The investigation department of the State Security Committee (KGB) has completed a preliminary investigation into a criminal case against Belgazprombank top managers, including the might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka. In early June, the latter was expected to become Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s strongest election opponent.
According to the committee, Viktar Babaryka has been accused of committing crimes under Art. 430-3 and Art. 235-2 of the Criminal Code (grand bribery by an organised group and large-scale laundering of illicit funds). If found guilty, he may face up to 15 years in prison.
Belgazprombank managers Syarhei Shabanau, Alyaksandr Ilyasyuk, Kiryl Badzey, Dzmitry Kuzmich, Alyaksei Zadoyka, Syarhei Dabralyot were charged under Art. 430-3. All pleaded guilty, except for Viktar Babaryka who is considered as ‘the organiser of the criminal activity’, the statement reads.
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. Belgazprombank’s main shareholders from the Russian side are Gazprom and Gazprombank; in this view, Babaryka is often faulted for allegedly being linked to Moscow. At the same time, the prospective candidate has repeatedly put an emphasis on his being Belarusian. In his opinion, it is impossible to build an independent state when there is no solid foundation, i.e. culture and national identity.
On June 11, officers of the Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) came to the head office of Belgazprombank. 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). Around 15 top managers and bank employees have been arrested as part of the case. Since June 15, the provisional administration has been in place in Belgazprombank in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’, the Belarusian officials state. Viktar Babaryka called placing the bank under the state’s control ‘forcible takeover’.
On June 18, Viktar Babaryka and his son Eduard (head of his campaign office) were arrested and taken to the KGB prison; their house and flat were searched. In late June, Amnesty International recognised them prisoners of conscience ‘persecuted solely for peaceful expression of their political views’. Although over 400,000 Belarusians put their signatures for his nomination, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register Babaryka as a presidential candidate. Later, his election team supported Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.