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MINSK, October 12 (Itar-Tass) - The chief executive officer of the Uralkali company, Vladislav Baumgertner, originally charged with abuse of office, now has to brace for harsher, embezzlement charges, as follows from what Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko told a news conference for Russian mass media on Friday.
“The charges against him have been changed to embezzlement. Now he has realized that it is a very serious affair,” Lukashenko said.
He speculated that those involved in the so-called “potash case” (the top managers of the Belarussian potash company and Uralkali shareholder Suleiman Kerimov), who have been put on Interpol’s wanted list, may expect a life term, if tried and convicted in the West.
“That firm (Uralkali) was traded on the London Exchange and there were no slumps in share prices all the time. But when it came to selling the company, it turned out that it is bankrupt,” Lukashenko said, adding that the case had gone international.
“That Minsk has declared them wanted through Interpol is just nothing,” Lukashenko said. “There they may get life terms for things like that,” he warned.
Lukashenko declared that Belarus had no intention of closing down the criminal proceedings over the “potash case,” although he was prepared to forgive Suleiman Kerimov for his actions towards the company that were unworthy of a true partner.
“I am prepared to forgive. I just do not care. We have lived through this. But we are not closing down the criminal case,” he said.
Lukashenko warned that Kerimov would still have to settle things with the London Exchange.
“We have brought charges against Baumgertner. There are clear signs of theft through kickbacks, understated prices, commission, and so on. There are millions of dollars involved,” he said.
Baumgertner was detained in Minsk on August 26. Belarussian investigators charged him with abuse of office.
After a month in custody Baumgertner was released from the detention centre of the Belarussian state security committee KGB and put under house arrest in an apartment in Minsk. The top managers of the Belarussian potash company and Suleiman Kerimov are wanted.