On June 13, the authorities arrested former commander of the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Iraq, Major General Sergei Savchenko. He is charged with smuggling $320,000 thousand brought by peacekeepers from Iraq, Gazeta, a daily, reported.
In February, authorities seized money from five Ukrainian officers onboard a chartered flight from Iraq, allegedly accompanying the body of their fellow officer. Wads of banknotes were stuffed in a radio box, tennis shoes, boxes for lighters, stereos, a flashlight and a camera to hide them from customs inspectors. Several money packages were discovered among the crew's personal belongings. According to legislation, a Ukrainian citizen is limited to declaring $10,000 when he returns to the country. A citizen is also permitted to bring in an additional $3,000, undeclared. Consequently, the officers were arrested. After they explained they acted on their commander's orders, they were released.
The defense ministry also assisted in the release of the officers because it vigorously protected military personnel at the time. Ministry officials insisted there were no customs services in Iraq, meaning they were not given the opportunity to fill in any customs forms. They said the seized money was the salary of contract personnel passed to relatives at home.
The customs officials did not believe the stories of the officers, who were then arrested. Savchenko was ordered to return to Ukraine, and the authorities opened an investigation in connection with the contraband of money.
In February, the Ukrainian Security Service announced the customs officials had intercepted a channel of foreign currency contraband, hinting it was not the first such case. Four months later, they named Savchenko as the main defendant in the case. He is facing five to eight years in prison.