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Pavlo Ivanovych Lazarenko (Ukrainian: Павло Іванович Лазаренко) was a Ukrainian statesman, who, while in power, was notorious for his corruptive practices.
Under President Kravchuk, Lazarenko served as the presidential representative in Dnipropetrovsk region. Although Lazarenko sided incumbent Kravchuk in the elections of 1994, he managed to establish close ties with the election winner, Leonid Kuchma. President Kuchma initially reappointed Lazarenko as the head of the state administration of Dnipropetrovsk region and, later, promoted him to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
Lazarenko was appointed as the Prime Minister of Ukraine on May 28, 1996. It should be noted that, unlike all of his successors, he was never ratified by the parliament. In 1995 and 1996, the right to unilaterally appoint the Prime Minister was vested with the President under the provisional constitutional agreement.
While in charge of the executive, Lazarenko, reportedly, exercized control over many lucrative business projects and charged 50 percent of profits for his patronage. At that time, he maintained a close business relationship with Yuliya Tymoshenko, then a CEO of Yedyni Energosystemy Ukrayiny (United Energy Systems of Ukraine), a local monopolist that imported Russian natural gas.
Lazarenko was involved in a prolonged and bitter struggle for economic domination with emerging "Donetsk clan" (an industrial group based in Donetsk). He might have been behind the 1996 assassination of Yevhen Shcherban, a parlimentary member and one the "Donetsk clan" leaders. He may have also plotted against Oleksandr Volkov , a close associate of President Kuchma, but recalled the assassins when alerted Volkov threatened to take "adequate measures". Early in his career as PM, Lazarenko survived an attempt on his life, when a bomb exploded near his blocked car en route from Kyiv to Boryspil airport.
By mid-1997, Lazarenko fell into disfavor with Kuchma, who suspected him of making plans to run for presidency in 1999. Lazarenko resigned on July 2, 1997, on his own initiative after spending two weeks in hospital on alleged sickness leave.
Lazarenko was elected to the parliament in March, 1998, where he headed the parliamentary faction of his political party "Hromada". In December, 1998, Lazarenko was detained on money-laundering charges as he crossed by car from France into Switzerland. In a few weeks, he was released on bail amounting to three million dollars.
Meanwhile, details of his arrest in Switzerland led to a political scandal in Ukraine, since Lazarenko attempted to cross the Swiss border with a valid Panama passport (Ukrainian law prohibits double citizenship). The public uproar was used by Kuchma's administration and the parliament was pressed to grant assent to Lazarenko's arrest on February 17, 1999. However, Lazarenko fled the country on the eve of the parliamentary vote. He initially stopped in Greece, but was later detained in the New York JFK airport on February 20 on suspicion of illegally entering the United States. Reportedly, Lazarenko had a stack of documents with him, including a Ukrainian diplomatic passport with an outdated U.S. visa, and requested political asylum.
Subsequently, Lazarenko was transfered to a jail in San Francisco, since his family owned a ranch in California. In 2000, the Ukrainian authorities requested his extradition after charging him over the 1996 killing of Yevhen Shcherban and two attempts on the lives of high-ranking officials. However, Lazarenko was put on trial for money laundering, corruption, and fraud in the U.S. In late May, 2004, a federal jury in San Francisco found him guilty of using his position to get rich through a series of business schemes. His case is currently under appeal.
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