$66.7 million U.S. dollars has been forfeited to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, as a result of successful action by the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy. The Director of the ONDCP in his capacity as Supervisory Authority, obtained an order from Justice Albert Redhead, declaring the funds held in accounts of Pavel Lazarenko at Eurofed Bank (In Liquidation) forfeited and ordered that they be transferred to the Government Forfeiture Fund.
The ONDCP had previously frozen the funds on the grounds that monies owned or under the effective control of Pavel Lazarenko at Eurofed Bank (In Liquidation) had been obtained through acts of corruption committed by Lazarenko during his political tenure in the Ukraine where he was a high official, eventually attaining the office of Prime Minister of that country. Following Lazarenko’s conviction in California on eight (8) counts of money laundering, the ONDCP, represented by attorneys Anthony Armstrong who is also the Director of Public Prosecutions and Curtis Bird, argued that Lazarenko had no credible explanation for how he was able to generate such large amounts of money. The ONDCP pointed out to the Court that in the process of becoming Prime Minister, Lazarenko had declared to the Ukrainian Parliament that his total assets were valued at only U.S.$55,000.
Upon a person being convicted for a money laundering offence, the Money Laundering (Prevention) Act provides time in which the person can apply to have his funds excluded from a freeze order, but Lazarenko did nothing to challenge assertions by the ONDCP that the money was the proceeds of crime, and subsequent actions by Lazarenko were pursued outside the period in which to appeal the forfeiture.
Since the money was frozen, Lazarenko had not proffered an explanation for its origin but only asserted to the Court that the money belonged to him, though in earlier proceedings, he had, through a surrogate, asserted the money was the result of market opportunities that opened up upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lazarenko, represented by Barbadian Queen’s Counsel, Dr. Richard Cheltenham and attorney Colin Derrick, attorney Shelley Sitherall and U.S. attorney Jed M. Silversmith, had asserted that the ONDCP had not proved that the money had come from illegal sources or that it was connected to the money laundering offences for which Lazarenko had been convicted in California.
Mr. Anthony Armstrong for the ONDCP countered that the Money Laundering (Prevention) Act did not require the Supervisory Authority to prove the connection, but instead placed a burden on a person seeking to unfreeze funds to establish the legitimacy of their origins and that the money was not part of any money laundering scheme within or outside of Antigua and Barbuda. Lazarenko failed to do so, but the ONDCP was also able to file evidence showing that Lazarenko had admitted to a District Court in the United States that the money in Eurofed Bank was indeed connected to the counts on which he had been convicted in the U.S. and was therefore the proceeds of crime.
The Director of the ONDCP, Lt. Col. Edward Croft commended Anthony Armstrong and Curtis Bird on their skilled and effective work on the case. Col. Croft said that this achievement signaled to the world, that Antigua and Barbuda is not open for business to the international criminal community. He also took the opportunity to encourage all financial institutions to ensure that they have in place an adequate AML/CFT system which is critical to supporting money laundering prosecutions and forfeitures such as the present one.