Viktar Babaryka’s defence lawyer: Charge against our client not substantiated

Viktar Babaryka, an imprisoned might-have-been presidential candidate and former banker, studied up the materials of the criminal case, his defence lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski said in the wake of their meeting on Monday.

“My colleague Natallya Matskevich and I read the materials. Basing ourselves on all this array of information, we have come to the conclusion that the charge against our client was not substantiated. On the contrary, there are a number of objective facts that show that Viktar Babaryka did not do what he was accused of. That is why we have reiterated the need to stop the criminal prosecution against him,” Layeuski told tut.by.

The ldefence team found out about sending Babaryka’s case to the prosecutor from media outlets; the official investigation body (KGB) failed to inform them.

According to Dzmitry Layeuski, their client was deprived of the opportunity to receive counseling vis-a-vis for about a month, because the defenders were not allowed to visit their client in the KGB prison.

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.

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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’.

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.

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