Photo credit: UNIAN
Ukrainian MP and billionaire Oleksandr Onyshchenko has denied reports that he is being extradited to Ukraine, where he is wanted on embezzlement and corruption charges.
In an interview with Ukrainian news site Ukrainska Pravda, Onyshchenko said he is sure he will be able to prove his innocence in court in Spain, the country where he claims to have asylum.
“There is no extradition. Asylum-seekers’ [court] cases are investigated in the country where they hold asylum. So I will be given a verdict here. This is my only chance to defend myself,” he said.
The fugitive MP added that he feels calm about the case, as he has never been afraid of court hearings. He hopes that “justice will prevail” and that Nazar Kholdnytsky, head of Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and Artem Sytnyk, director of Ukraine’s National Anti-corruption Bureau, will “trade places” with him in the court, he said.
“Let’s settle this in court. [Courts] have been a part of my life because of idiots like Kholodnytsky. I am confident in my innocence,” he said. “I have nothing to worry about on this matter.”
News of Onyshchenko’s impending extradition broke earlier on December 1, after a note from the Spanish Embassy was presented during a Kyiv court session. Nearly a year ago, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office applied for his extradition.
While he remains in Spain, Onyshchenko is now also obliged to appear at the Spanish court on the first day of every month, according to prosecutor Andriy Perov. If he fails to do that, he risks being added to the wanted list in other European countries.
A lawmaker from Ukraine’s People’s Will parliamentary group, Onyshchenko stands accused of organizing a criminal group to embezzle 1.6 billion hryvnia ($59 million) from government-owned gas producer Ukrgazvybudovannya. He also faces treason and corruption charges.
During the summer of 2016, Onyshchenko fled Ukraine to evade arrest.
In July 2016, just weeks after stripping Onyshchenko of parliamentary immunity, Ukrainian lawmakers supported a decision by the Prosecutor General and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau to open a criminal case against the MP. On August 8, 2016, Onyshchenko was added to the national wanted list.
Onyshchenko denies all the accusations against him. Previously, he told Ukraine’s Inter television channel that the criminal case was an attempt to seize his oil and gas distribution company, Gazovy Alyans. In February, Onyshchenko unsuccessfully attempted to regain his parliamentary immunity through Ukraine’s Supreme Administrative Court.
News of the extradition came just weeks after Onyshchenko told Ukrainska Pravda that Spanish prosecutors turned down Kyiv’s extradition request. In the same interview, he also claimed that the charges against him were political.
“The court heard the arguments of the Ukrainian side and asked whether I agreed to voluntary extradition. I said no because the case against me is politically motivated. The court deemed our arguments convincing and did not order me arrested,” Onyshchenko was quoted as saying on November 13.
However, Onyshchenko provided no proof of such a court decision.
According to various Ukrainian media sources, since fleeing Ukraine, the fugitive MP has lived in Belgium, Spain, and Germany. He also reportedly tried to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.
/By Maria Romanenko