Presidential hopeful Babaryka’s personal assistant arrested

Viktar Babaryka’s PA was detained and taken to the KGB prison in Minsk, the campaign office reported on Wednesday evening.

Belgazprombank. Photo: Iryna Arakhouskaya / Belsat.eu

“According to our information, Alena Karahachova, a member of the initiative group and Viktar’s personal assistant, who worked with him for more than 20 years at Belgazprombank, was detained by Financial Investigations Department officers and then taken to the KGB detention centre,” the statement reads.

According to the campaigners, they have already contacted the defense lawyers. Details and reasons for the arrest are still unknown.

On June 18, wannabe presidential candidate 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’.

Attorney General’s Office: Babaryka’s detention legal

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’.

‘Forcible takeover’. Authorities get bank linked to Lukashenka’s rival under control

At first, the committee said that Viktar Babaryka had ‘no procedural status in the investigation of the criminal case’, the committee’s press service told journalists. Last week, the Belarusian officials claimed they had ‘strong evidence’ of Babaryka’s being complicit in ‘illegal activities’.

In early June, incumbent president Alyaksandr 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.

The former banker submitted an appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC), pointing out the facts of Lukashenka’s alleged violations of the law, but election officials refused to issue a warning to the Belarusian leader.

With over 430,000 signatures collected for his presidency nomination, Viktar Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates. However, the election commissions started to massively invalidate signatures for the nomination of Valery Tsapkala and Viktar Babaryka as presidential candidates.

Election commissions invalidate signatures en masse for Babaryka and Tsapkala

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