KIEV (Reuters) - Britain said on Friday it was looking into whether there were grounds to try the former head of the Ukrainian fiscal service on UK soil, after a court in Kiev dismissed evidence provided by the British authorities in a corruption case.
Roman Nasirov is the most high-profile Ukrainian official to be prosecuted for graft since a Western-backed government took charge in 2014 following the Maidan street protests. The case is seen as a test for Kiev’s ability to root out entrenched graft.
Accused of embezzling around $75 million (59 million pounds), Nasirov is under house arrest. He denies any wrongdoing.
Nasirov’s office declined to comment.
Nasirov’s arrest in March turned into a media circus. He was taken to hospital, which the anti-corruption prosecutor handling the case said was part of a suspicious pattern of officials falling ill while being investigated.
In a letter leaked to local media, the British authorities told Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau in March that Nasirov had acquired British citizenship in 2012. Nasirov has previously denied holding a British passport.
“We are deeply concerned about the recent decision in Kyiv’s Solomiansky Court, where evidence provided by the UK in relation to the case against Roman Nasirov was ruled inadmissible and disregarded,” the British embassy said in a statement.
“The UK authorities will now review the facts and consider if criminal offences have been committed by a British citizen which may be tried in the UK.”
Ukraine is trying to show its international supporters and lenders that it can tackle entrenched corruption, including in the judiciary. The next payment of a $17.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund will depend on Kiev showing progress on reforms including anti-graft measures.
In its statement, which was posted on Twitter, the embassy also said the case underscored the “urgent need for progress towards a reformed independent and transparent judicial system” that produces judges “capable of properly trying high profile corruption cases.”
In an online wealth declaration tool aimed at boosting transparency, Nasirov disclosed last October that he and his wife held cash in euros and dollars worth $2.2 million and owned Swiss watches, diamond jewellery, fur coats and fine porcelain among other items. He told Reuters in an interview he had earned this money in the financial sector before taking office.
Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Richard Balmforth