On Thursday morning, 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).
As reported earlier, wannabe presidential candidate 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 over 260,000 signatures collected, Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates.
“Immediate investigative activities are now underway. [Several] representatives of business entities, former and current employees of the banking system are suspects in the criminal case. Additional information will be provided later,” the official statement reads.
At the moment, Viktar Babaryka ‘has no procedural status in the investigation of the criminal case’, the committee’s press service told journalists.
In today’s video message, Babaryka has made a comment on the situation. In his opinion, the current developments are all down to the banking sector, and, in particular, to PrivatLeasing company. He urges the members of his initiative group not to worry, but states that those who feel threatened have every right to leave.
According to the former banker, in spite of his not being a suspect, what is happening now is exerting pressure on him. The authorities are aiming at forming a guilt complex for people who have their faith in him, Babaryka believes.
Earlier, Viktar Babaryka said he had been offered premiership in exchange for his withdrawing from the election. In turn, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accused his would-be electoral competitor of lying and mockingly suggested that some other country, e.g. Russia, might have invited Babaryka to serve as Prime Minister.
On June 1, 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 incumbent president.
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’.