Ukraine's Zelenskiy Offers Award For 'Godfather' Of Smugglers
By RFE/RL November 27, 2019
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged on November 26 that an Odesa businessman and reputed trafficker managed to evade capture during a police roundup of 10 suspects related to a corruption case in the State Customs Service.
In a Facebook post, he designated Vadym Alperin "one of the godfathers of smuggling in Ukraine."
Zelenskiy said the dragnet is tightening as the suspect "is hiding somewhere in the country."
In addition, the president said he will "personally" bestow a "valuable gift" to whomever helps facilitate the "long-awaited smuggler's meeting with justice."
Detectives from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) the same day arrested seven employees of the customs service attached to the State Fiscal Service, one of whom is Serhiy Tupalskiy, the deputy head of the Kyiv City Customs Service.
From December 2018 to March, Tupalskiy was the acting head of the Odesa customs service on the Black Sea, where contraband flourishes.
Three other suspects were arrested, including an associate of Alperin's, local media reported.
All are accused of breaking various customs laws and underpaying duties on imported goods.
Chief among them is Alperin who in an ongoing previous case is suspected of bilking the state of more than $29 million -- he was charged in January 2018.
A September 2013 report on Russian and Ukrainian facilitators of weapons transfers, The Odessa Network, says Alperin is a well-known arms broker and "prominent" businessman in Odesa.
"Alperin also is a former Party of Regions deputy in the Odesa city council, and owns many other businesses in real estate, transportation, and cargo brokering," the report stated.
Through his work in weapons dealing, Alperin has business ties in Syria and Sudan.
With reporting by Leviy Bereg, Censor, Ukrayinska Pravda, The Babel, and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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