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Timoshenko has 72 hrs to select lawyers in MP murder case -- prosecutor

January 21, 2013, 22:01 UTC+3

Timoshenko has been serving her term at the Kachanivska Penal Colony in Kharkov since the end of December 2011

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KIEV, January 21 (Itar-Tass) – The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said it was hopeful that former Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina party leader Yulia Timoshenko would make up its mind on Thursday, January 24, about the lawyers who will defend her in the MP Yevgeny Shcherban murder case.

“Timoshenko has not made up her mind yet. She has 72 hours. We expect Yulia Vladimirovna to choose the lawyers on Thursday,” Andrei Kurys, head of the department of grave cases in the Prosecutor General’s Office, said on Monday, January 21.

He noted that Timoshenko may be interrogated in the Shcherban murder case, if she wishes so. “Giving testimony is the right of a suspect. If she says so, she will be interrogated,” Kurys said.

On January 18, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office provided Timoshenko with notice informing her that she is suspected of involvement in the killing of MP Shcherban.

Prosecutor General Pshonka said Timoshenko might be sentenced to life imprisonment in this case. “

“Pre-trial investigation materials showing that Timoshenko made out a contract for that murder together with Lazarenko have been gathered,” Pshonka said.

According to Pshonka, Timoshenko and Lazarenko paid 2.8 million U.S. dollars for Shcherban’s assassination.

He said the criminal case over the debts of the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine, which was used to be headed by Timosehnko, to the Russian Defence Ministry and the Shcherban case had been combined into one.

Yevgeny Shcherban and his wife were shot dead at Donetsk’s airport uiopn arrival from Moscow on November 3, 1996. Shcherban, who was 50 years old at the time of the assassination, and his wife died of wounds on the spot.

Their son, Ruslan Shcherban, gave the Prosecutor General’s Office documents claiming that Timoshenko and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko might have been reportedly involved in the killing of his father.

He claims that the assassins were paid from bank accounts controlled by Timoshenko and Lazarenko.

Ruslan Shcherban said he is not pursuing any political goals and has not received any special assignments or offers from the ruling Party of Regions.

Law enforcement agencies ruled out political motives for the murder and had focused on a purely criminal one. Both Timoshenko and Lazarenko strongly deny any involvement in the case.

The Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) that was headed by Timoshenko before she became prime minister drew suspicion of the tax authorities back in 1996.

The tax authorities had noticed a discrepancy between the taxes paid by the company and its big turnover.

The Prosecutor General's Office has also filed a lawsuit demanding that Timoshenko pay damages in the amount of 19.5 million hryvnia in this case.

Deputy Prosecutor General Yevgeny Blazhivsky said the damage was caused by embezzlement of budget funds and tax evasion.

Ukrainian Security Service chief Igor Kalinin said the investigators had collected enough evidence to prove Timoshenko’s culpable actions committed when she headed the United Energy Systems of Ukraine.

On October 20, 2011, the Prosecutor General's Office cancelled the decision to close the criminal case against Timoshenko in which she was charged with embezzlement of more than 25 million hryvnia (more than 10 million U.S. dollars at the exchange rate of 1995-1997, when Timoshenko headed the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine), tax evasion in the amount of more than 20 million hryvnia by using a criminal financial scheme for settlements with the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine for natural gas and by concealing incomes from the operations of her offshore company Somolli Enterprise Limited from taxation.

On October 11, 2011, Kiev’s Pechersky District Court sentenced Timoshenko to seven years in prison and upheld Naftogaz Ukrainy’s lawsuit seeking compensation of 1.516 billion hryvnia (189.5 million U.S. dollars) for damage sustained by the company as a result of the gas contracts signed with Russia in 2009.

Timoshenko has been serving her term at the Kachanivska Penal Colony in Kharkov since the end of December 2011. On May 9 of this year she was transferred to Kharkov’s Railway Hospital for medical treatment.

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