The Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) suspects former head of Belgazprombank and wannabe presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka of being complicit in illegal activities, Chairman of the State Control Committee Ivan Tsertsel said on Friday.
As reported earlier, Viktar Babaryka had been Chairman of Belgazprombank Board since 2000. On May 12, when he revealed his presidential ambitions, he voluntarily resigned from his senior management job. With about 330,000 signatures collected, Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates.
On Thursday morning, officers of the Financial Investigations Department searched the head office of Belgazprombank in Minsk. The department opened a criminal case under Art. 243-2 (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 235-2 (legalisation of particularly large sums of money obtained through crime). The agency has been conducting checks since 2016, according to the committee. It was then that a group of current and former top managers and employees of Belgazprombank came into the sight of law enforcement officers, the authorities said.
“In fact, they created an organised criminal group under the shelter of the bank; it siphoned off monetary resources to foreign countries,” Ivan Tsertel said.
When asked by journalists whether Viktar Babaryka was involved, the top official said:
“I cannot imagine that the head was not aware of what was going on in the bank. I can confirm that now we have strong evidence of his involvement in the illegal activity.”
Around 15 people have been arrested as part of the case. Most of the detainees are cooperating with the investigation and giving confessions, Tsertsel stressed. According to him, more than $4 mln and security papers worth over $ 500,000 were confiscated, so-called digipasses were found and attached to the materials.
During today’s visit to Polatsk, incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated that he did not want to put Babaryka behind bars. At the same time, the Belarusian leader called the would-be rival ‘scoundrel’ who pretends to have nothing to do with the criminal case.
“And I want him to get nominated [for presidency]. So that he comes and tells everyone, where his property in Cyprus came from, how he managed to acquire it in ‘Lukashenka’s dictatorship’, why a foreign bank managed it… He should tell Belarusians all of this. Let them decide afterwards. But we will not make him a prisoner of conscience,” state-run news agency BelTA quotes Lukashenka as saying.
Last week, Lukashenka hinted that one of the presidential hopefuls might be involved in fraud. He suggested Belarusian people ask the would-be candidate the following questions: “What is PrivatLeasing?” and “Where do you keep the money you fraudulently got in Belarus?” However, he failed to go into detail and give any name. In turn, Viktar Babaryka said that he knew PrivatLeasing company, since it was a long-time customer of Belgazprombank.
Moreover, the Belarusian leader claimed that private companies were allegedly firing those who refused to sign for alternative contenders in the upcoming election. On Wednesday, he ordered siloviki to ‘give a good dressing down to potbellied bourgeois’.