U.S.: White House Calls Lukashenka 'Among Most Corrupt Leaders In The World'
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has submitted a report on the "repressive dictatorship" of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to Congress just days ahead of Belarus's election. The report -- most of which is classified -- details the illegal arm sales and financial misdeeds of the Lukashenka regime. On March 19, Belarusians go to the polls to select a new president.
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2006 -- The Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 mandated the preparation and submission of the report on an annual basis. At Congress's request, the report focuses on two issues: illegal arm sales and the assets of the leadership.
The unclassified part of the document, which was made available to RFE/RL, characterizes Lukashenka as "likely among the most corrupt leaders in the world." According to the report, Lukashenka controls assets well over $100 million, while the presidential administration owns "a large and ever-increasing amount of property in Belarus."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer elaborated on this theme during a hearing on March 9.
"This presidential administration owns a large and ever-increasing amount of property in Belarus, including hotels and other real estate," Kramer said. "Lukashenka and his immediate family reportedly enjoy residences and other facilities throughout Belarus. Distinctions between his personal and state property are blurred, and a large presidential reserve fund remains separate from and unaccountable to the main state budget."
The report could not be independently confirmed.
It notes that the extent of the corruption is difficult to determine exactly because of the regime's "lack of transparency" and the "blurring of personal and state property."
The report, which was authored by the State Department, says many of the arms transactions are directly supervised by Lukashenka's administration and made without government approval. It says total profits from those secret arms sales "have not been recorded in the state budget and are beyond public scrutiny."
Iran and Sudan are among Belarus' arms customers.
Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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