Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Lazarenko detained in New York
February 22, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Ukranian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko is being held in the United States pending immigration proceedings after he was detained at New York's Kennedy airport, CNN has learned.
Lazarenko is wanted in Ukraine on charges which include embezzling more than $2 million of state property from 1993-97.
Now a leader of parliament's opposition Hromada party, Lazarenko denies the charges and has repeatedly said they are politically motivated.
He is being considered for "expedited removal" from the United States, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service said on Sunday.
Lazarenko was detained Friday for misrepresenting his intentions for visiting the country, officials said. The INS did not elaborate on what Lazarenko's intentions were.
Although the INS spokesman said he was unaware of any extradition proceeding currently under way, the Itar-Tass news agency reported Sunday that Ukraine has asked the U.S. to extradite Lazarenko.
Tass cited an official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington as saying the extradition request had been passed to the U.S. State Department.
Lazarenko, who was prime minister of Ukraine in 1996-97, was reportedly in Greece last Wednesday, and had sought medical treatment for symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Despite Lazarenko's request to delay a hearing on lifting his parliamentary immunity due to his ill health, the Ukrainian parliament voted on Wednesday to allow his arrest and the start of criminal proceedings.
Lazarenko also faces money-laundering charges in Switzerland.
He was arrested in December as he tried to enter Switzerland with a Panamanian passport. He was later indicted for alleged money laundering and released on $3 million bail.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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