Lukashenka’s protege Yermakova heads Belgazprombank. Ex-chairman Babaryka still in jail

Belgazprombank’s Board of Directors has approved Nadzeya Yermakova, the former head of the National Bank of Belarus, as its Chairperson.

Iryna Patapava has been appointed first deputy chairperson of the board. Iryna Antonava, Kanstantsin Kiryanau, Uladzimir Karatkevich are deputy chairpersons.

From June 15 to December 10, Yermakova was in charge of the provisional administration at Belgazprombank. The body was set up in the wake of the Belarusian special services’ arresting philanthropist and banker Viktar Babaryka who was going to join the 2020 presidential race. Russian shareholders of Belgazprombank – Gazprombank and Gazprom – accused the National Bank of Belarus of “illegal actions to appoint Acting Chairman of the Board and Acting Deputy Chairman of the Board’.

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). Over a dozen top managers and bank employees were arrested as part of the case. Then Belarusian authorities established the provisional administration in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’ of the bank. Viktar Babaryka called placing the bank under the state’s control ‘forcible takeover’.

Lukashenka accuses would-be rival of lying about premiership

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 hundreds of thousands of Belarusians put their signatures for his nomination, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register Babaryka as a presidential candidate.

In July, the Prosecutor General’s Office redefined the nature of the charge against the incumbent president’s imprisoned competitor. According to the press service, when being Head of Belgazprombank, Viktar Babaryka received rewards totalling to 28 mln rubles from representatives of for-profit businesses; then he distributed the funds among the top managers of the bank. Thus, the prosecutors refiled the charge from Article 431-2 (active bribery) to Art. 430-3 of the Criminal Code (passive bribery).

In late November, the investigation department of the State Security Committee (KGB) said they completed a preliminary investigation into a criminal case against Belgazprombank top managers. According to the committee, Viktar Babaryka is 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.

Lukashenka goes to prison for talks