UK prosecutor to help Ukraine find stolen assets

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LONDON (AP) — Britain will send a prosecutor to Ukraine to help local authorities there track down the billions of dollars believed to have been stolen by the government of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, officials said Wednesday.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve made the announcement at the end of a two-day forum in London aimed at helping find and recover the assets. The event, co-hosted by Britain and the U.S., was attended by Ukrainian officials and anti-corruption experts from 30 countries.

"During this forum we have heard from our Ukrainian colleagues of the shocking levels of dishonesty and greed of government ministers and public officials who held office under Yanukovych," Grieve said.

The assets will be difficult to trace, likely concealed through layers of corporate structures and laundered through legitimate businesses, he added.

Earlier, Ukrainian general prosecutor Oleh Makhnitskyi said Yanukovych's government systematically misappropriated public funds worth potentially tens of billions of dollars for personal use. He described the former government as an organized crime gang that left the country's treasury bare.

He added that while Ukraine has received cooperation from several countries where stolen assets are believed to be stored, much of the money is likely to be in Russia, making recovery more difficult.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation linked to possible money-laundering related to corruption in Ukraine.

It said it had obtained an order freezing 23 million pounds (US$39 million) worth of assets inside Britain as part of the case. It did not identify the people suspected of fraud.

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