official said.
The case relates to an investigation into a $405-million debt owed to the Russian Defense Ministry by Ukrainian United Energy Systems, which was headed by Tymoshenko in the 1990s.
“Yulia Tymoshenko, being the president and actually the owner of the United Energy Systems, has been charged for carrying out an attempt to embezzle funds from the Ukrainian budget under a preliminary agreement with then-Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko,” the head of the SBU’s main investigative department, Ivan Derevyanko, said.
Lazarenko, who is now serving his 9-year jail term in a U.S. prison on charges of corruption, extortion and money laundering, was also charged of attempting to embezzle $405 million.
Lazarenko left for the United States during the 1999 presidential election campaign in Ukraine, fleeing the charges against him. He sought political asylum there, claiming he had suffered three assassination attempts. Instead, U.S. authorities arrested him.
A legal investigation in Russia against Tymoshenko over the same case was dropped in 2005 due to the statute of limitations.
Derevyanko also said that the case was reopened after Kiev had received a letter from the Russian Defense Ministry asking to return the debt.
If found guilty, Tymoshenko may face an additional 12 years behind bars.
"The Ukrainian security service is trying to revive the United Energy Systems case that took place 15 years ago and was eventually closed as false,” Tymoshenko's BYuT opposition party said.
Tymoshenko, the one-time leader of the Orange Revolution was handed a seven-year sentence on Tuesday for exceeding her powers in signing a gas deal with Russia in 2009.
The verdict has drawn worldwide condemnation.