KIEV, April 11 Ukraine's SBU state security service on Wednesday accused a banker who once worked for President Viktor Yanukovich of stealing over $140 million from the central bank, other banks and the state deposit insurance fund.
The SBU said Pavlo Borulko - who briefly worked as an aide to Yanukovich in 2007 when the current president was prime minister - took out loans backed with fake title-deeds and claimed deposit insurance by forging the identities of his banks' customers. Six other people were involved in the illegal schemes, it added.
"The total damage to the state was more than 1.3 billion hryvnias ($163 million)," Ivan Derevyanko, the head of the SBU's main investigations unit, told reporters.
Borulko was detained in neighbouring Belarus last December and Ukraine is seeking his extradition.
The Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper on Wednesday quoted a statement by Borulko dated March 13 in which he denied any wrongdoing, saying he was a victim of extortion by the SBU.
The SBU also accused Oleksander Shepelev, a member of parliament, of involvement in the same scheme.
Shepelev, who has been a member of both an opposition faction as well as Yanukovich's Party of the Regions before he became a non-aligned deputy, denied any wrongdoing.
"I deny this completely. This cannot be true," he told Reuters when contacted by telephone.
Borulko, who like Shepelev comes from Yanukovich's home region of Donetsk, used to own three small banks that have gone insolvent. He could not be reached for comment.
There are 198 banks in the former Soviet nation of 45 million, of which 22 are in the process of being liquidated, some since as early as 2000.
As he consolidated power after winning the February 2010 presidential election, Yanukovich promised to fight corruption. But foreign observers say his government has so far failed to achieve substantial progress. (Reporting by Natalya Zinets; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)