Ukraine issues warrant for businessman on state property theft charge

KIEV, March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:40am EDT

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KIEV, March 20 (Reuters) - Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Thursday it had issued a warrant to find and detain Serhiy Kurchenko, the chairman of energy firm Vetek, on suspicion of stealing state property.

Prosecutors said the business activities of multi-millionaire Kurchenko, whose industrial empire grew rapidly under ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, had caused more than 1 billion hryvnias ($100 million) damage to national interests.

"The general prosecutor of Ukraine has declared Serhiy Kurchenko a suspect in the theft of state property of state firm Ukrgasdobycha together with other persons," the prosecutor general said in a statement, referring to another energy firm.

It said investigators were trying to determine Kurchenko's whereabouts.

Kurchenko was placed on a European Union sanctions list earlier this month, but he said that the move was a result of a "misunderstanding".

Local media have reported that Kurchenko left Ukraine in February for an unknown destination.

Since Yanukovich fled Ukraine, Russian forces have occupied its Crimea region and President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making the region part of Russia after a weekend referendum. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Ron Popeski and Sonya Hepinstall)

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