‘Forcible takeover’. Authorities get bank linked to Lukashenka’s rival under control

Nadzeya Yermakova, a former chairperson of the National Bank of Belarus, has been appointed Head of the provisional administration of Belgazprombank.

From June 15 on, the provisional administration will be in place in Belgazprombank in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’, the Belarusian officials state. Such measure is reported to have been introduced in the wake of opening a criminal case against Belgazprombank officials.

Nadzeya Yermakova has been appointed Head of the provisional administration of Belgazprombank. The powers of the Belgazprombank board have been suspended for the period of the provisional administration’ managing the bank,” the press service of the National Bank of Belarus says.

On June 11, officers of the Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) came to the head office of Belgazprombank. The department opened a criminal case under Art. 243-2 (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 235-2 (legalisation of particularly large sums of money obtained through crime). Around 15 top managers and bank employees have been arrested as part of the case.

“In fact, they [defendants] created an organised criminal group under the shelter of the bank; it siphoned off monetary resources to foreign countries,” Ivan Tsertsel, Chairman of the State Control Committee, said.

Tax evasion charge: Bank linked to Lukashenka’s would-be rival in crosshairs

When reached by belsat.eu, several independent economists noted that the state had no formal grounds for meddling in the bank affairs; according to them, a provisional administration is usually established when solvency problems arise, which is not the case of Belgazprombank.

Belgazprombank shareholders called the steps taken by the National Bank illegal:

“These actions were committed in breach of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus and the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union (Astana, May 29, 2014); they directly affect the rights and legitimate interests of Russian shareholders of Belgazprombank, as well as the interests of its customers and depositors,” the joint statement by Gazprom and Gazprombank reads.

The former head of Belgazprombank Viktar Babaryka shared the position:

This is a forcible takeover by the state, which violates not only the domestic law but also international agreements. The whole logic of the events suggests that the current process is spearheaded against me,” he stressed.

Last week, the Belarusian officials claimed they had ‘strong evidence’ of Babaryka’s being complicit in ‘illegal activities’.

Election-2020: Unexpected candidates spark Belarusian civil society

As reported earlier, presidential hopeful Viktar Babaryka had been Chairman of Belgazprombank Board since 2000. On May 12, when he revealed his presidential ambitions, he voluntarily resigned from his senior management job. Belgazprombank’s main shareholders from the Russian side are Gazprom and Gazprombank; in this view, Babaryka is often faulted for allegedly being linked to Moscow. At the same time, the prospective candidate has repeatedly put an emphasis on his being Belarusian. In his opinion, it is impossible to build an independent state when there is no solid foundation, i.e. culture and national identity.

In early June, incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka hinted that one of the presidential hopefuls might be involved in fraud. He suggested Belarusian people ask the would-be candidate the following questions: “What is PrivatLeasing?” and “Where do you keep the money you fraudulently got in Belarus?” However, he failed to go into detail and give any name. In turn, Viktar Babaryka said that he knew PrivatLeasing company, since it was a long-time customer of Belgazprombank.

The former banker submitted an appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC), pointing out the facts of Lukashenka’s alleged violations of the law, but election officials refused to issue a warning to the Belarusian leader.

With over 330,000 signatures collected for his presidency nomination, Viktar Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates.

Lukashenka accuses would-be rival of lying about premiership