Panama Papers: Ukraine populist seeks president's ouster over secret accounts

Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko plans to launch impeachment proceedings against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (pictured) after the Panama Papers leak.
Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko plans to launch impeachment proceedings against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (pictured) after the Panama Papers leak. PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (AFP) - A populist Ukrainian party leader said on Monday (April 4) he plans to launch impeachment proceedings against President Petro Poroshenko over his use of offshore accounts revealed by the Panama Papers leak.

The action by Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko is unlikely to succeed but is sure to add even more pressure on Poroshenko as he struggles to resolve a months-long political crisis.

A year-long worldwide media investigation into a trove of 11.5 million documents found that the former Soviet state's pro-Western leader had registered a company in the British Virgin Islands that he never disclosed in his income statements.

Poroshenko was travelling to Japan on Monday and issued no immediate comment on the so called "Panama Papers". His spokesman did not answer the telephone when contacted by AFP.

 
 
 

None of the three accounts associated with Poroshenko's offshore firm held more than 2,000 euros (S$3080). But the report said they ,ay have been used as a haven by the president used to avoid taxes on his candy empire.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said "Poroshenko's action might be illegal on two counts: he started a new company while president and he did not report the company on his disclosure statements." Radical Party leader Lyashko - an outspoken populist who holds 21 of the 450 seats in Ukraine's parliament - said he has "initiated the start of impeachment proceedings" against the president.

"We demand the creation of a special temporary investigative committee in parliament that would probe the secret offshore companies and accounts of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko," Lyashko wrote on Facebook.

Lyashko's efforts are unlikely to get very far because Ukraine still lacks a law spelling out how such impeachment hearings may proceed. They could also only begin after the case is studied by the country's constitutional and supreme courts.

Poroshenko's parliamentary party member Mustafa Nayyem - a leader of Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution who has waged a all-out war corruption - said the president's failure to disclose the accounts did not constitute "a criminal offence".

"And this means that impeachment proceedings that have been written about so much already will be simply impossible to begin," Nayyem wrote on Facebook.

But their very existence is likely to reflect poorly on Poroshenko's self-proclaimed efforts to erase Ukraine's long history of government graft.

The ICIJ report said Poroshenko's financial advisers had told its reporters the accounts were created to help with the president's sale of his Roshen chocolate business - an asset he had vowed to get rid of when elected in May 2014.

One of Poroshenko's financial assistants said a transaction made in the British Virgin Islands would help "improve attractiveness of the Roshen group" given the difficult business climate in war-torn Ukraine.

Poroshenko has been dubbed the "chocolate king" for making a fortune through his Roshen empire. The ICIJ report estimated the president's wealth at $858 million.