Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday, but her legal troubles are far from over, and the government has now accused her of embezzling $400 million.
The new corruption case concerns Tymoshenko's energy company United Energy Systems of Ukraine, with Ukraine's security office alleging that Tymoshenko transferred $400 million of company debt onto the state while her friend Pavlo Lazarenko was Prime Minister.
It has also been claimed that Tymoshenko then deposited the money into her and Lazarenko's personal accounts.
Lazarenko is currently in jail in the United States on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and extortion. According to the United Nations, he took about $200 million from the Ukrainian government between 1996 and 1997.
On Tuesday, a Kiev court found Tymoshenko guilty of abusing her powers while in office. The charges stemmed from a 10-year gas deal with Russia that prosecutors claim Tymoshenko manipulated to make state gas company Naftogaz to pay too high a price with Russia and Vladimir Putin. Ukraine's current leaders, who oppose Tymoshenko's political party, believe the deal cost Ukraine between $200 and $440 million.
Bearing in mind the fact that the court has not established any circumstances aggravating or mitigating Tymoshenko's punishment, and given the heightened social danger of the crime committed by Tymoshenko, her personality and the absence of any penitence on her part, the court sees no grounds to hand down a more lenient sentence, Judge Rodion Kireyev, the court's chairman, proclaimed on Tuesday.
Her lawyers will appeal the conviction in Ukraine, and if that fails, in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The case has been criticized both in Ukraine and abroad. The European Union said it was “deeply disappointed” by the verdict, and it could tarnish the organization's relationship with the current Ukrainian government.
The way the Ukrainian authorities will generally respect universal values and rule of law, and specifically how they will handle these cases, risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Tymoshenko has called the trial a politically charged farce, and claims that the accusations are an attempt by President Viktor Yanukovich to force her out of national politics.
I declare you a puppet of the presidential office, Tymoshenko told Judge Rodion Kireyev at a pre-trial hearing in June. You don't have the right to consider this case. You are fully integrated into a system of political repression directed by [the] authorities.
My voice will be even louder from prison, because the whole world will hear me, she said.
Tymoshenko, who was the nation's first female prime minister, serving from 2007 to 2010, was one of the heroes of Ukraine's Orange Revolution. She is the currently the leader of Ukraine's opposition party, but will likely be replaced.