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Ex-Ukrainian Official Wins Restitution Appeal

(CN) - Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko won reversal of a $19 million restitution award he was ordered to pay to his co-conspirator in a money-laundering scheme. The 9th Circuit explained that, "as a general rule, a participant in a crime cannot recover restitution," even if Lazarenko extorted him.

Lazarenko was indicted by the U.S. government on 53 counts, including one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven money-laundering counts. A federal judge dismissed most of the charges, but in May 2004, a jury convicted Lazarenko on all remaining counts.

On appeal, a 9th Circuit panel overturned all convictions except the eight related to money laundering.

Lazarenko allegedly used his political power to crush Peter Kiritchenko's business competition and, in exchange, Kiritchenko paid Lazarenko kickbacks from his enormous profits. Both allegedly profited handsomely from the arrangement.

A jury found Lazarenko guilty of conspiring to launder money with Kiritchenko.

Because Lazarenko extorted money from Kiritchenko, Kiritchenko was both a co-conspirator and a victim. After Lazarenko was convicted, Kiritchenko sought restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act.

A federal judge ordered Lazarenko to pay $19 million in restitution, but the 9th Circuit reversed.

"We hold that, as a general rule, a participant in a crime cannot recover restitution," Judge Susan Graber wrote for the San Francisco-based panel.

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