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Gold and watches show ex-Ukrainian minister's taste for treasure

Source: Reuters - Mon, 24 Mar 2014 19:23 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Jewels, watches, gold and cash found at ex-minister's home

* Forty-two kg of gold bullion left by minister on the run

* Arrest warrant issued on suspicion of abuse of office

By Matt Robinson

KIEV, March 24 (Reuters) - Eduard Stavytsky had a thing for bling, Ukrainians learned on Monday, as the riches accumulated by their fugitive former energy minister were laid out on a table for all to see.

The dazzling haul included jewels and pearls packed into briefcases, dozens of 1 kg and 100 g gold bars and Swiss watches that prosecutors said were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some $4.8 million was neatly stacked in $100 bills.

"Stavytsky was in such a hurry he left behind the kind of riches that would have seen him safely through life in some corner of the world," the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper wrote, above police photographs of the haul.

On Saturday, Ukraine's interim interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said 42 kg of gold and millions of dollars had been seized at Stavytsky's apartment during a search conducted in connection with a corruption probe in the energy sector.

"It blew my mind," he wrote on Facebook.

It was the latest glimpse into the ostentatiousness of an ousted circle of aides around Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovich, whose toppling in February precipitated a move by Russia to annex Ukraine's Black Sea Crimean peninsula.

The whereabouts of the 41-year-old Stavytsky are unknown. He could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Prosecutor-General Oleh Makhnytsky said on Monday a warrant had been issued for his arrest on suspicion of abuse of office and "huge theft".

He spent his money - however it was gained - on a collection of Swiss watches, including Greubel Forsey and Girard Perregaux, whose creations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jewel encrusted rings and brooches were stuffed into briefcases.

Yanukovich himself, who fled to Russia, kept ostriches in a private zoo at a Gatsby-like mansion outside the capital, Kiev, a landscaped vista of water features, arboreal walkways and tree-lined avenues.

Allegations of corruption fuelled three months of protests that brought down Yanukovich, triggered by his spurning of a deal on closer ties with the European Union in November.

The protests over Yanukovich's U-turn on Europe morphed into anger over the perceived greed of his inner circle, known as "The Family", eventually bringing down the president after two days of fatal gun battles in central Kiev. (Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Alison Williams)

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