MINSK, Belarus (AP) — A court in Kiev was hearing motions Monday on the $74 million embezzlement case against Ukraine's top tax official.
Roman Nasirov, chief of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service, was detained over the weekend and instantly reported heart problems. His detention expired late Sunday, and Nasirov, lying on a stretcher, spent the night in the courtroom. Outside, dozens of protesters who feared he would flee have been blocking the building.
The Ukrainian government suspended Nasirov pending an investigation alleging that the tax chief defrauded the state of 2 billion hryvnias ($74 million). The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said Nasirov signed off on grace periods for number of taxpayers— including companies linked to former lawmaker Oleksandr Onishchenko, who fled abroad last year while facing a corruption investigation.
Opposition lawmakers have campaigned for Nasirov's resignation, accusing him of covering up large-scale bribery and tax dodging.
The Nasirov affair is arguably the highest-profile corruption investigation since a pro-Western government assumed power in Ukraine in February 2014. The 38-year old Nasirov, who has occupied his post for two years, is an ally of President Petro Poroshenko. It is not immediately clear if the president is going to be damaged in the fallout.
Ukraine's Western creditors in recent months have voiced frustration with Ukrainian authorities over a series of resignations or firings of top reformist officials and the lack of progress made on fighting corruption, which was a main slogan of the massive protests in Kiev in 2013-2014 that brought in Poroshenko's government.
"Taking Nasirov's case to court could mark the first time a top official faces justice and (it) also proves Kiev's commitment to reform," Kiev-based independent analyst Vadim Karasyov said.
Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.