LONDON (Reuters) - The United States is determined to help Ukraine find and recover billions of dollars of assets it says were stolen by its former president and his aides, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.
Holder spoke at the start of a two-day international meeting in London, jointly organized by Britain and the United States and attended by representatives from 35 countries, which is aimed at helping Ukraine’s government recover money from President Viktor Yanukovich, who was toppled in February after months of street protests, and those close to him.
“There should be no mistake, we are determined in our effort to be successful, we are determined to hold accountable those who were responsible for the theft of these Ukrainian assets, and we are also determined to make sure these assets are returned to the Ukrainian people,” Holder told a news conference.
“This will not be a process that will be short in nature; it will require the assistance of countries around the world.”
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said on Monday it had opened a criminal investigation into possible money laundering associated with corruption in Ukraine and had frozen $23 million of assets in the UK in relation to the case.
Holder, who said his message to those responsible for the theft of assets was “you can run, but you can’t hide”, estimated the amount missing was in the billions of dollars.
“That shows the magnitude of the problem and what is at stake ... Repatriation of those amounts of money would go a long way to dealing with the issues that are presently confronting the Ukrainian people,” he said.
He also said the United States, which on Monday imposed sanctions on seven Russians and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, remained prepared to impose further sanctions if Russia did not cease its intervention in Ukraine.
Putin seized Crimea from Ukraine after the fall of Russian ally Yanukovich, and, with pro-Russian separatists seizing government buildings in eastern Ukraine, has a build-up of tens of thousands of troops on the border.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Will Waterman