| KIEV, April 21
KIEV, April 21 Ukrainian authorities detained a
former lawmaker and the deputy chief of state energy firm
Naftogaz in a case related to the embezzlement of $17.3 million
through selling uranium concentrate at inflated prices,
prosecutors and the anti-corruption bureau said on Friday.
The anti-corruption bureau NABU suspects former lawmaker
Mykola Martynenko of benefiting through an Austria-registered
company from the uranium sales to a state-owned enrichment plant
in 2014, at a time when he was the head of the energy committee
in parliament. He says the case is politically motivated.
Sergiy Pereloma, first deputy chairman of state-run
Naftogaz, was also detained, suspected of being an intermediary.
His lawyer denied his involvement. Naftogaz said the matter
related to activities before he joined the company.
"The investigation found that the amount of losses inflicted
on the state is more than $17 million dollars," chief
anti-corruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyi told a news
Kiev needs to prove to its Western backers that it has
become serious about tackling corruption, which it must do as
part of a $40 billion bailout rolled out after street protests
in 2013/2014, the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of
separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The International Monetary Fund has previously criticised
Kiev for not prosecuting and convicting corrupt high-level
officials. In April, the IMF said Ukraine's anti-graft drive had
yet to achieve "concrete results".
Martynenko is the most high-profile person to be detained
for corruption since Roman Nasirov, the head of the fiscal
service, who is now under house arrest over the alleged
embezzlement of around $75 million. Nasirov denies wrongdoing.
"This case is political and is not backed by any evidence,"
Martynenko said in a video posted on the website of his People's
Pereloma's lawyer Igor Cherezov told Reuters: "He is accused
of collusion with Martynenko."
Cherezov said his client was "extremely surprised". "He has
as much involvement in the case as you or I," he said.
Naftogaz's spokeswoman said the accusations against Pereloma
related to his activities before he joined the company, and that
Naftogaz was willing to cooperate with the investigation.
Naftogaz has undergone Western-backed reforms since 2014 but
the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has warned
that these changes are in danger of unravelling.
(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)