News2019.11.12 13:00

Ukrainian ex-CEO seeks political asylum in Lithuania

Jonas Kisielius, BNS 2019.11.12 13:00

Petro Vovchuk, a former chairman of the management board at Ukraine's State Food and Grains Corporation, has asked for political asylum in Lithuania, his lawyer said on Tuesday. 

"He asked for political asylum in Lithuania and was detained," she told reporters after the Vilnius Regional Court's hearing of her client's appeal against his arrest.

Vovchuk was detained in Vilnius in October at the request of Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) says the man has caused more than 60 million US dollars (54 million euros) in damages to the company.

According to Ukrainian law enforcement, grain owned by a state enterprise was delivered to Saudi Arabia through a number of business entities under a corruption scheme organised by a representative of an international grain trader and the State Food and Grain Corporation's officials. Reportedly, deliveries were carried out on a post-paid basis, in breach of the established market rules.

NABU launched its investigation in July 2016.

According to the lawyer, her client has lived in Vilnius since 2016 and was in the process of filing documents to be granted Lithuanian citizenship. The man was detained near Vilnius' railway station after meeting his wife and daughter, she said. Auksanas Čiupaila, another lawyer of Vovchuk, said his client denies any wrongdoing.

Lithuania received Europol's request for Vovchuk's arrest last April, according to Čiupaila. The suspect in held at the Pravieniškės correctional facility. According to his lawyers, Vovchuk suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Vilnius Regional Court is hearing Vovchuk's appeal against the Vilnius District Court's ruling of October 25 to remand him in custody for two months. The higher court plans to rule on the appeal on November 15.

Lithuanian prosecutors do not comment on the investigation.

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