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Swiss Probe Yanukovych for Money Laundering, Raid Company

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Swiss prosecutors opened a probe into deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr for alleged money laundering.

The Geneva prosecutor began an investigation for “aggravated money laundering” and raided a company registered to Oleksandr Yanukovych yesterday, it said in a e-mailed statement today. While the company is registered to Oleksandr, both men “are formally linked to the company,” Henri Della Casa, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said by phone from Geneva.

European countries are clamping down on the former Ukrainian leadership’s assets after the installation of a new government led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The premier told lawmakers in Kiev that the Yanukovych regime had moved $70 billion into off-shore accounts, leaving state coffers “empty and robbed.”

Accounts at Austrian banks were frozen at the request of the Ukrainian government, the Foreign Ministry in Vienna said today, saying the action was “precautionary” and unilateral.

Neighboring Switzerland issued a decree freezing “all assets Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage might have in Switzerland.” The measure, which aims to “avoid any risk of misappropriation of Ukrainian state assets,” also prohibits the sale or disposal of property.

Asset Freeze

The prosecutor said it seized documents during the raid at the company, which it didn’t identify. Geneva-based Mako Trading SA is owned by Mako Holding BV, which in turn is controlled by Oleksandr Yanukovych, Hans Koets, a spokesman for Mako Holding, said by telephone, adding that he had no information about police raids in Geneva. Koets declined to comment when asked whether he had spoken to Yanukovych or anyone from Mako Trading SA.

Switzerland has taken steps to prevent money laundering in the past. In the wake of the Arab spring the country froze assets of former Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

“It is important to remember that freezing assets is only the first step in a long complex process that should result in any ill-gotten gain being returned to the public purse,” Oleksii Khmara, executive director at Transparency International Ukraine, said in an e-mailed statement. “Based on past experience there is only a 3 percent chance of that happening.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jan-Henrik Foerster in Zurich at jforster20@bloomberg.net; Andy Hoffman in Geneva at ahoffman31@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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