Swiss prosecutor told by police of suspected Yanukovich money-laundering

ZURICH, March 15 Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:32am EDT

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ZURICH, March 15 (Reuters) - Switzerland's prosecutor has been alerted by police of suspected money-laundering and bribery in connection with ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich but has not launched a formal investigation, the authority's spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The prosecutor said it was notified of the allegations against Yanukovich and members of his entourage by an arm of the Swiss federal police tasked with liaising with Swiss banks in cases of suspected money-laundering.

Ukraine's pro-Moscow Yanukovich was toppled on Feb. 22 amid street protests in Kiev over his decision to ditch a trade deal with Europe in favour of economic ties with former Soviet overlord Russia. Following his fall he fled to Russia where he has made several media appearances, most recently last week.

"The notification of suspected money-laundering is in connection with potential corruption practices, in which Viktor Yanukovich and people close to him may appear," a spokeswoman for the prosecutor said.

This does not mean the prosecutor has opened a formal investigation into Yanukovich or people close to him, she said.

The move follows a Swiss-ordered freeze last month, since widened to include more nine more people, on any funds in Swiss banks found to be linked to Yanukovich, who is suspected of human rights abuses and misuse of state funds.

It is not known how much money Ukrainian politicians, their families, or other people close to them hold in Switzerland, nor how much has been frozen by banks since the Swiss order to do so.

Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has said Yanukovich embezzled as much as $37 billion during three years in office.

The European Union, Britain, Switzerland and others have already frozen assets of Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating state funds, after Yanukovich was toppled following months of demonstrations against a decision to spurn a free trade deal with the EU for closer ties with Russia.

Yanokovich's elder son, Oleksander, owns Mako Group, a Ukrainian conglomerate with a Swiss arm that was raided by Geneva prosecutors last month. (Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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