Ex-Banker Who Challenged Belarus Ruler Gets 14 Years in Jail
06 Jul 2021

Belarus’s Supreme Court sentenced the former head of a Kremlin-controlled bank who sought to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko in last year’s elections to 14 years in jail, as the longtime ruler continues a sweeping crackdown on opponents.

The court in the capital, Minsk, convicted Viktor Babariko and imposed fines totaling more than $18 million, his press service said Tuesday. The ex-CEO of Belgazprombank faced charges of bribery, conspiracy and money-laundering, which he denies. His son Eduard and members of his campaign team remain in prison awaiting trial.

Babariko’s lawyer, Dzmitry Layeuski, said he would seek to overturn the verdict, though there are no higher courts to appeal to in Belarus. He also plans to raise the case with the United Nations Human Rights Council, he said.

Babariko, 57, resigned in May last year from the bank owned by Russia’s state-run Gazprom PJSC to run against Lukashenko, who was seeking a sixth term to extend his 26-year rule. Within weeks, the authorities arrested him after opening a criminal probe into the bank. Babariko was held in jail for more than a year by the former Soviet republic’s security service, which is still called the KGB.

By Aliaksandr Kudrytski, Bloomberg, 6 July 2021

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