Ukrainian Lawmaker Stripped of Immunity Over $64 Million Fraud

  • Case signals renewed crackdown on graft after efforts stalled
  • Onyshchenko accused of misappropriating cash from energy firm

Ukraine’s parliament stripped a lawmaker of his immunity and allowed his arrest on charges of misappropriating more than $60 million, the first high-profile anti-corruption case since promises of a renewed crackdown from President Petro Poroshenko.

The motion against Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a former member of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s party, was backed by 263 legislators in the 450-seat house Tuesday in the capital, Kiev. He’s charged in a 1.6 billion hryvnia ($64 million) natural gas fraud at state energy company PAT Ukrhazvydobuvannya. He fled Ukraine July 2, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told parliament.

Two years after a street revolution demanding European levels of transparency in the former Soviet republic, Poroshenko replaced his top prosecutor and vowed to kickstart anti-graft efforts, bowing to criticism from voters and international creditors. Clamping down on corruption is a focus of Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman’s government, which took power in April after delays in tackling the problem sparked resignations within the administration.

“This is an important precedent,” Tetyana Chornovol, a legislator from the People’s Front party of ex-Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said after the vote. “The real fight against corruption has started in Ukraine.”

Onyshchenko told the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda last month that he didn’t plan to flee from justice, though often travels abroad to participate in horse-riding competitions.

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