KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian officials managing a government effort to combat swine flu may have stolen more than $50 million dollars in international donations, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
A suit filed in an Oregon court on behalf of the Ukrainian government alleges the money went missing after hundreds of millions of dollars given the former Soviet republic to buy swine flu vaccine were funneled to an overseas shell company, according to a statement by the legal firm filing the suit, Trout Cacheris LLC.
US-based managers of the Belize-registered company Olden Group LLC received millions of dollars sent to Ukraine by foreign donors from 2008 to 2010, and skimmed funds while acting as international purchaser for medical supplies, according to the suit.
The company bought swine vaccine on the world market, resold it to Ukraine's Ministry of Health at inflated prices, and divided the illegal cash gains with serving Ukrainian officials, according to the report.
The suit was filed as part of a Ukraine government anti-corruption programme headed up by the country's Cabinet of Ministers.
The activities alleged in the complaint, if proved, are punishable under the US' Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The cash-funneling, if proved, would also implicate officials loyal to Ukraine's previous government, which was headed by then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, according to the report.
Tymoshenko, now leading Ukraine's opposition, has alleged Ukraine's present government is conducting a witch hunt against her and her supporters.
She complained last week of having received telephone death threats, and linked them to unnamed officials working for Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych.
She has claimed she 'could never' receive a fair trial in Ukraine.