One of Ukraine's richest men vowed Friday to defend his ownership of a major telecoms company after its shares were impounded by a court following a probe into graft under the deposed Russian-backed regime.
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko announced Thursday that a Kiev court had "frozen" the shares of tycoon Rinat Akhmetov in the Ukrtelecom company and its subsidiary TriMob.
The decision was issued after a nearly two-year investigation into Ukrtelecom's privatisation under ousted president Viktor Yanukovych in March 2011.
Ukrainian media quoted Lutsenko as saying that Yanukovych's government gave Ukrtelecom for a nominal sum to a shell company based in Cyprus that was purchased by Akhmetov in October 2013.
Akhmetov's main holding company said in a statement to Interfax-Ukraine that it would defend its interests in Ukrtelecom and demand an "objective and independent investigation" of the case.
The billionaire has played a dominant role in Ukrainian politics for more than a decade and twice served in parliament as a member of Yanukovych's now-disbanded Party of Regions.
Ukrtelecom held an effective monopoly over telephone land lines and was an early pioneer in cell phone services prior to its privatisation.
Ukraine's February 2014 pro-EU revolution left Akhmetov and other oligarchs who critics say grew fabulously wealthy thanks to close government connections on the back foot.
Akhmetov soon turned into an early target of an anti-graft campaign launched by post-revolt President Petro Poroshenko.
He defended his interests furiously and the initial vigour of Ukraine's drive to clean up business and politics slowed down.
But world lenders to Ukraine consistently point to the problem as one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the post-Soviet country's path toward a Western-style economy that sees sustainable growth.
Ukraine drew praise in December 2016 for taking over the country's largest private bank PrivatBank from another influential tycoon named Igor Kolomoyskiy.
The central bank later reported that 97 percent of the bank's corporate loans went to Kolomoyskiy and another shareholder.
It added that the deposits of half of Ukraine's population of about 40 million would have been jeopardised had PrivatBank gone under....