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Former Ukraine PM Pleads Innocent

June 13, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A former Ukrainian prime minister pleaded innocent Tuesday to federal charges he conspired to launder $114 million that he allegedly demanded as the price of doing business in his country.

Pavel Lazarenko was being held without bail. He is also facing an extradition request from Switzerland, where he is accused of money laundering as well.

Lazarenko, named prime minister in 1996 by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, served 13 months before losing a power struggle. He fled for the United States last year after being accused of stealing about $2 million.

He claimed that the accusations were part of an attempt by his enemies, including Kuchma, to silence political opposition.

Lazarenko is accused of conspiring, with an aide, to transfer about $114 million in bribe money to American bank and brokerage accounts in order to conceal their origin.

He is charged with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of money laundering and 23 counts of transportation of stolen property. The conspiracy and laundering charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years, and the transportation charges 10 years each.

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